Advice and development

Up against the clock

As a nursing student the relentless demands of work, studying and family life can leave you feeling like you are on a treadmill that has no off switch.

As a nursing student the relentless demands of work, studying and family life can leave you feeling like you are on a treadmill that has no off switch.

Learning to make your time work for you can help improve productivity and performance, as well as providing a sense of achievement and general wellbeing.

Rebecca is a third-year nursing student who funds her studies with a part-time job. Like many students she finds her course demanding and says the only way she manages placements is by being thoroughly prepared and organised.

‘I always plan my whole week in advance – from what days I’m doing my job to the meals I’ll eat each day,’ she says.

Keeping a ‘task diary’ can help you plan your time. Divide each day into 30-minute slots and make a note of what you are doing. You can decide to do this for a whole week, the days you are on shift, at university, for your days off or study days. Add in all that you need to do in the day and the week as well as things you would like to do and allocate time slots for each.

It makes sense to create new routines that take advantage of your strengths. This is your strategy for success, so try to be honest with yourself:

  • Identify what you need to help you stay organised. Perhaps a paper or electronic diary? Mind maps? To-do lists?
  • Use your task diary to recognise when you are able to concentrate: are you a morning or evening person? Can you identify any patterns, such as times when you can easily be distracted so that you can avoid studying then?

  • Name your distractions. Whether it is Facebook, Pinterest your children or friends, you need to find a way to avoid distractions when you are supposed to be studying.

  • What motivates you? What small things can you do to keep yourself motivated? For example, you may find that you can study better when you collaborate with fellow students.

  • Breaking down tasks into manageable chunks and creating small achievable goals for each step is a good time management skill.

Remember to congratulate yourself when you have reached these goals because this helps with long-term motivation and the formation of good study habits.

Lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University’s school of nursing, midwifery and social care Janyne Afseth says: ‘Setting goals early on will help build your confidence as well as making a dent in the work that needs to be done.

‘Small achievable goals such as finding and reading a relevant article, or writing 100 words can be a start, so schedule in these activities and make them a priority.’

You have at least three years of juggling studying with clinical placements so set yourself a realistic schedule. The SMART framework can help you prioritise and pace yourself on the ward and when studying (see Box).

S Be specific: what exactly do you need to achieve?

M Effective goals are measurable and motivating.

A If you set achievable goals you are more likely to succeed.

R Are your goals realistic?

T What is your timeline?

As on the ward, you need regular breaks when you are studying so remember to plan some time for yourself as well.

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