Ways to organize your time in university

Hey Marauders! I hope everyone has been enjoying the Mac101 workshops. I wanted to switch gears and talk to you about something that will be very relevant to the rest of your undergraduate journey.

Learn more about Mac101

These blogs are part of Mac101: Introduction to University Life, a collection of events, workshops and more to support your university transition.

July 15, 2023

By: Nabeelah (McMaster Graduate, Biology, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour)

Today, I will be focusing on organizing your time and using time pockets outside of class to get some studying done.   

Q&A with Nabeelah

Personally, I found the biggest difference between high school and university is the independence. You will no longer be provided with constant reminders to complete assignments or be given worksheets outlining concepts. A lot of the learning will be self-directed and the shift in teaching style can be a big adjustment. Some things that allowed me to become more engaged in lecture material include: 

  • Reviewing my notes before class.
  • Sitting in the front rows of lecture.
  • Using supplementary course materials such as textbooks to fill in gaps of knowledge.
  • Using free time in between classes to prepare.

Tip: Use those pockets of time wisely as they can add up! Implementing those steps into my routine helped enhance my learning experience as I was able to follow along with the professor during lectures and absorb the content more readily. Preparing ahead of time will enrich your learning experience.  

Studying can be draining. It can feel like just going to lectures is sufficient, but this is far from the truth. In high school, when teachers announced that there was a test next week, what would you do? Personally, I was a bit of a procrastinator and held off on studying until a few days before the test. Now, this got me through high school, not in university. 

Lectures may be fast paced so something your high school teacher took a week to explain can be glossed over in 10 minutes by your professor. This may seem daunting, but rest assured you will find the right studying habits that will help facilitate your success in the classroom and beyond.  

Tip: Your ability to maintain a routine for studying/reviewing course content on a regular basis will help you succeed as a university student.

A common misconception that many students have is the idea of not having enough time to study. You may think that you need to schedule a strict block of time within your agenda focused on uninterrupted studying. Try using small pockets of time.

  • Once you get your timetable for the year, you may notice that you have a 50-minute break in between your classes, and this can’t possibly be enough time to get done the work you planned to for the day. But it is enough time! You can split up the workload throughout the day.  
  • If you planned to spend an hour reviewing concepts from your biology lecture earlier that day, why don’t you use the free time you have in between classes to get your revision in.

I wish I had used this strategy in my first year as it would have saved me from many late nights.  

For those of you who do not live on campus, you may have to commute to and from McMaster to get to your classes. You may find that the commute is hindering your productivity as it takes up a few hours from your schedule daily but what if you were able to use this time? Try out the following:  

  • Complete a quick assignment on your commute. Use this small pocket of time to maximize your productivity. 
  • Pull out your notes and review what you learned in class today on the commute or if you are on the way to school, you could prepare for class and look over today’s lecture content.
  • Plan out your workday for tasks that need to be completed once you reach your destination.

A personal favourite of mine, Forest: Stay Focused  is an app that has helped my productivity by discouraging me to use my phone use while studying. These are some features of the app:

  • Tracks your personal pattern of time management.
  • Grows a tree for every successful 30 minutes of focused studying with the goal of growing a forest overtime.
  • If you exit the app, it warns you that you will kill the tree.
  • The more you use the app, the more points you earn, and you can eventually use those points to have the company plant a real tree in the world.
  • You can also add friends to hold each other accountable.

I highly recommend checking it out.

Signing off

I hope that by the end of this blog you have a new appreciation for small pockets of time. Starting university is very exciting and I am grateful to be able to join you on this journey! 

Nabeelah student blogger

Nabeelah (she/her) is the program support assistant for the Student Success Centre’s (SSC) academic skills team. She has recently graduated from the Biology, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program here at McMaster University. Outside of school, she loves to play tennis, bake and hang out with friends and family.