Time management and productivity: What are your ‘time bandits’?






In this post, our Learning Advisor Michele explains how we can reflect on how we use our time to establish more productive and healthy ways of studying.

In order to plan well for the future, first take stock of your current situation. With exams and dissertation deadlines coming up for some of us, managing time and regulating activity is a priority.

Identifying our ‘time bandits’

If you are not sure of what is robbing you of time and you want to assess your own productivity, take a piece of paper and write down what you are doing at every 15 minute interval from morning to evening. You could even use your phone to note down your activities.

Here is an example of a morning log:


8.00 Checking phone TV TV TV Chatting to housemates Sleeping Sleeping
8.15 Emails Eating Eating Eating Eating Sleeping Sleeping
8.30 TV Texting Checking phone Texting Checking phone Sleeping Sleeping
9.00 Playing computer game Studying on computer Checking phone Printing a journal article Texting Sleeping Sleeping
9.15 Playing computer game Studying on computer Browsing internet Browsing internet Writing notes for assignment plan Sleeping Sleeping
9.30 Studying on computer Browsing internet TV TV Checking phone Sleeping Sleeping
9.45 Reading assignment brief Finding assignment reading  list Library gateway search Eating Reading a journal article Eating Eating
10.00 Checking phone Printing assignment reading list Checking phone Eating Reading a journal article Travelling to work Eating
etc. into evening

Ask yourself some challenging questions. You could colour code the above to identify what are leisure activities and what are academic-work focused activities. When we think we have no time and then analyse our time usage, we often see that we do have time; it’s how we might be using it that can be limiting our achievements.

Tip: Identify your time bandits and get to grips with available time to be won back for yourself.

In the example above of 56 fifteen minute slots, only eleven fifteen minute intervals (2.75 hours)  are focused around academic work or preparation for writing, and 45 x fifteen minutes are spent on other matters – potentially a loss of eleven hours and fifteen  minutes which could have been used more productively.

Setting SMART goals

In order to use time well, you need to identify your priorities or goals. Write them down. Be specific and make sure they are SMART:

An example of a good SMART target: Re-read three articles from the reading list in preparation for exams. Write summary notes for each article and note key concepts. This target is clear and could be measured.

This is clear and could be measured.

This is an example of a poor SMART target: Read journal articles for my exams. This target is too vague.

This is too vague.





During this process, it is also important to be frank with yourself about your wellbeing. Are you taking care of yourself? Ensure you build in some time for resting, eating and socialising to recharge your batteries. The trick is to use discernment to give yourself the best opportunity of achieving your academic goals along with the activities you enjoy.

Why not dedicate some time to the Skills Centre?

Are you currently revising for exams, writing a dissertation/extended project/thesis or working on assignments? Why not dedicate an hour to one of our many workshops or writing forums? Please visit the ‘What’s on?’ page of our website for more information and to book a place.

Finally, keep an eye out for future blogs from the Skills Centre covering a variety of topics related to academic study skills!