Skip to content


Composing a Weekly Schedule

1. Schedule fixed blocks of time first.

Start with class and work time, for instance. These time periods are usually determined in advance. Other activities must be scheduled around them. Then schedule essential daily activities like sleep and eating. Once you've schedule fixed blocks of time, then you can see what time you have left; how you use that available time should be a matter of careful thought and planning.
Also note that optimum efficiency is often reached by planning in blocks of one hour: fifty minutes to study and ten minutes for a break. Yes... take breaks when you study!

2. Discover how long to study for each course.

The rule of thumb that you should study two hours for every hour in class is a rough guide at best. The time required varies from student to student and from subject to subject. Start out by allowing two hours of study for every hour in class, but adjust the hours according to your experience, as you find out how long you need to master each assignment. To that end, monitor your study time (don't forget to note the additional time you think should have been spent on uncompleted or poorly done assignments). Time your text reading. For each of your textbooks, mark off ten pages. Jot down the time you began reading and the time you finished reading. Keep in mind that your reading rate may vary depending on the subject and nature of the information.

3. Use daylight hours effectively.

Our research shows that many students do make effective use of daytime hours. These students tend to save all of their work for the evening, when they are least likely to do it or when they are most susceptible to procrastination.

4. Break large assignments into more workable tasks.

When one of your assignments is large and overwhelming, divide it into small, more manageable units. Then schedule your time appropriately. Doing this will help make the assignment less threatening because you now understand the parts that make up the whole, and you also have the beginnings of a rudimentary plan.

5. Allow larger blocks of time for learning new material.

Understanding new material often requires that you analyze difficult concepts, apply those concepts to examples, and then connect those ideas to previously learned material to better understand the significance of what you are learning.
Furthermore, many new time managers fail to understand the implications of "Murphy's Law"--anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Although that's not likely to happen for everything, some students tend to underestimate the time required for difficult assignments. Be careful: if you think something is going to take an hour, make sure that's not wishful thinking. In your scrutiny, you may discover that it'll take twice as long.

6. Make use of small blocks of time, particularly for review.

Busy students often need to take advantage of small blocks of time. Use short blocks of time to memorize lists of items. For example, spend fifteen minutes memorizing a list; then take a break or do another activity before coming back to your list. It's also wise to spend a few minutes after each class reviewing, editing, and reciting your lecture notes; and to make rehearsal part of your reading regimen because the greatest amount of forgetting occurs directly after finishing a learning task.

7. Avoid scheduling marathon study sessions.

According to research, distributed study (distributing the work over a period of days) is far more effective than massed study (cramming). The problem with cramming is that there is too little time to seek clarification about difficult concepts and to prepare adequately for most test--all of which can increase anxiety and lessen your ability to concentrate during a test. And it just doesn't make a lot sense in most circumstances. For example, in a nine- or ten-hour study marathon, the percentage of time actually spent on task can be depressingly small due to fatigue and burnout. Whereas three shorter sessions will likely yield much more productive use of time.

8. Schedule study periods for difficult courses for times when you are most alert and can

concentrate best--that is, when you're "running on all cylinders."
This requires, of course, that you get in touch with your natural rhythms.

9. Set clear starting and stopping times.

If you note only the deadline, there's a good chance that you'll wait until the last minute to get started.

10. Leave one of the weekend days free for errands, fun and relaxation.

Many time management neophytes forget to schedule time for errands and to set aside time to relax--all of which contributes to stress and lower productivity. Don't be a "workaholic" and don't forget to set aside a block of time each week to run errands.

11. Schedule time for fun, but make sure to schedule study hours before fun activities.

If you schedule fun activities before study periods, it's doubtful that you'll ever get around to studying. Furthermore, it's hard to have a good time if you're feeling guilty about not studying.

12. Schedule time for exercise and plan for adequate amount of sleep.

Regular exercise can alleviate stress and enhance concentration. Too little sleep contributes to fatigue, a lack of mental alertness, and irritability. Maintain the ideal amount of sleep, especially when you're under pressure or busy with work. Make no mistake about it: the quality of your education often depends on sufficient sleep.

13. Allow flexibility into your schedule; don't schedule all of your time.

Leave a little room for unexpected events. If you pack your weekly schedule with too many details, the chances of your following such a schedule are very slim.