Starting a new term, whether it’s for the first or last time can be overwhelming. You may have just moved into a new accommodation which can feel unsettling and are trying to cram everything into your new busy timetable all thanks to lectures! It’s normal to feel stressed; summer for many students gives a false sense of security in that we have time to develop habits (both good and bad), as well as take life at a slower pace. Once term begins, everything speeds up and those habits you previously developed such as cooking your dinners and going to the gym have gone out the window. And why? Because you have no time. Well, it can feel that way, but in reality it’s not that we don’t have the time, but that we are managing our time poorly. This is why routine and schedules are vital to follow as a student, to maximise your efforts and get everything done that you want to achieve without burning out as a result. So today I will be sharing with you my tips and tricks on developing a success-driven routine for students at university!
List your Non-Negotiables
Grab a pen and paper and make a list of everything you have to do in a typical week. This will include many basic tasks such as meals, showering, attending lectures etc. These are the things that need to be a part of your routine in order to live your life. They’re non-negotiable. My non-negotiables include making content for my job, completing assignments and taking my medication.
List your Priorities
Secondly, in a separate column list the activities and events that you prioritise in your life. If you go to the gym every week, that shows you consider it a priority. These are things that you are currently doing because you choose to but are not a necessity. My priorities include tennis training, writing articles for my website, making time to see my friends etc.
List your Aspirations
Finally, you should now list everything that you currently feel you want to do, but don’t have time for. Anything that you want to prioritise that isn’t currently being achieved. You aspire to do these things, but they’re currently not happening. My aspirations include going swimming, eating three meals a day and making TikToks.
Set up a Calendar
Now that you have listed and categorised all of your activities and plans, it’s time to add them to a calendar. In terms of format, you can choose to use a physical calendar, an online calendar or both! I use Google Calendar because I like the layout and I can move things around if anything changes or is cancelled. I also find the option to colour code my events useful to separate my tasks clearly between student/work/personal life. You could also use the calendar integrated on the Jamworks website via your account! Alternatively if you prefer a physical calendar you can use any notebook or calendar of your choice, just make sure it has plenty of space to add in content!
Time Block your Life
I find that attempting to schedule your life right down to the last second is just impossible so I would like to introduce you to the concept of Time Blocking. This is a productivity technique for personal time management where a period of time—typically a day or week—is divided into smaller segments or blocks for specific tasks or to-do lists. In a weekday, I time block my day into three segments. The first is 6am – 10am (I know this is quite early however you can choose whatever time suits you!) and during this time block I commit to completing specific tasks that I have scheduled to do during this block. Examples of activities in my morning routine time block include having breakfast, going on a short walk whilst listening to a podcast and having a shower.
My second time block runs from 10am to 6pm. This is a larger block and you can divide this into two if it works better for you, but I use this time to either work from home, attend lectures or complete uni work; it differs each day of the week. And finally my third time block is from 6pm to 10pm, where I carry out my night routine with tasks including eating dinner, completing my skincare routine and cleaning my flat.
Once you create your time blocks, you can then begin to slot your non-negotiables into the calendar. Following this, you can then add your priorities and then there should be space left to add some of your aspirations. Don’t worry if everything doesn’t fit in at first; creating a routine is a complex task and it may take a few weeks to figure out what works best for you, including moving some tasks around into different time blocks or days etc.
The final tip I want to share is to be realistic with your expectations of yourself. If you’re someone who likes to sleep in and is more productive in the evening, don’t set yourself up to fail by time blocking from 5am. Start off simple, leave some gaps here and there to begin with so that you can achieve the essentials first and then once these become regular habits you can start introducing more aspirations into your routine until they develop into priorities. And make sure to include rest time as a non-negotiable as this will be the key to avoiding burn out!