Time management in the VCE

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VCE can become a hectic, particularly year 12. You will find that at times there are multiple SAC’s and assessments due on the same day, there is no doubt that exam session can become choatic– with almost 5 exams to complete separated normally by only a few days, VCE can become overwhelming. Many students find that although they want to complete their assessments to the best of their ability – they simply run out of time due mainly to a lack of proper time management.

You will find that time is a very curious aspect of out everyday lives. It seems like our perception of time changes according to our “state of mind” at that given time. For example when you are doing chores – time seems to move slowly, and every 5 minutes seems like an hour in length. In fact, whenever we do a task that is “boring” or “painful” time feels like it is moving very slowly. On the other hand when we are having fun, watching a movie or going out with friends it seems as though time is moving too quickly. Half the day can pass and before you know it, the event is over and it’s time to head off.

Another interesting thing about time is that you can give time “density” by filling it up with what you get done – this “density” is determined by your ability to use time effectively. You can have three hours free, and completely make no progress within that time – or perhaps answer a few questions and write a page of notes. On the other hand you could be placed into a three hour exam and write 25 pages of answers to various exam questions. In this article we will be investigating ways to increase your efficiency and to ensure that you fill in your allocated time in the best possible way to maximise your ATAR. We will also include something about the paradox of time – just for fun 😛

Time is the same for all – however not all will use it in the same way

The rate at which the earth rotates the sun is a constant, and therefore since we are all on this earth – the time we all get is equal … just in case you doubt it 😉 What isn’t equal though, is how we spend it, and what value we give it. Time is really a limited resource and in this lifetime we will only get a fixed amount of time. So if you think about it, every second that ticks by is GONE and you will not be able to buy it back – even if you have enough money in the future. If every second of your life is ticking away, why throw away the time? It is more valuable than money!

In your VCE always question – how much value am I giving to my limited time? Are you using facebook, watching a movie, talking and studying at the same time? Is this something that you want to do with your capped time? The mission is not to encourage you to eliminate study and spend time using facebook, watching a move and talking … that is not the purpose of this article. The purpose is to make you see that if you make your study more effective you can have high quality FREE TIME in the VCE.

I am sure that most people do not find “studying” very entertaining – it is a form of responsibility and it takes discipline, patience and dedication. However the sooner the study is “out of the way” – it automatically allows you to increase the quality of free time. Many students believe that they are studying for 4 hours a day, when in fact they are diluting this time. Imagine study time to be black and free time to be white. The idea is to keep study time “black” (not meant to be morbid) and keep free time “white”. What many students do it contaminate these colours and blend them together into “grey” – and grey is no fun, because you are not really studying and not really relaxing either. By mixing your study time with your “free time” you are causing your study quality to decrease – and also your free time to diminish in quality.

In VCE, it is not necessarily important to have a “timetable” to follow – because a timetable just gives you a “gap” for your study. The important thing becomes how you fill the gap – in other words the quality of your studying. Many students make pretty timetables that look great – but when it comes to utilizing the time within the “study periods” it’s a completely different story.

How can study “efficiency” be increased?

Every moment that ticks away, is a moment that will never come back. Do you want to turn your VCE moments into “grey” or do you still want to enjoy a high quality of life – even during this tough year? Your free time does not need to be spend on facebook – you could find better ways to utilize time. Maybe you can go to movies with friends, perhaps you can read a non-VCE book, perhaps you can watch a movie with the family or maybe you can bake chocolate cake. Think you have no time? You probably do – its just blended into a “grey” colour and its essence is gone.

So how can we increase the efficiency of study and thereby have more free time? There are a few methods of ensuring that you study efficiently – it all comes down to be willing to make some “uncomfortable” changes.

(1) Your study room should be technology free – unless you need the laptop or calculator.
The ideal study room would have no computer, mobile phone or TV – perhaps just some background soothing music as this has an ability to increase the retention of information and therefore enhance learning. The computer is most likely the top time consumer of an average VCE student’s life. Just by switching it on, there is always a temptation to surf the web – and check emails, facebook and many other irrelevant sites. You may believe that these do not take much time – but they can completely distort your study quality. For example the news you heard may cause you to lose focus and become unable to concentrate and pay attention during your study time. You may begin to call other people to “pass on” the news, basically interacting with these types of sites is a trigger to procrastination. To maximise study – switch of the noise of the people around you, this will allow you to study. Of course people may believe that we are “anti-Facebook”, but that is not true – check your Facebook … just not in your allocated “study time”.

