Make a timetable
As I am someone who benefits from routine, I put pen to paper and draw out a daily timetable for myself. If left to my own devices I often procrastinate, but if I can see I should be doing something else that will often be the motivation I need.
Having a visual representation of what I should be doing, and when, really helps me, and I know it would work for many of you out there. However, if you respond better to something a little more technical, I would recommend creating a Gantt chart to keep track of your time. Gantt charts are essentially complex spreadsheets that allow you to keep track of your progress in an automated way, with timescales that automatically increase if you don’t complete a task in the designated time. Even though they are a little complicated to set up, the reward makes it worthwhile.
Don't burn out
Even though the temptation to go ‘full-student’ and complete an all-nighter is difficult to ignore, try and avoid it if you can. Working around the clock always seems like a good idea at the time but staying up till 4am isn’t sustainable long-term. Maintaining a work-life balance is incredibly important, especially when navigating the intensity of a postgraduate degree. Give yourself time to see friends (perhaps not right now!), to take a walk, or whatever allows you to best decompress. Try and carve out time to exist without a looming deadline hanging over you!
Following on from the previous point, getting at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries. If you’re well-rested, you are far more likely to use the time you have in a more productive way, which in turn should give you more time for fun things!
When I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, I often made the mistake of ‘power-napping’ in short bursts so I’d have longer to finish up assignments. In hindsight, just prioritising my tasks and getting decent sleep would have been a much better idea…
Set realistic goals
The jump between undergraduate and postgraduate is quite significant, so it might be a bit of a shock when you start up again. It would be unrealistic to head into your degree thinking you are going to ace it straight away, so be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals.
You are also likely to have other commitments when studying, so giving yourself ample time to do these things is equally important. Having a part-time job, being an active member of a sports team, or volunteering are all examples of other commitments, and ones that you should still make time for.
Learn to say NO
This is something I am finally learning to do, and it is one of the hardest things to follow through with. Your subject area will most likely be something you are incredibly passionate about, and as a result there will be a lot of interesting opportunities that might come your way, but it is best to know when you’re taking on too much.
Saying no isn’t a sign of weakness, it is you taking stock of your time and understanding that other things will have to come first. It doesn’t have to be a no; it can just be a ‘not yet’.
Be financially sensible
An effective way to alleviate worry during your postgraduate degree is to have some form of financial plan in place before starting. This could include getting a part-time job, being sponsored by your job or company, or having savings to cover your living costs.
The loan offered by Student Finance England will cover your tuition fees and will contribute towards your living costs, but you will definitely need an extra layer of financial stability to help throughout the year. Another avenue to explore, albeit an extremely competitive one, is to apply for a scholarship. Many charitable trusts will offer a range of financial amounts to supplement your income throughout your degree, so it is worth taking a look at those to see if you are eligible.
Hopefully some of the tips above will help you manage your time more effectively! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some of the key points that really helped me to get a handle on my time once and for all.