firstpoint’s five points about how to maximise your potential…

Every Monday, firstpoint publishes five points about a topic related to life at university. This week, maximising your study potential by organising and planning your work…

By approaching a piece of work in a planned and organised way, you are more likely to avoid last minute rushes, and carry out each stage more efficiently and effectively.  You’ll have time to use the support available such as the Writers in Residence, meet with your Academic Liaison Librarian and have a tutorial with your Personal Academic Tutor.  This support could help you potentially produce higher quality pieces of work.

Find out more about study skills support on the firstpoint webpage.


It’s helpful to have an overview of all your commitments, so you are taking everything in to consideration in your planning. Remember to include responsibilities such as your course needs, your job and your family.  Don’t forget to include time for relaxing and taking good care of yourself by eating well and getting a good night’s sleep.  Once you have a list, it will make it easier to prioritise your workload and start making a plan.

It’s important to be realistic when planning; think about what is involved with each task and how long it is likely to take. Be realistic with your timescales and give yourself enough time for each item.  Some contingency time will also allow you to manage any unforeseen events, making sure you can still meet your deadlines.


When you have developed a clear idea of your key activities and their related tasks, you can begin to make plans. Many people find it useful to plan their time in a variety of ways:

  • A long-term timetable showing regular and predictable events in your week.
  • A detailed weekly plan highlighting your workload over a seven-day period.
  • A daily diary, deciding first thing in the morning what is to be done that day. The list can be checked throughout the day, ticking off those tasks already achieved.
  • Planning long-, medium- and short-term tasks allows you to ensure all areas are covered.

Developing these into an action plan allows for deadlines to be met and provides a template to follow each time.


When you are faced with many different demands on your time, it’s essential that you can prioritise your workload. Asking yourself these questions may help:

  • What is urgent and demands my immediate attention?
  • What is unchanging and can be predicted and routinely planned for?
  • What can I prepare in advance?

It can be helpful to consider how important a task is, but also to consider the urgency of these. A task may be important to complete, but other tasks require prioritising due to the urgency of factors such as a deadline.

Motivation will be helped by having a clear focus and indication of when you will be finishing.

  • Take real breaks. Leave your work area completely, have a stroll outside or take a refreshment.
  • Try to avoid being drawn into something on the television or a conversation that you will find difficult to break away from.
  • Introduce variety so you’re not always doing the same activity.
  • A good tip is to tackle tasks that you find uninteresting at the start of a work period-get them out of the way and reward yourself with more inspiring work.

Finally, you should assess how effectively you are fulfilling all of your commitments.  Once you have developed an initial overview of your activities and tasks, you will need to reassess these as priorities and commitments change. Are you ahead of schedule? Are you behind? How can you resolve any difficulties?

If you have produced an action plan for a project, keep this with you and tick off areas of completed work. This will allow you to keep on track and make any adjustments along the way   It will also help you stay motivated as you have a visual record of your achievements.