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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


Adding study to your daily routine can be challenging enough at the best of times, but what about during a period when all normal schedules have been disrupted? David Galbraith, ICE’s expert study skills tutor, gives us his advice on how to manage study time wisely, whatever’s going on in the world.

If you haven’t studied in a while, or if your normal routine has been disrupted, approaching a programme and its associated reading list can be daunting. But don’t be intimidated – there are ways to embrace it effectively and make sure that you use your time productively.

For a start, giving yourself the focus of a structured course enriches your study further. You could say, "I’m going to read generally on Archaeology", but where would you start? Curated courses and their assignments provide that focus. Even if you don’t see it at the outset, it’s there and will emerge as you work through the programme.

Managing your reading list effectively

With reading lists, it’s a good idea to break them down into categories – for example whether they’re books, journals or online sources – and start by looking at the manageably sized pieces. Collections of essays are potentially a good starting point. They and other textbooks usually have introductions and conclusions that give you a quick overview of the themes covered.

With weightier tomes – Economics enthusiasts may be familiar with Thomas Piketty’s 1,100-page Capital and Ideology, for instance – start by reading a review of it in a journal to get a sense of the content and help you deconstruct it. Making notes will also help you focus. Whatever you do, don’t start without some sort of plan of attack.

The golden rules of study scheduling

Managing study time is a particular challenge for most people right now as they try to reschedule their lives to do everything within the confines of their own homes. Here are four suggestions to help you keep on track.

The first is to establish a daily routine if possible. Be sure you pace yourself; work regularly every day, try to set aside the same specific place for study if you can and don’t study for too long without a break.

Secondly, set yourself tasks which can be completed in the time you have. It would be unrealistic to try to write an assignment in an hour, but you could read a 10-page journal article in an hour or revise a first draft of a 2,000-word essay, perhaps. Setting and meeting attainable targets gives you a sense of achievement and, if you finish ahead of time, wins some extra free time too.

The third suggestion is to define your goals as precisely as possible. Starting from a position of, "I’ve got a couple of hours tomorrow. I’ll have a look at that book on Renaissance art", won’t get you anywhere. Whereas, "I’m going to make notes on chapter four of Wright’s Renaissance Art", is much more helpful.

Finally, make sure that the timetable you create recognises your own strengths and weaknesses. Think about when you’re best at studying. If your most productive time is in the morning, then try to work that into your schedule. At these times, that might mean some bargaining with the people you live with, but you’ll all soon get used to the routine.


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