Planning your studies

This page offers help and advice on how to plan your time. We recommend that you read the sections in order, but you are of course also welcome to choose the specific section that is most relevant for you.

More surplus energy and a better overview

At the Student Counsellors’ Office, we often meet students who feel they don’t have enough time. This can lead to:

  • a lack of overview
  • a persistent feeling of guilt because you do not know how much or how little you are actually reading or studying
  • the feeling that you cannot keep up in class
  • stress
  • an inadequate diet, a lack of exercise and an unhealthy lifestyle

For most people, planning seems “banal” – but, even though it is banal, it is also difficult. Especially if you are not used to it from school. Being a university student requires planning in order to maintain an overview.

What would you like to have time for?

Many students feel there are not enough hours in the day to have a student job, see friends, do sport, meet assignment deadlines and see family. It is also not uncommon the feel that it’s impossible to read everything on the course reading list. Therefore, when you talk to a student counsellor, we will usually discuss topics such as prioritising and structuring your time.

It is important that you as a student (and in general) feel you have the "freedom of choice" to prioritise the things that are important to you. By asking yourself these questions, you can learn more about the student life you would like:

  • What does "the good student life" look like for you?
  • What do you miss in your everyday life?
  • What should there be time for?
  • What would you like to change about your current situation?
  • What is your reason for thinking that you need to plan?

Get help to prioritise

As student counsellors, we often meet students who forget that planning also involves prioritising. It can be really difficult to prioritise your activities, because it’s easy to feel like everything is equally important. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will I plan today?
  • How will I prioritise?
  • What is the most important thing to do? Is there time? Priorities? Structure of the day? Etc.

At the Student Counsellor’s Office, we often recommend the ‘stove’ model to help you prioritise your time:

The Stove - a model for planning and prioritising time

Imagine you have an old-fashioned stove with four hot plates that represent different parts of your life (e.g. study, sport, family and work). Each hot plate is controlled by a temperature dial and can be switched off (“0”) or set to a certain temperature (from “1” to “6”). Try to hear the click when you turn the temperature dial. This stove, which helps you to plan and prioritise, is a special stove, because it cannot cope if all four hot plates are running at a high temperature at the same time. It will simply short circuit. Each hot plate can be set to a heat of “0” to “6”, but the stove as a whole can only tolerate a combined heat of “16”. The heat represents your time and energy.

On each of the four hot plates, there is a saucepan of water. The saucepan is your connection to the individual hot plate. The water in the individual saucepans can be cold, heating up, simmering, boiling or boiling over. The temperature of the water and the development of this temperature – from cold to warm, remaining the same, from warm to cold – at any given time is controlled by the heat the hot plate sends up to the saucepan. The state of the water in the individual pots therefore says something about the time, effort and resources you are investing in each hot plate at any given time. It therefore makes a difference whether you should bring the water to the boil or simply keep it boiling, as the former requires more heat – and therefore more time and resources in your life. You are the chef operating the stove. As the chef, you have to manage the four saucepans and temperature dials. But you only have two hands! You therefore need to make several decisions about when the individual saucepans require more heat, the same amount of heat, or less heat.

There are many available options, and whatever you do for one hot plate will affect the others. In certain periods, it is necessary to give full heat to an individual saucepan, for example if you start something new, have to complete a large assignment or need to compete in a competition. In this case, you will need to turn down the heat on one or more of the other hot plates, where, in the best case, the water will simmer and, in the worst case, it will cool. This will depend on your strategy, communication and foresight as a chef. A key point about the stove is that you can never get the most out of all four hot plates at the same time. (Morten Hovgaard, 2010)

When we as student counsellors talk to students about prioritising, we recommend that you practise distinguishing between what is important and less important – and also between what is urgent and not urgent.

Your priorities will act as a good starting point for working constructively on your study planning.

What can I do?

At the Student Counsellors’ Office, we recommend experimenting with your planning and structure. One way of doing this is to make a weekly plan for your teaching period, so that you can create structure in your everyday life. In this weekly plan, you should include all your daily activities: lectures, seminars, arrangements with your study groups, self-study time, sport, meals, arrangements with friends, breaks, etc.

We also recommend that you discuss your structure and planning with your fellow students. This can be a good source of inspiration to help you prioritise. However, you should always remember that all students are different and may therefore have different needs in their student life.

Your plan may be very flexible or have a very fixed structure, depending on what works best for you. You may have to experiment with different ways of planning your day until you find out what works best for you.

Once you've tried experimenting and even got into a good rhythm with your planning, you may wish to consider discussing it with a student counsellor in order to optimise the way you plan your student life.

Learn more about weekly plans at Studypedia: Make a weekly plan.

General advice

At Studypedia, you can find good advice, inspiration and tools to plan your studies. It is important to remember that everyone studies in different ways and that there is no one correct way to plan your study time.