Adjusting to the pace of uni study can be difficult, particularly if you’ve taken time out for a gap year, to start your career, or to raise a family. Being disorganised can be a deal-breaker for uni success, but it doesn’t come naturally to all of us. CDU Tertiary Enabling Program graduate and current Education degree student (and former efficiency amateur), Chantal Jennison, recently shared her tips to get – and stay – organised for study.
“Time management has never been one of my strong points,” Chantal said. “I tend to take on everything at once and overwhelm myself. I am still trying to figure out my perfect work/life/study balance.”
“It has been difficult to learn new habits, and I am still working on them now, but being more organised helped me keep on track with my uni work. I am now able to see what assessments I have due, and can prioritise tasks so I didn't feel so overwhelmed.”
No, we’re not talking about thieving intellectual property here. Getting some organisational inspo from your peers can be a great way to try different productivity methods and organisational systems so you can find what works best for you.
“I found that talking to fellow and past students about what works for them and honing their ideas to suit me was the best way for me to learn how to organise my studies effectively,” Chantal said.
Procrastinate – but in an organised way
“I have a tendency to procrastinate, so using productivity methods such as the Pomodoro Technique allows for the procrastination while still ensuring that I get the required tasks done,” Chantal said.
The aim of the Pomodoro Technique is to enhance focus and efficiency and reduce mental fatigue. The process involves breaking your study time into 25-minute increments (or “Pomodoros”), marking down an ‘X’, followed by a 5-minute break. After you reach four Xs, take a longer 20-minute break. At the passing of each Pomodoro, you assess whether you need to change up your tasks to maintain ultimate efficiency. If the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t sound right for you, Everup share some alternative productivity hacks that may be more your style.
Start with a tertiary enabling course
If you need to build your confidence, or need a hand getting back into the swing of study, CDU’s Tertiary Enabling Program could be a helpful starting point for you, as it was for Chantal.
“Although I had completed year 12, I didn't have admission to university and my academic skills were in need of a tune up, so TEP was the perfect fit for my needs,” Chantal said. “The organisational skills I picked up in TEP will be key to me completing my degree.”
Fail to planner, plan(er?) to fail
Whether you prefer digital organisational tools (read our article about time-saving apps), or if analog is more your style, noting down or visualising your to-dos and schedule helps clear the brain-fog, making way for a more organised study approach.
“Invest in a few good planners. I have a life planner, a semester planner, a weekly planner, and a calendar,” Chantal said. “Being able to see where my time is going helps to plan around, or cut back on, certain things and prioritise accordingly.”
Ever looked at all mammoth items on your to-do list and felt like crawling into the corner to cry? It’s much less stressful to break your big projects down into bite-sized pieces and so you can more efficiently tackle everything on your plate.
“Breaking bigger tasks, such as research papers and essays, down into smaller tasks helps to ease that overwhelming feeling,” Chantal said.
Send out an SOS
“Make use of your lecturers and tutors - they are there to help,” Chantal said. “The CDU staff are ridiculously helpful. There seems to be no task too big or question too hard, they will always get you on the right track.”
Chantal’s right – we’re always here to help, and we have a stack of support services on offer for our students, including assignment and study skills help, student advocacy, and external student, IT, Learnline and disability support. Check out our student support page for a comprehensive listing of our services.
Now that she’s on track to acing her organisational techniques, Chantal is studying a Bachelor of Education Secondary Teaching as a full-time external student, and plans to graduate in 2021.
“Good organisational skills will help in my future career to no end, as lesson planning and marking assessments has to be done in your own time, and a disorganised teacher will have a disorganised class.”