Good planning:

Helps you to be organised and stay motivated

Saves you time

Planning and organisational skills are sought after by employers

Making plans can help you save time and be more efficient with your research.

Plans can be very useful as a way of keeping you motivated and your project or assignment on track.

To help you plan it is important that you are clear on:

  • What you are being asked to do (see the University of Birmingham's Understanding your question (pdf))
  • The deadline you are working towards
  • What else you also have to do in this time
  • What you need to prioritise

A plan or timetable needs to suit you. It is pointless spending time and effort on producing a plan in great detail if it doesn’t suit your preferred way of working. You could use the following tools:

  • ‘To-do’ lists
  • Bullet points
  • Mind maps to sketch out ideas
  • Diary or calendar task functions
  • A timeline, with deadlines for individual tasks
  • Post-it-notes placed around your desk

A plan might start out quite broad and get more specific as you start researching your area and get a better idea of how you want to approach your assignment. You might also plan your writing.

Be flexible

Having established such an overview you will find it easier to move on to the next stages of prioritising your workload and drawing up work plans. Build in contingency plans to allow for any slippage in your timescales. For example, setting an earlier ‘soft’ deadline that is ahead of your ‘real’ deadline can often help you to meet ‘real’ deadlines more effectively. It allows for a time buffer if other things crop up while you are working on your assignments.

Be realistic

Effective planning can help you to meet deadlines and help you to keep track of your work-life balance. When making your own plans, you may find it useful to consider your regular, timetabled or extracurricular commitments, e.g. every Tuesday you have a seminar. This will help you to prioritise your workload and to be aware that other things can crop up. It will also allow you to check your plans are realistic and take all of your activities into account.