At the beginning of any new term, there are new teachers or professors, subjects that are either new or more advanced editions of old ones, and any number of other factors that make it difficult to assess how much time, exactly, it takes to do homework.
In order to accurately schedule and portion out your study time, it’s important to figure out, as soon as possible, how much time on average it takes to do the activities required in your classes.
What’s worked for me is that the first week or so I track how long various activities take. Sample activities might include how long it takes to:
- read a chapter
- review notes
- do exercises or problems
- memorize vocabulary
- maintain a sketchbook
- write a response paper
- draft a floor plan
Keep a list of all your assignments in one place; this is important because you need to see the entirety of your homework in order to prevent anything from slipping through the cracks.
Account for Everything
In my experience and observation, there are two types of homework that fall off students’ radars: the first is the small, daily things that need to be done--reviewing class notes, making timely additions to notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, and lab books that are supposed to be done daily or weekly but are rarely checked, etc.
The second type of homework that tends to be forgotten until it’s too late is planning or preparing for the really big projects or exams. Once you know you have a big project to do, schedule time early on to brainstorm options and do initial research. Likewise, each week should be spent reviewing past readings, vocabulary, and quizzes in preparation for the midterm or final exam.
Culling information about how long things have taken you in the past and how difficult the task is before you, make your best estimate as to how long each of the activities will take.
Prioritize your assignments based on how much they impact your grade. Work out the time you need to complete a midterm project worth 50% of the grade before fitting in study time for a weekly quiz worth 5%.
Give your prioritized assignments prime study time--the time when you are most alert, able to best concentrate, and are least likely to be interrupted. Work backwards from the due date, starting, whenever possible, with the day before the assignment is due, to allow for any last-minute emergencies. This means if a report is due Friday, try to have it finished by Thursday.
Schedule in time for meals, breaks, sleep, class, work, commutes, and anything else you may have to do. Consider using an “unschedule,” designed by Dr. Neil Fiore and described in his book, The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.
I tend to be able to work for several hours without a break, but after the three-hour mark, my productivity drops and I often switch to a 45 minutes on/15 minutes off routine. Experiment and see what works for you. By working out the kinks in your schedule early in the term, you’ll hit your stride long before midterms, and will reap the rewards of an efficient and productive study habit.