Study Skills and Time Management

Time Management and Study Skills - Monica Beck, Counsellor

Print a PDF pamphlet: Time Management and Study Skills

Why is Time Management Important?

When we manage our time well we feel more in control of our lives. We can see how our time is being used, reduce habits that waste time, and increase habits that use our time well. As a result we tend to feel less stressed and more self-disciplined, can be much more productive, and can often make time for the activities we enjoy.

Time Wasters

Moderation in these activities is as important as keeping them separate from study time:

  • Distraction
  • Procrastination
  • Daydreaming
  • Facebook
  • Texting
  • Talking on phone
  • Watching TV
  • Gaming
  • Working out
  • Listening to music

Steps in Time Management

  • Create a prioritized ‘to do’ list with things you must do, should do, and could do.
  • Keep track of how you actually spend your time, hour by hour, for a week. You may be surprised! This will give you information about what can be changed.
  • Make time, at the same time every day, to plan your day, revise your week’s plan, and update your to do list.
  • Plan your week at the beginning of each week. Record the ‘fixed’ activities, e.g. school, activities, sports, work, etc. first.
  • Look at the assignments, tests, and projects you have coming up. Instead of simply writing when they are due on your calendar, break each one down into steps, then estimate the time it will take you to complete each step. Then record these chunks of time on your daily and weekly calendars.
  • Overestimate the time it will take you to complete tasks.
  • Think carefully about how you are spending you time at school, at home, etc. Use your time at school to talk to teachers, get extra help, ask questions, etc.
  • Be creative in finding ‘windows’ of time if your schedule is tight, e.g. waking up earlier to work, using your lunch hour to work, etc.
  • Reward yourself by using ‘timeboxing’ or ‘mental book ends’ – do something enjoyable after you finish a task.
  • Make sure to get adequate sleep (8 – 9 hours for teenagers), exercise and nutrition.


We procrastinate when we are too dialed into ‘not feeling like’ doing our homework, or are anxious about our ability to do the work and/or do it well the first time.Procrastination becomes a default habit when we don’t develop new ways of coping and becomes a vicious cycle. We worry about doing something, so we avoid doing it, and our worry and anxiety grow and grow. We then carry these feelings to the next time we have to do a task.

Common Excuses and Habits of Procrastinators

  • I forgot.
  • I left my work at home/at school.
  • Our computer/printer broke.
  • The dog ate it.
  • I was too busy.
  • Indulgance – playing and enjoying yourself first before working.
  • Thinking ‘I’ll do it when I feel like it’.
  • Perfectionistic thoughts.

Ways to Counter Procrastination

Break down each task into smaller steps. This helps to take a task from one big overwhelming worry to smaller easy-to-complete tasks that do not seem as difficult.

  • Challenge negative thinking, e.g. “I’ll never understand this” and substitute coping thinking, e.g. "I'll just try my best".
  • Just get started – once you start it is easier to keep going.
  • Don’t expect perfection the first time around – good work often involves several revisions.
  • Don’t wait for the ‘adrenaline rush’ just before the deadline to get started. This is a sign that it is very late.
  • Replace ‘have to’ with ‘want to’ – do your homework well to reach your own goals. As long as you think about how someone else is ‘making’ you do it you will resist.
  • Don’t dwell on not feeling like or not wanting to do your homework – who does? Just do it!
  • Work, then play. Reward your hard work with play.

Study Skills

  • Review your notes daily – note concepts that you don’t understand, need extra help with or clarification on - or need to do some research about, in the margin.
  • Sleep 8 – 9 hours a night – even modest sleep deprivation will affect your ability to learn, memorize, concentrate on, and recall information.
  • Write down all assignments, deadlines, and instructions right away with as much detail as possible.
  • Have the contact information for a couple of reliable peers in each of your classes who you can call for missing information.
  • Set artificial or mini deadlines for each assignment.
  • Work on difficult subjects first.
  • Schedule short and frequent blocks of study as opposed to long and infrequent blocks.
  • Take breaks in between but ensure that these are not so distracting that you don’t return to your work.
  • Be an active learner – create webs, make notes, highlight, recite, write summaries, test yourself, and create mnemonics as you study.

Work Space

  • Create a positive and non-distracting work space.
  • Minimize noise by closing the door, wearing earplugs, playing soft music or running a fan.
  • Ensure that you have all the supplies you will need as well as a snack and drink.
  • Turn off your cell and Facebook and ask your family to hold your calls and limit distractions.

Contact Student Services for help with your stress management or for detailed information about strategies or resources.

Many self-help pamphlets covering a variety of topics are available in the Student Services Centre.

More information about the Department of Student Services, and The Learning Centre (support for students with unique learning styles)

Additional Resources for Study Skills, Test Anxiety, and Time Management

Print a PDF Pamphlet - How to Be Motivated - Monica Beck, Counsellor

Print a PDF Pamphlet - Procrastination - Monica Beck, Counsellor

Print a PDF Pamphlet - Perfectionism - Monica Beck, Counsellor

Print a PDF Pamphlet - Struggling in School - Monica Beck, Counsellor

Print a PDF Pamphlet - Test Anxiety - Monica Beck, Counsellor

Anxiety BC Youth (Contains information about managing school stress and coping strategies)

Centre for Effective Parenting: Study Skills

Centre for Effective Parenting: Improving Study Habits

Centre for Effective Parenting: Creating a Home Environment for Learning

How to Make Homework Less Work

Motivation and the Power of Not Giving Up

Note Taking Tips

Test Taking Tips

Test Anxiety (Anxiety BC)

Helping Your Teenager with Homework