Independent learning

Independent learning is a central part of being a student. It will challenge your motivation and dedication, while developing your organisational and time management skills. Being an independent learner means being an active learner, taking responsibility for your workload, commitments and deadlines, and when mastered it will be the key to success in your studies.


You might find the following tips useful when planning your time and managing your workload:

  • You can access your academic timetable electronically by logging into the MyBristol portal.
  • At the start of each term make sure you note fixed academic deadlines, coursework submissions, exam periods, presentations and meetings.
  • Don't forget to add in your personal commitments like paid work, or regular sports or societal events.
  • There are various tools you can use to help you keep track of your time. These include paper diaries, wall planners, mobile phone apps and online calendars.

Getting organised

Here are some tips to help you keep on top of your work throughout the year:

  • Have one folder for each unit and use it to keep your day to day work such as lecture notes, seminar work, handouts, journal articles.
  • Mark one folder for 'current work' and use it to store whatever you're currently working on. Go through it at the end of the week and transfer work you have completed into your unit file.
  • Organise your electronic files in a similar way, creating one folder for each unit. Download lecture slides and save your essays and feedback.
  • Place copies of your weekly timetable and your termly work plan somewhere you will see them everyday.

Prioritising your workload

It helps to have a system to prioritise tasks and allocate time to complete them. Try following these simple steps:

  1. List all the tasks you need to do, everything from coursework deadlines to returning library books.
  2. Break the larger tasks into smaller steps, eg a piece of coursework might become: background reading, planning, writing, editing.
  3. Work out how much time you think each task will take you.
  4. Organise your tasks under three headings: now, soon, and later.
  5. Put the tasks in priority order and work out a plan to tackle them.

Study habits

Managing your study time is one important aspect of getting organised, creating a suitable study environment is another. The environment in which you study can contribute to the quality and quantity of work you are able to produce.

  • Try to study in familiar places such as in your room, or a particular area of the library. By working in the same place you are less likely to get distracted.
  • It can be helpful to work with a 'study buddy' or in a group - you can swap knowledge and understanding of topics and help keep each other motivated.
  • Think about when you study best. Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Are you more productive after doing exercise? Do you have other commitments to factor in, such as part-time work or societies?
  • Try different study habits and reflect on how well they work, until you find a routine that works for you.

To help you think about how you organise and use your time try this quiz on using study time effectively from the University of Southampton / UKCISA

Personal development planning

University life presents you with many chances to develop yourself as an individual and to expand your interests and experiences. Personal Development Planning (PDP) helps you to keep a detailed record of your experiences, reflect and improve on what you have done, and plan for what you would like to do. As part of PDP you will develop a personalised progress file to keep track of both your academic marks and transferable skills such as communication, critical analysis, self-motivation, time management, project management and team working. This progress file will help you build your CV and improve your employability.

The Personal Development Planner can help you to:

  • become a more effective, independent and confident self-directed learner;
  • understand how you are learning, and relate this learning to a wider academic and careers context;
  • improve your general skills for study and career management;
  • articulate your personal goals and evaluate your progress towards their achievement;
  • encourage a positive attitude to learning throughout life.

Skills development

Practical advice on how to improve your academic performance and gain the skills you need to succeed at university.

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