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Lesson Navigation IconOnline Guidelines for Academic Research and Writing

Unit Navigation IconThe academic research process

Unit Navigation IconOrganization and project management

LO Navigation IconBasic principles of projects

LO Navigation IconThe concept of phases

LO Navigation IconTime management

Unit Navigation IconLiterature research and application

Unit Navigation IconWriting an academic paper

Unit Navigation IconHow do I create a good poster?

Unit Navigation IconPresentation skills

Unit Navigation IconLearning techniques and exam preparation

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Time management

Reasonable time management is key when studying; particularly, when writing a thesis That requires a considerable amount of time. Most of the time, there are various steps to be taken simultaneously. It is therefore difficult to follow a chronological order. Nevertheless, writing processes, organizational tasks, literature search, and other sub-processes should be separated clearly and chronologically, as far as possible, since too many steps taken at once may cause loss of time. In addition, you tend to fritter away or do no more than what is absolutely necessary if the time management isn't well defined. It thus makes sense to keep the following in mind.

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A proper time management makes it easier to study, learn, and do research more efficiently.

Specific targets are important: Without knowing what to do and when, you risk working inefficiently while getting lost in details (Haenni 1999: 2); or by starting to procrastinate (Rückert 2002).

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If you tend to constantly postpone things it will be difficult to reach your goal (Rückert 2002).

Tasks are prioritized: It is possible, for instance, to differentiate between urgency (chronological qualification) and importance (qualification as regards content). When planning your daily routine, it is not advisable to schedule too many tasks of the highest priority. Generally speaking, it is better to do what is important while delegating urgent tasks when indicated. Two months before the deadline, a master's thesis is important but not urgent. If you procrastinate until important steps are really urgent, the paper's or thesis' quality will suffer and risks a poor assessment. It is additionally advisable to combine and complete less important tasks of top priority (calls, etc.) en bloc while scheduling important tasks of low priority (Haenni 1999: 4).

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Finish important things before being pressured!

We recommend preparing a schedule for each day and week to better estimate the time needed for each single task. It is mandatory to allow extra time for any unforeseen events. Your everyday objective should be to perform all tasks of the first priority at least. It is appropriate to check and assess your schedule on a daily basis in order to optimize the following routines (Haenni 1999: 5).

Tasks of completely different qualities are separated from each other before dealing with them en bloc. When writing a master's thesis, it is advisable to include organizational and technical tasks (such as making copies or illustrations, searching for literature, etc.) explicitly into your schedule. First, it is quite an effort to switch from one task to another. Second, you tend to otherwise neglect the task of actually writing the thesis (Kraas & Stadelbauer 2000: 132).

You should pay attention to the personal performance curve. This curve varies on an individual basis and can be determined by daily reports in which you list time, consecutive activities, and comments (disturbances, good as well as bad phases, etc.). You should also list activities that are not project-related (such as breaks, meals, or sports), since this can influence your performance considerably. Individual moments of top performance should also be included in this schedule. It is best to perform important tasks during such periods of time without being distracted (by turning off the phone, reducing any noises, deactivating the e-mail application) (cf. «Concentration») (Kraas & Stadelbauer 2000: 133).

After achieving all objectives, you can treat yourself to a good meal and finish early or go clubbing. Such rewards motivate to pursue further goals. Noting down your accomplishments not only results in realizing what still has to be done but also in appreciating what has already been completed, no matter how small the task.

Sometimes it takes time to settle things. It is therefore advisable to e.g. finish your concept somewhat before its deadline. Looking this draft a few days later, things may cross your mind that need to be reconsidered, included, or corrected. In the end, this will result in a win-win situation.

People have a varying perception of time as well different ways of working. There are those who achieve best results when being pressured (by oneself or others) while others need more leeway since pressure doesn't agree well with them.

One cannot tell which way is best. However, it is important to know if your way of managing time is convenient as well as efficient. We therefore recommend exploring various approaches. Those who think that they can only achieve best results while under pressure, should try sometimes to deliberately start a project earlier than usual - just to see how they work when not being stressed. Doing this the other way around might bear some risk. However, people who usually cannot cope with stress are sometimes surprised at how well things go when there is only little time and one has to focus on the essentials.

actExercise: Creating a schedule
Develop a draft for a schedule. This schedule can then also be used for timetables, etc.

Here you can find an example for a weekly schedule along with a master copy. (Click here for more information)

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