Day to Day


One of the strongest messages from the students to is that it is vital to ‘find your own rhythm’, there is no one-size fits all way to study and manage other aspects of life and it is vital to discover what is best for you.  This is one benefit of first year, you can use that as a safe period to try things out.

“In the first year you have to try out different styles of working and get to know what works for you, that’s the most important thing I think.  Even if it goes wrong the first couple of times in first year, it’s not the end of the world.”

An important aspect of finding that rhythm is setting a reasonable norm for how much time you will devote to your studies. You will hear people say being at university is like having a full time job, which implies around 36 hours. However, that might seem a bit daunting, particularly in first year and if you are balancing studies with paid work, or commuting from home or have other responsibilities.

One student mentioned that a good piece of advice she had received was to start by working 25 hours a week (including class time) and work up towards studying regularly for around 36 hours a week during the first year.

Some specific student tips you might find useful:

Dividing up Weekends and Weekdays - When people think of weekdays and weekends then they often associate the weekdays with work and weekends with social life and relationships. Student life is often the other way around:

“I plan all my work around the weekend because I know there will be space, uninterrupted space to just work. I always leave the big things until then and spend whole days in the library.”

Looking After Self - In finding your rhythm of study, part of ensuring that it is manageable is recognising what it is that you are balancing. What that involves for students varies, but some key things are:

  • For many students, coming to university is the first time that they will be required to look after themselves and not have another person assisting with cooking, cleaning and generally looking after them. 
  • Some of the students we spoke with expressed shock when they first realised how much time it actually took to cook, clean and generally look after their living space.

A good tip that students came up with was that they found that cooperating and organising food together was one way of reducing the time necessary to cook and clean, as well as becoming a sociable activity in its own right.

“Food was quite a big part of my first year, so we would go shopping two or three times a week, so one of my days would involve walking to the local Morrisons and going for a shop there, and we used to share food as well, something we enjoyed doing, so we would go on this big shop and come back.”

Studying alongside paid work is a reality for many students. While some are able to balance this by only undertaking paid work outside semesters, this is not always possible for everyone and when this is the case there are a few things to watch out for:

  •  Finding a job with flexibility so you can tailor the hours to protect important study time
  • Avoiding work places where managers will seek to pressure you to do more hours than you are contracted for
  • Try reconciling academic work hours with your part-time work hours, so that your body can get used to working at particular times (be it part-time work or academic work)

“It’s key to find out for yourself what your best times of day are I think, and if you are part-time working, if you can fit your studies in to follow the same kinds of routine as your work nights then it’s a lot easier on your body, so if you are used to working evenings, maybe 2-7, 2-8 in the library, another night you’ll be at work on similar hours, if you can keep a rhythm it’s much easier than thinking ‘oh I’ll get up in the morning and do that”, which if you are not used to doing, can throw you.’”

 For other students, travelling to university or dealing with family commitments are major parts of their days that needed to be accommodated for:

“I’ve got family responsibilities, I’ve got family at home, husband, children that impact on my average day, so they are probably the priority normally, but not the priority to the point of I don’t think about university life, just the priority in terms of I don’t think only about university life either.”

If this is the case for you then some of the things that can help are:

  • Seeing if it is possible to study while commuting, for example doing a piece of class reading.
  •  At particularly busy times exploring whether you stay with friends who live close to campus to reduce the impact of commuting.
  • Using regular routines of other responsibilities and study time so that demands don’t become over whelming.
  • Use a planner on the wall (see Planning for Assessments [hyperlink]) for yourself and others to see what are the demands on your time and how you are managing them.

Dealing with Less Productive Periods - It is unlikely that each of those 25 hours will be 100% productive:

“Everyone has days that are less productive and you just tell yourself to start again, it’s all part of it and you will waste time sometimes but, for every hour wasted you probably have a couple of productive hours.”


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