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Time Management for Students 101: Learn to Manage Your Time for Academic Success in Singapore

Here is the much-awaited Rule 3 from MindWork's 8 Rules for Academic Success series, designed to be the game manual and cheat sheet you need to succeed in school in Singapore and surpass everyone else.

Read Rule #3 in this post, and join our email list to follow MindWorks Blog so you can receive an email notification when we post the next 5 rules!

Click here to read Rule #1

Click here to read Rule #2

Now Rule #3 is an essential study tip. If you master this one tip, you will see phenomenal growth in your achievement, not just academically but in all domains of your life.

Top performer in Singapore organises her time in a planner

The Rule is simple: Manage your time effectively.

‘Successful people will do the right things at the right time. Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” - Mark Twain

Successful students do the same too. Time is the single most important resource we all have, and this is perhaps the only equality amongst all students around the world. Knowing the examination dates and getting ready beforehand are critical factors in doing well. Although it sounds simple, it is one of the most complex tasks to achieve because of various other commitments such as Co-curricular Activities (CCAs), family gatherings and social events you don't want to miss. Not to mention the days when you would be physically or emotionally down, like in the examples below:

Comic strip describing common distractions faced by students in Singapore

If you can master time management, you would have unlocked an important achievement that will guarantee that you are on the road to building a successful future. Firstly, let us take a look at the things you shouldn't do:

Starting with the obvious, the first notable mistake is that many students fail to plan at all! They either want to 'wing it' or believe the time spent in planning may be better utilised elsewhere. However, as Benjamin Franklin said,

"If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail."

Many students think that they have a lot of time to study and only realise at the very last minute that they were completely wrong just a week before the actual exam! '

comic strip with dark humour about murphy's law as a tautology

By Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. You may have experienced this first hand when your notes are missing, or you have suddenly forgotten a key concept and became very stressed during the last few weeks of the semester. You may also find out that you have accidentally missed out on revising some topics just a few hours before examination and become extremely nervous. Something as simple as a pen and paper or, at most, a nice planner can save you all this trouble!

But before you start accounting for every minute of every day from now until PSLE/ O level/ N level/ A level or other examinations, be cautious not to commit the second mistake: overly detailed planning.

Yes, it is actually not good to be too detailed when planning. This is a mistake many hardworking students will make- some even put in a lot of time scheduling a timetable which is detailed up to the hours or even minutes. In the beginning, everything may go smoothly as planned. However, very soon, you will find it hard to keep up with the timetable due to unforeseen circumstances such as friends’ birthday parties, MRT delays, extra hours required for the upcoming Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) or championship tournaments. This will cause you to feel unaccomplished and discouraged, and you will need to spend more time revising your prepared timetable. What is worse, being discouraged may put you off studying completely, and you may start to procrastinate.

Even after coming up with an excellent schedule, procrastination can still set in and prevent you from acting on it. If you would like a blog post about how to beat procrastination, leave a comment below!

So, what are some things you should do?

Here are some strategies used by successful people like Anthony Robbins and Steven Covey that can revolutionise your time management system:

1. Start with an end in mind

This is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 effective habits for highly successful people. First, you should know the estimated date of the examinations at the beginning of the semester and not just one month before the exam when the teacher hands out the timetable. You may not know the exact date of your examinations, but constant preparation from the start of the semester will give you ample time to be ready.

A lot of schools will not set the exact date for each subject. However, you can still estimate the examination period by referring to the last timetable of the previous batch or last year’s timetable or refer to the table below. Next, you should figure out the actual period of time useable after subtracting public holidays, celebrations and buffer time.

timetable for exams for primary and secondary schools in Singapore 2021

*Each term consists of 10 weeks.

**These guides are to serve only as references. The actual exam dates are subjected to changes.

Time table for exams for Junior College students in Singapore 2021

Understanding exactly when and which exams you should be preparing for will help you plan your time, and keep the end in mind throughout your academic year.

2. Chunk your time into weeks

Before the start of each term, you can create a weekly planner to chunk your time into weeks.

Usually, each semester has 10 weeks, and schools generally use the first 7-8 weeks to teach new chapters and the last 1-2 weeks to do intensive revision before the final exams.

weekly time management with post its

The last two weeks is a focused period of revision and practice, finding out what you are still unclear of and perfecting those concepts. Eventually, the actual study time you need to plan is only about 7 weeks. You need to think about how to spend time wisely and keep up to date with the latest topics covered.

As for week 1 to week 7, students can cultivate a habit to study and practice on a weekly basis.

As teachers in different schools cover topics at different paces, we can never predict the exact topic covered each week. However, you can come up with a list of to-knows to check against after each topic has been covered. You want to include key concepts and keywords that are important to get full marks for your answers and make sure you keep up with the new topics you are studying each week.

In your weekly calendar, you can note down upcoming events and create to-do lists for all the subjects, i.e. preview before class, revision and practice after class and submitting homework on time.

3. Devise a daily ‘to achieve' list the day before

At the end of each day, devise a detailed hourly plan on what you are going to achieve the next day and the subjects you are going to cover before going to bed.

Student sets daily intentions while having breakfast in a cafe in Singapore

You can divide your daily 'to achieve' list into a few categories such as a "must achieve" and a "good to achieve" list.

Firstly, make a ‘must achieve’ list which has to be completed regardless of the other activities planned for tomorrow. In this category, you will put the most important and urgent tasks to complete, such as assignments to be submitted and tests to study for.

Secondly, a “good to achieve” category can hold tasks you wish to complete a few days ahead of the deadline.

With this planner, you will know if you are on track, and you will no longer have to be worried about last-minute cramming. If you have completed all the must-knows, you will not only score well but also fare well in comparison to your peers who did not put in the effort to plan well.

Being excellent for a few days may help students pull up a few marks, but consistency ensures that high achievers become the best in their fields. It is the reason why the majority of the A* students do way better than their peers.

Now the last reminder to keep in mind is a line from a famous poem by Rumi:

famous quote from Rumi

When you keep the end in mind, you will be able to recognise that your hard work for your education today will reap the benefit when you can achieve all your dreams in a few years. So remember to find joy in your studying, and try to find ways to enjoy your lessons. Take breaks when needed, but also hold yourself accountable to fulfil the promises you set out at the beginning of the week in your weekly planner.

If you need help in sticking to a schedule because of boredom, lack of interest or difficulties in understanding concepts, please talk to your parents about hiring a tutor. A tutor can act like a mentor and ignite in you a passion for learning. They can be your confidante and give you guidance about all your academic problems. MindWorks Tuition is here to make your journey easier - fill this form to request a tutor in Singapore now!

Our team of expert coordinators can help you to find the perfect tutor for your needs. Meanwhile, make sure to subscribe to MindWorks Blog mailing list to receive email notifications every time we make a new blog post!

Wishing you happy learning!

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