How to create a study schedule

We all have different learning styles that are better suited to different forms of assessment. For example, you might be a great visual learner but find it hard to absorb information from books, or vice versa.

How much time you are able to study in one go will also vary from person to person, although it is possible to gradually increase your study hours with practice.

Whatever your learning style, it is important to build up good study habits to ensure that you do yourself justice in your essays, exams, and even your working life, and creating a good study schedule is a key part of this.

So, if you’re looking to create a study schedule or if you want to improve your current schedule, we are here to help.

How to create a study schedule

To create a study schedule you need a clear idea of what you want to achieve in your studies and the timeframe in which you want to reach those achievements. Creating a list of goals and then breaking them down into achievable weekly chunks is a good place to start.

You should also use your study schedule as a checklist to make sure that you are on track to getting to where you want to be. Therefore, a good study schedule can also help to build discipline and routine in your life as a student and even your life beyond your studies.

Tips for creating a study schedule

So let’s take a look at some tips on how to create a study schedule and make sure that you get the most out of it.

Write a list of goals

Before you start scheduling your time and making a detailed plan, it is important to spend time writing a list of goals that you want to achieve in each subject or topic area. Write down where you want to be in your studies in one month, three months, six months, and one year. Or, if you are studying to a tighter schedule break up your timeframes into weeks. You don’t need to write your whole study schedule up for the next year, but you do need to have your goals and achievements clearly defined.

Refer to your goals at least once a fortnight and make sure you are on track. Keep a checklist handy so you can tick off your achievements as you complete them. If you are falling behind then you know you need to schedule in some more time to ensure you get to where you need to be. Or, if you are ahead in one area but behind in another, then you can make some adjustments to your timetable so you can stay focused on achieving everything you set out to achieve.

Schedule enough time

When you first make your study schedule be sure to factor in enough time to be a bit flexible around your timetable. If, for example, you are nearing a deadline and have run out of time to adequately prepare yourself, your work will suffer because of it. So try and set your schedule so that you are on track to finish your revision or writing at least a few days or even a few weeks in advance of any hard deadlines or exams.

No matter how disciplined you are there are always events and circumstances out of your control that can occur and force us to have to change our plans. Scheduling in a few extra days or weeks helps to free up a bit of time and space to ensure you are well prepared for any unexpected issues that may arise further down the line.

Type and print your schedule

Make sure you don’t just keep your schedule in your head and that you type it up and leave it visible on your computer desktop or, preferably, print it out and keep it on your wall. You can make your own planner on your computer or use one of the many online templates that are freely available. Google Calendar is a great resource that is easy to use and allows you to timetable your studies into colour-coded blocks.

Once you have your schedule all laid out it is easier to keep track of where you are at in your study plan. Keeping both a physical and digital copy to hand at all times means that you can make plans for other activities around your study schedule. By doing so, you also reduce the risk of double booking yourself and having to be forced to choose between studying and your social life.

Divide your days into blocks

Not even the hardest working and most fastidious students can sit in one place and study for 12 hours, so it is important to divide your days into clear blocks. If you plan on spending a whole day in the library studying, then consider breaking your time into two-hour chunks. After two hours you can change the subject you are studying, take a break, move to a different location, move from book learning to computer research or vice versa.

Whatever way you choose to divide your time, try to make sure that you are not sitting in the same position doing the same thing for hours and hours as it won’t be long before it begins to negatively affect your work. And even if you are working hard to complete an essay that needs handing in the next day, be sure to take at least a short break every couple of hours so you don’t lose focus. Your work will be all the better for it.

Schedule up to six weeks

We saw before that it is important to set out your long term study goals, but your schedule should be no more than six weeks ahead. This allows you to be more flexible over a longer period and assess what areas you are struggling with and need to focus on as you progress through your studies, rather than predicting it all at the beginning.

There is a reason that school half-terms and university reading weeks occur every six weeks. When we work hard and use such an immense capacity of our brains we need time to reassess, recalibrate, and reconfigure.

Don’t cram

When creating your schedule, it is probably correct to assume that you will spend more time studying as you draw closer to an intense period of exams and deadlines. So it is perfectly acceptable to factor in a bit more time during those later weeks and months. However, don’t leave everything until the last minute and force yourself to cram because it just doesn’t work for most people.

Research shows that spreading learning over a longer period of time is far more beneficial and yields better results than cramming for around 90% of people. So, unless you are sure that you are in that 10% for whom cramming actually works, then it is important to space your learning over more time than to fit it all in at the end.

Use your free time

If you find yourself with an extra couple of hours once a week or even once a fortnight, think about utilising that time to get some of your less demanding work done. When you study it is important that you still find time for your social life and to exercise and cook, but you can use any spare time you chance upon to catch up on some reading or to run through some revision notes you made.

While it is important to stick to your schedule to ensure you achieve your goals and maintain discipline, it is also perfectly acceptable to deviate from your routine every now and again if the opportunity arises. But remember to be sure to keep socialising, having fun, and exercising around your studying for the good of your mental health. So don’t use your free time if it hinders you from other commitments.

Change your study environment

As well as scheduling when and what you are going to study, it is also a good idea to think about where you want to study. Studying in your bedroom is best avoided if possible as it can lead to sleep difficulties and an inability to switch off at night. And although working in your local or university library can be great, it is good to have some alternative spaces that offer a different environment.

Browse your local cafes or collective workspaces to see if there is anywhere you like. Or consider working at a friend’s place, as long as you know they won’t be too much of a distraction! In every case, make sure your environment is conducive to the work you are scheduled to do that day. You may find the library is well suited to essay writing or when you’re in a deep study mode, whereas a cafe works well for a group study session or some light note revision.

Schedule in time to stay healthy

When writing your study schedule be sure to include enough time to keep healthy. Factor in time to exercise, a good amount of sleep including time to wind down, and time to cook healthy and nutritious foods.

You should aim to exercise for at least half an hour a day and try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. On top of that, even in the most intense study periods, try and keep to a healthy diet. Improving your health habits will benefit your studies so it is important to schedule a good amount of time dedicated to your health.

Stick to your schedule

Once you have written your schedule make sure you stick to it! As we said earlier, it’s okay to drift from it every now and again, but your schedule is there to organise you and make sure that you maintain discipline. So do try and limit how much you deviate from your timetable.

Learning discipline, time management, and the importance of maintaining a structured routine that brings you closer to your goals is a key part of any educational journey. Ultimately, your study schedule is down to you and it is a key component in how well you develop your own discipline. So sticking to your schedule will benefit you in both your studies and your life.

So write it, use it, and stick to it!