Hello to all my fellow students!
Since I haven’t posted any articles yet, let me introduce myself first. My name is Arnold Kinzel, I am 24 years old, from Germany and I am currently enrolled in the BSc Economics and Finance programme at the University of London International Programmes. But if that wasn’t enough I am also a full-time Engineering and Management student at the University of Applied Sciences Zwickau (In German: Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau). As a son of an engineer, I followed the same path while privately reading books ranging from A. Kostolany over G. Soros to B. Graham. I always dreamt of studying Economics and Finance but never had the guts to apply for a programme until I found this programme which would allow me to continue my engineering studies.
You might suppose that this requires me to extend my studies over the minimum time of three years and this is not efficient at all. Although this is just my second year of study, I should finish my Bachelor of Science within the minimum time. The first reason is, obviously, that I passed all exams taken so far. This means I managed well in my first year. But rather more important are the tools and skills I developed throughout this time to improve in both my studies and keep safe from any kind of burnout. For this reason, I decided to share my thoughts, my mindset and ‘management tools’ with you. Some of you will find my ways rather unusual but it certainly helps me and I very much hope it will help you as well!
Let’s begin with the very basic technique I use before the academic year even begins. Before the year starts, I have to balance both my responsibilities at the universities and create an overall workload plan. This works, not just for studying, but with all sorts of responsibilities which have certain deadlines in the future. Exams at the University of London are usually in May while exams at my local University (Abbreviation: WHZ) are in February and July each year. The last month before exams is probably, for the majority of us, the most stressful one. So, considering the amount of time you need to study (that is something you will know by experience) throughout the year, the following graph can be derived:
As you can see, the average workload always remains the same! Realising this and moreover applying it is the most difficult part in such medium-run horizons. People very often procrastinate until it is too late. This rather simple tool enables me to observe my study load rationally and plan how I should allocate my time between UoL and WHZ. During the semester I can easily afford to pay more attention to my studies at UoL since engineering studies do not require that much reading, with the emphasis rather on lectures and seminars.
This principle of an average, though still a high, constant workload, implies that one has the same amount of study hours every day. Also in a week and a month and so forth. It is up to you how precisely you may structure your studies from this point on, but I have done well so far by looking at monthly achievements rather than precise hours. As in the graph above, I use percentages for monitoring my progress. From the above, I have derived the following table (only for UoL studies).
After a month I reflect on what I have achieved and complete the table then. To know your progress in percentage terms enables you to take the amount of chapters of one subject and divide by a number so that it equals the desired percentage. Then you know how many chapters per month you have to accomplish, including the essential readings and sample examination questions. Of course, I reflect on my progress almost every day and week but not to the depth as I do at the end of each month. As you perhaps noted, the table is coherent with the graph above, not in numbers, but for the progression in workload.
It is basically these two tools that I use for coordinating my study. I do not think that deeper planning is necessary nor do I think that it is productive to ‘over-plan’. With more time spent on planning, you spend less time on learning. This is what we, in economics, would call ‘opportunity costs’. With increasing time spent on planning, the value you add decreases. So try to spend as little time as possible on it.
I wish you good luck in the academic year 2016/2017 and hopefully, these techniques will provide you with some inspiration and ideas about how to be more effective in your studies.
Arnold is studying BSc Economics and Finance by distance learning in Germany.