But - when will I find the time to study?

So you’ve decided to study for a professional qualification, one which will enable you to develop your knowledge and skills, give you more confidence in yourself, and help you achieve your career goals – maybe even lead to a pay rise or a new job. Fantastic! But....

.... it’s going to take commitment, motivation and good organizational skills to achieve this. As my mother (still) tells me, you never get something for nothing. And in any case, if you didn't have to put in any time and effort would you feel that the qualification was worth anything?

One of the biggest challenges that people can have on while studying for professional qualifications is that of managing their time. Many of us have busy jobs, partners, children, hobbies and – if we’re lucky -social lives, which all need to be juggled without the added commitment of a qualification course. So….how are YOU going to do it?

Here are my top ten strategies that will I hope will help you to manage your time and stay focused: Take a look at link at the bottom of the blog for a video version.

  1. Try to find the best times for study that suit you personally: create a blank timetable and record what you do and how long it takes every day for a week. Once you have a clear idea of how you spend your time, you’ll be able to see when you lose or waste time, such as commuting, lunch hours, Sunday mornings…. Think about your personal habits –are you an early bird or a night own? When are you at your most productive or creative?
  2. Know your deadlines. Make sure you know what needs to be done and by when; write key dates into your calendar or diary and if possible set up alerts so that you are always ahead of the game.
  3. Make meetings with yourself: when you have a deadline coming up, diarise some time to spend studying. If it’s written in your calendar, you’re more likely to do it. Let your friends and family know when you’re going to be studying, and ask them to give you some peace and quiet during those times.
  4. Be clear about what you’ve got to do, and when you have to do it by, so there is no last minute panic when an assignment or project is due for completion. You might find it helpful to set yourself “false deadlines” a couple of days before the assignment is due – this will ensure you always have time to check and proof read before the actual deadline.
  5. Try to have a set space for studying: your spare room, a corner of your dining room, or wherever you can. Make it comfortable and organise your books and pens etc. so you don’t waste time looking for things. The same applies to filing documents on your computer – a well-organized filing system can save you hours looking for your work. if studying at home is out of the question, why not go to your local library? They’re usually quiet and you will have access to computers and internet there too.
  6. Make a “to-do” list and mark the items in terms of how important they are; this will help you to prioritise. Cross off each item as you complete it  - this will help you stay on track and it feels really good to cross off all those items!
  7. Break down larger projects or assignments into smaller, more manageable chunks – planning, researching, drafting, editing, proof-reading and so on.
  8. Set yourself targets for each study session, e.g. to read a number of pages, complete a number of exercises etc. Give yourself a treat when you achieve each goal, then when you’ve finished a larger piece of work give yourself a larger reward.
  9. Take regular breaks while you’re studying – and plan these into your routine. We humans can only concentrate on something for so long , usually around 45 - 50 minutes, before we need to recharge our batteries. So for ten minutes of every hour you study, try to do something different –make a cup of tea, check your emails (but don’t get side-tracked for too long!), or go for a walk to get some fresh air.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are stuck or get behind. It’s best to seek advice sooner rather than later. Your facilitator is there to help so get in touch with him/her.

Video Version below and on this link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVzS-J15BUY

I wish you every success in your studies, both now and in the future :)

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  • Thank you, a great video with some really helpful tips. The most important thing for me is time management, ensuring I have allocated time, so that time does not slip away from me. To do lists for an important part in my day. I am starting the Level 7 Diploma next month and i'm looking forward to getting started.

  • My top tips after two years doing level 3 and level 5 CIPD HRP/M while working full time:

    1. Set your personal assessment completion target two weekends before due date - that way you have a weekend in hand if you have a run over/emergency/need to start a piece of work from scratch.

    2. Don't beat yourself up about being a 'last minute, panic' sort of person - some people just work that way.  It's not a better way or worse way than those who do the assessment the day after the workshop/online workshop - just different.

    3. If you have a genuine difficulties in handing your assessment in, like being rushed into hospital for an emergency operation four days beforean assessment due date - don't panic - DPG were brilliantly understanding and supportive through a really tricky time.

    4. Plan in time for meals and breaks from the screen - you'll be more efficient after regular breaks and will take less time overall.

    5. Get a facebook messaging/whatsapp group going for your cohort so you can all have a livetime good soothing moan, while you study, about how you'll never fit everything in - you will but there's comfort in knowing you're not alone.

    6. Accept that you WILL feel pushed, sometimes pressured and worried about deadlines and making time but it's a temporary phase which is SO worth it.  The buzz from knowing that you got your qualification AND did it while juggling family, work, hobbies, other commitments makes your qualification even more meaningful and gives extra pride. 

    7. The amount of spare time you get back when you've finished the study is astounding and wonderful!

    I'd do it again in heartbeat - good luck all and enjoy it. :)

  • There are some great tips, especially for someone who hasn't studied in years :) 


  • Great tip about taking breaks!

    In my experience, attempts to expedite studying process to the detriment of breaks usually end up in exhaustion. So, I'm using the alarm clock to remind me of some useful tea/walk time. And exercising is very good too for switching brain to and from studying.

  • I love this -  realistic and useful.

    I haven't studied properly since my degree 8 years ago, I'll definitely use these tips when I start in February.

    • Glad to hear it, Danielle.

  • I love the tip 'Have meetings with yourself' - If I schedule something in my diary it doesn't budge.

    When doing my Level 3 with DPG I would try and schedule my full study weekend days as an academic 'school-day'.  I'd start at 9 then work for 50 minutes with a 10 minute break, then continue until lunch for 1 hour then the same 50 minute session with 10 minutes in-between.  This usually meant I had my evenings free to chill.  Having regular breaks meant I didn't feel overloaded.

    • Great tips thanks for sharing Stephanie :)

  • Great tips, thank you.  It's been a while since I've studied but one thing I definitely want to avoid is the habit of my university days (many years ago!) of leaving things until the last moment and then having to cram for hours on end! :-)  The pressures on my time are greater now with a busy job and young family so for me scheduling in regular study sessions and negotiating some uninterrupted time will be critical.  Good luck to you all in your studies.

    • And good luck to you Jenni - remember we're here for support and words of encouragement!

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