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how to make a study schedule (that works!)

16 Jan 2019
How to avoid overwhelm and juggle all the different parts of life while still fitting in school, TAFE or uni

Study can be stressful. A lot of us start with the best of intentions – lining up our highlighters and basking in all the luxurious weeks we have left until a due date or exams. Then, before you know it, the deadlines are here!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to remember that a lot of people go through study stress, and there are a lot of thing you can do to manage it.

Whether you’re at school, TAFE or uni, here are some tips on how to make a study schedule that will support you.


Find ways to get started

The best time to get on top of your study is right now. Doing your readings or writing notes for an upcoming assignment can make a huge difference further down the track. Remember, you don’t have to finish everything at once. It can be a good idea to start small: beginning is often the most difficult step.

If you’ve got a couple of hours between two classes, dedicate that time to studying every week. Gradually, it’ll build up into a habit and you’ll find it easier to get started.

  • Try starting with a task that's easy or enjoyable

  • Try starting study while playing some of your favourite music

  • Try starting by setting yourself a goal, and having a reward for if you complete it – like a tasty treat, a walk to the park, or an hour of TV or video games.

Use a calendar or diary to keep major dates in your schedule. Make your study times consistent – structure makes it a whole lot easier.


Remove distractions

Do you urgently need to rearrange the pens on your desk? Distractions are everywhere - especially when we’re feeling stressed about study. But freeing yourself from the bigger distractions can make a big difference to your productivity.

Set up a special study space where you only do work. Some people find it useful to go to libraries, because the quiet environment and presence of other people working can make it easier to get work done. Listening to instrumental music, white noise or even just wearing headphones can also help some people concentrate.

The internet is a great tool for learning – but it can also get in our way. If you find yourself wasting a lot of time online, try doing as much study as you can disconnected. Keep your phone off or in a different room, or flick off your wifi. You could even try printing out readings or resources in hard copy.


Think about your study load

A lot of students at uni and TAFE feel pressure to do a full load of subjects, or even to take on extra units to get their degree done quickly. Remember that there isn’t really any rush.

Does your study load feel too intense? You could think about managing your program to a level you’re comfortable with. If census date hasn’t passed yet, it’s not too late to drop a course without payment.

When it comes to student support, Centrelink usually treats a 75% subject load as full time study. So if your course is based around four subjects at a time, you could probably drop down to three and still get payments.

Just be mindful that this will effect how long it will take you to complete the degree. You should chat to a course coordinator to make sure you’re still making proper progress through your course.

If it’s a bit too late to make a plan like this, you might like to think about other commitments you could put on hold to make more space for study. What are your priorities? How can you help yourself achieve them?

If you’ve been going through a rough patch and you’re just not able to meet requirements, remember that it’s never too late to sort something out. Your teachers want you to pass, and it’s a good idea to get in touch with them now to sort something out.

Seek out support

Most unis, TAFES and schools provide a whole bunch of resources that can support you with course stress or other issues in your life. The people who work at these services are experts who’ve supported other people going through what you’re going through, and some are even students who’ve been through similar things themselves.

It’s totally normal to feel uncertain before speaking to these services, but it’s really worth reaching out. Different services include:

  • essay writing seminars and essay feedback

  • study and research skills

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services

  • services for culturally and linguistically diverse students

  • LGBTIQA+ and women’s services

  • disability support services (this often includes mental health services)

  • counselling services.

Speak to a teacher or your student union to learn what’s available.


Take care of yourself

A lot of us think that stacking on pressure is the key to doing well – but that just isn’t true. When it comes to study, your number one priority is looking after your mental and physical health. Probably the most important part of a study schedule is dedicating time for your wellbeing. Some of the essential things to support you include:

It’s also really important to be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up for not studying doesn’t just feel bad – it also doesn’t help you to be more productive. In fact, it can often make things worse. Remember, you’re doing the best you can with what you have.

headspace experts have a lot of experiences helping young people through study stress – it’s actually one of the topics we get asked about most. Get in touch with your local headspace centre to find out more.