Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Effective Diary-Keeping

A ‘week to view’ diary for the academic year is ideal. Fill in all the important dates for the year, such as family holidays, medical appointments and study activities. Include everything you do.
To be effective, your diary or planner needs to be a complete record of what you have to do:
  • Write in all study deadlines, exam dates, field trips, etc.
  • Write in exactly where and with whom each appointment or lecture is.
  • Add in very specific study tasks, eg, ‘Read Chapters 2-4 of Urban Ecology’.
  • Schedule some free time to be used in catching up on what got missed.
Map into the diary the times when you will:
  • Think about the subject.
  • Prepare for lectures and seminars.
  • Prepare for other formal sessions.
  • Plan your work.
  • Organise and refile your notes.
  • Reflect on your learning.
  • Discuess work with others.
  • Research each subject.
  • Write early drafts.
  • Edit and redraft your writing.
  • Check your work.
Allow some time for emergencies and unforeseen events.
Your diary will be effective only if your keep it up to date and use it:
  • Carry it with you at all times.
  • Check it several times a day, especially at night and first thing in the morning.
  • Add new appointments straight into it.
  • Write inessential appointments in pencil, so you can make changes easily.
  • Organise entries so you can see at a glance which time is filled - to make sure you cannot double-book yourself.
  • Use the diary’s year-planner.
Use colours and symbols to indicate a different activities and subjects in your diary. If you use colour and symbols consistently, you will find after a while that you don’t need to ‘read’ the entries: you will be able to see at a glance what is there. Use a positive or energising symbol for activities you dislike.
  • Smiley face for socialising.
  • A pencil for writing.
  • A book for reading.
  • An ear for a lecture.
  • A bookshelf for the library.
  • A piece of paper for a final draft.
  • A happy sun ray face for an exam.
  • A road for travelling.
  • And a random pattern for a seminar.
  • Write a fresh lists of things to do on a piece of paper or post-it label (I find this very useful).
  • Divide the list into ‘Today’ and ‘Soon’ (so you are aware of what you need to do long term).
  • Write items under headings so that they are easy to see, ‘Study’, ‘Home’, ‘Other’ (or whatever headings suit you).
  • Star or highlight the essential items.
  • Attach or paperclip the list to the page opposite the current page of the diary.
  • Cross out all of the completed items so that you are clear what is left to do.
Look for time patterns that suit you. You may prefer to work in short spells of twenty minutes or find you are increasingly engrossed by study as the day progresses.
As far as possible, schedule study activities to suit your own time patterns. For example, if you begin slowly, schedule short activities, such as brainstorming ideas, early in the day. You may find it easier to write at night when it is quiet - or it may suit you to write in the mornings when you feel more alert.
Set yourself mini-goals as milestones, so that you have a sense of achievement.
  • Break larger assignments, such as writing a report, into smaller tasks: ‘Read course notes’. ‘Find course materials’, etc.
  • Break each of these sections into smaller tasks: ‘Make notes on pp. 20-40 or Business Management’.
  • Set a realistic time allowance for each mini-goal. ‘Make notes on pages 25-45: 20 mins’.
  • Give yourself a start time - and stick to it!
  • Set a target end-time. However, if you have not finished, keep going until you have.
  • The important thing is not how long you spend studying, but to complete each mini-goal.
Mini-goals work best when they are:
  • Integrated: Clearly linked to a larger plan, such as your essay, project or overall motivation for the course.
  • Manageable and realistic: Set yourself achievable goals.
  • Specific: So you know what you are going to tackle.
  • Measurable: such as a set number of pages to read, or a report section to write.
  • Flexible: ‘empty’ spaces into your timetable for emergencies, and be prepared to change things around if necessary’. 

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