Organising your studies in sixth form is not just about ticking off the homework set each day...
To begin with, there is no longer a set homework timetable, meaning that you will have greater responsibility for juggling tasks and ensuring that you plan your time and complete all work by the set deadlines.
You will also find that you have a greater amount of 'free' time in which to complete set tasks and independent study. Initially, it can be tempting to fill this time with less productive activities....like drinking coffee and eating toast in the cafe area! While you can certainly spend a little time doing this each day, it will also be important for you to plan your time effectively so that you do not leave things until the last minute or fall behind.
This short video will help to introduce you to the dangers of procrastination (and how to avoid it!):
It's also really important that you are honest with yourself, and others, about how easy you find it to plan and manage your time. There will be plenty of support and help available...but the first step is to acknowledge that you need to access it! Using the materials below will help you to get a head start in time for September.
What does ‘independent study’ suggest to you?
Understanding how you feel about the prospect of completing more independent study will be an important first step in ensuring you get off to a good start with your studies in September. Complete the following activity to help you assess what you may need help and support with initially.
- In pencil, underline all the words you associate with the phrase ‘independent study’.
- Now, using a bright marker pen, draw a circle around all those words that describe how you would like independent study to be. Use the blank spaces to add words of your own.
Being left to my own devices
Making my own success
Going it alone
Good study management
Pursuing my own interests
Working on my own
Managing my time
|Being in control
Independent study can be all the things you would like it to be! University learning allows you a great deal of freedom to shape your learning experience to suit yourself. The better your study skills, the easier you will find managing that freedom so that you can enjoy yourself while undertaking independent study successful. It is up to you to manage that process well.
Planning your study time
The following resources can help you to plan your time and prioritise the tasks you have to complete each week:
Twenty-Five Minute Sprints (The Pomodoro Technique)
There’s a very famous book by Italian entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo called The Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato (the tomato in question is one of those novelty kitchen timers!)
In his book, Cirillo argues that we can generate lots of energy and effort by working in short bursts, even on long tasks that we don’t feel motivated to do. Think of all the tasks you’ve got to do that you just can’t bear to begin – there might be essays to write, jumbled notes to file away or a dissertation to start.
Choose one thing that’s hanging over your head and you just don’t want to do. Make a note of it here:
Now for the tomato. By which we mean getting hold of either a kitchen timer or using the timer on your phone. Try using the app Hold for this. It’s free and blocks your phone for a specific period while you study. As you complete ‘holds’ - periods of distraction-free work – you earn points which give you rewards. There are a number of companies on board, so it’s a compelling way of creating a focus-and-reward culture for yourself.
Next, find somewhere quiet. Arrange the things you need to begin. You’re going to do a twenty-five minute sprint. It’s important to tell yourself this: twenty-five minutes – that's all. You’re allowed no distractions whatsoever in that twenty-five minutes.
Now start the timer and go!
Congratulations! You’ve got that nightmare task started. All of a sudden, this job is going to seem less frightening. You’ll be able to come back to it.
Some suggestions for adapting the Pomodoro Technique:
1) The Quick Sprint
Try twenty-five minutes on, twenty-five minutes off, twenty-five minutes on. It takes one hour and fifteen minutes in total, and you can do it at a regular time each day.
2) The Serious Sprint
Try twenty-five minutes on, five minutes off, twenty-five minutes on, five minutes off, twenty-five minutes on. It takes about one hour thirty minutes, and is a useful technique for really attacking a difficult piece of work.
3) Try measuring tasks in sprints
How many will it take? This way, you’ll develop a sense of how you work, and you can begin picking off scary tasks more quickly and easily.
4) Try using sprints to review work
Suddenly you’ll find yourself ahead and on top of things. It’s a great feeling!
Setting up a quick sprint
Preparation Twenty-five minutes on Twenty-five minutes off Twenty-five minutes on
· Find somewhere quiet
· Gather everything you need
· Put phone on airplane settings
· Bring up timer, set countdown and alarm
· Tell yourself: ‘just twenty-five minutes.
That’s all.’ · Go! · Imagine it’s an exam · Stay intense and keep going · Set timer and countdown · Enjoy yourself · Tell yourself: ‘just one last twenty-five minute blast. That’s all.’ · Put phone back on airplane settings · Return to the task
Remember, one quick sprint per day for a week is nearly six hours’ study in total.
One serious sprint per day is nearly nine hours’ study per week.
You might want to chunk down large tasks and plan a fifteen or twenty hour week to make sure they get done.
The Eisenhower Matrix
This model was supposedly developed by US President Dwight Eisenhower – he was considered a master of time management, always getting things done by deadlines. His famous alleged quote, ‘I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent,’ led to the development of what is now referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix, which is used all over the world in business.
Eisenhower put all his tasks into one of the four boxes on the matrix. He then dealt with the ones that were urgent and important. Only when all the tasks in this box were complete did he move on to the other boxes.
Now try to organise your tasks using this framework!
The Ten Minute Rule
If you are in a position where you are regularly putting up barriers to work, the Ten Minute Rule is a good way of breaking them down. What do we mean by barriers? Many students will avoid classwork or homework because it is hard. Instead they will:
- Do something more comfortable but less useful. They might copy out some notes or make a mind-map when really they know they should be doing the exam paper their teacher has set them under timed conditions.
- Claim that homework or independent work ‘isn’t realistic’ as a way of avoiding it. (‘This is pointless. The real exam will be totally different so why bother?’)
- Get into a deep discussion about something related so they feel like they are working.
- Look for someone else who isn’t doing it. Or in extreme cases, tell themselves that no one is doing it.
- Tell yourself you are going to do ten minutes of intense work. That’s all.
- Decide what work the ten minutes is going to be spent on.
- Clear a space and sit down with the right materials to hand.
You may recognise these behaviours in yourselves and others – putting up barriers to independent work to avoid it. If this is you, the Ten Minute Rule is a good way to break through barriers. It’s very simple. You can, of course, stop after ten minutes. Even if you do, you’ve done ten minutes more work than you would have done. But what often happens is that ten minutes becomes twenty. Sometimes even half an hour or longer.