(2) Shhhhhh quiet …
Noise such as the family talking, kids screaming, loud TV or radio in the background can cause your study efficiency to diminish. From personal experience, my sister was 1.5 years when I started my VCE she was heading into her “terrible twos” and translated her time into becoming a professional pest (love her heaps – but she’s not changed a bit). She continuously spent her time teasing me, knocking on my door and running away or drawing on my homework. She would bring her potty and do her business under my desk – I was not amused. In addition her tantrums were heard by the neighbours – on a good day. This was definitely not the ideal place to study. I spent a lot of my time “hiding” as well as “studying” in different libraries around the Dandenong area. My dad later bought a caravan – and my education experienced moved there… the silence enabled me to focus and increase my quality of study. Silence is an important part of increasing study efficiency because you can focus on understanding the concepts independently. Learning is simply creating a link between what is in your textbook and how you interpret it. If your surrounding is noisy and chaotic than you will find that creating these “links” is not effective.

(3) Limit your time – set your goals before you study

By limiting your time – you are motivated to work because your mind knows that by X o’clock a specific list of goals must be finished. This keeps you under pressure for the entire study period. This pressure is completely healthy and is generally what motivates people to obtain results. If you do not put a limit on the time need to complete a task or a group of goals then you will feel like you have achieved very little – however if you are able to tick or cross of a list of study goals, then the momentum of progress will grow. If you think about making steamed vegetables – they will cook at the lowest energy possible only if you cover the pot with a lid and increase the pressure. Similarly in the VCE – if you “cap” your time, you will find that you can get heaps of work done – with less energy then if you simply leave your time open.

(4) Your stubbornness to “work” out a problem can lower the study efficiency
Being willing and enthusiastic to work out a problem is one thing, being stubborn and unwilling to move on is another. If you find that you are spending more than 15 mins on attempting a problem that is generating the incorrect answer – it is time to move on. By attempting the question for longer than 15 minutes your efficiency is decreasing. Although working out a question independently is important, becoming stuck on that question and not moving on is not ideal. Perhaps you are making a silly mistake, perhaps you have missed out on an important concept – either way it is better to simply ask your teacher or tutor. Circle that question, and move on to a different section. Sometimes when you simply leave the question and try it a few hours later you will find that the fresh approach really helps. So remember don’t be too stubborn because you are wasting time!

(5) Use alternative study techniques – not just the “sit down & recite” method
The traditional way of studying can get very boring – it is also not the right method for all individuals. There are many creative ways to study. Some ideas include making a poster, game, making your own study cards, watching YouTube videos (related to VCE only :P), listening to a lecture on your iPod or simply teaching the theory on a white board to an imaginary audience. We all have different ways of learning – experiment with all the different ways and find the one that makes studying as fun as possible. By choosing the same study method as your friends, you may find that it is not the best method for you personally. If you have not “optimised” your study method you may not be using your time effectively.

Increasing time of study does not produce higher ATAR

Many students believe that if they would be disciplined to study 5 hours a day throughout the whole year, then they would obtain an ATAR of 99.95. This is not necessarily true. Sometimes having too much time causes you to slow down because your mind knows that there is “plenty of time” to finish the work. Most students that obtain an ATAR of 99.00 and above have responsibilities outside of VCE. They participate in sports, or take up leadership positions within the school. These students are often limited to the amount of time they have to study – and therefore when they have 2 hours free they use it very effectively. The mind knows that if the tasks, homework and assignment can’t be done within that time frame there is no “extra time”. These students do not think about Facebook because they know that they must do their work – “later” does not exist.

By keeping “busy” with outer activities the mind is motivated to function faster … to tap into the “higher gears”. Procrastination will be eliminated faster that way! Donald Trump, a famous American billionaire claims that he prefers to give work to people that are already busy – because he knows that these people will be able to achieve excellence with the tasks. He doesn’t generally give work to people with a lot of free time, for two reasons (1) they will have issues meeting the deadline and always find excuses of why they can’t finish and (2) the individuals with a lot of spare time have probably been fired by him now.

Don’t make the mistake of making time proportional to results, because results can be achieved with time limitation – and they are often higher in quality.

Remember to rest if you need to…

Sometimes there are days in which you just can’t concentrate and nothing seems to work. In times like this there is nothing wrong with having a break. We should all learn to keep in-tune with our bodies – sometimes when nothing seems to work and you make mistakes in every question it is time to allow the body/mind to rest for a little bit. By listening to your body and not pushing yourself too much, you will ultimately prevent “burning out”. When we burn out the tiredness of the body and mind is so obvious that it causes devastating side-effects. You can begin to feel indifferent to your VCE and therefore have a negative affect on the ATAR. So if you are feeling tired – do not push it away, rest for a day or two and then begin your study routine again. If is much better to take two days off study rather than being “burned-out” for 1 month.

Finally, remember that time is a precious resource and the quality of it is very important. Try not to spend too much time studying- because you will find that you perform tasks slowly. Rather, limit your time and have study goals during your learning periods. Remember to rest when you feel tired, and remember to value your free time as best as possible!