How to build a realistic study plan that you’ll actually stick to

Post by Open Colleges on August 11th, 2020

**This is an updated post**

Having a simple and realistic study plan can make a huge difference to your life as a student.

It can be easy to overestimate or underestimate how much time you’ll need to dedicate to studying. Most people who choose to pursue online study do so because they have other commitments in their lives they need to work around – family, work, or both.

Online study gives you the freedom of flexibility to study whenever you want, wherever you are. But making time to study can still pose a bit of a challenge for some.

One way to find the right balance between work, home and study is to create your very own study plan. Read on to find out how to create your own personal study plan.

Building a realistic study plan.

How you can create your own personal study plan

A study plan helps you to organise when you will study, and what goals you want to reach in study session.

Having this not only ensures you manage your time effectively, but it also makes you accountable for your goals and keeps you disciplined and motivated.

With this in mind, we’ve outlined a method you can use to create your own study plan tailored to your needs.

Get yourself a Study Plan Template

The very first thing you need to do is to print out a weekly study planner.

Having a template which you can print out, fill in and have with you when you study will help you to keep your time and your goals in check.

You can find a helpful weekly planner from the site.

Alternatively, you can buy a planner or calendar from your closest stationery store.

Evaluate your own time

How do you spend your days? What are the regular things you do every day that take up the hours? Write these down, from Monday to Sunday. Be honest with yourself in assessing how long things take.

Now fill in your weekly calendar, blocking out the hours that you take for your day-to-day life, work, activities, and even when you eat and sleep.

Take a look at the planner. Where are your free hours? Where are the spots that you can slot in study?

Realistic study sessions

Now that you know what times of the day you can dedicate to study, you need to work out the perfect amount of time that you need to absorb ideas and to work. This will differ from student to student.

Some people will find that 30-minute daily study sessions are perfect, others will find three two-hour sessions throughout the week much better, and some will get better results from dedicating a full day to study.

There is no right or wrong amount of time per session – it’s whatever works for you.

Think about how long you realistically need per study session to get the most out of your learning.

Slotting study in

Now that you know how long you need per study session, find the empty spots in your weekly schedule that coincide with this figure and pencil them in for dedicated study.

You’ve now completed the first half of your study planner. Good on you!

Realistic study plans include weekly schedules

Study goals

At the start of each module have a look at what needs to be done to not only complete it, but to fully understand it. Ask yourself:

  • How much reading do I have to do?
  • How much reviewing do I have to do?
  • How many assessments are there?
  • How many tests are there?

Break your reading, reviewing, assignment and test preparation into small, manageable chunks.

Next, return to your weekly study planner. Look at each of your planned study sessions. Based on your study chunks, write a goal for each session.

For example, if you know that you need to write an essay for your assessment, your chunks may include:

  • Research (4 hours)
  • Write essay plan (2 hours)
  • Write introduction (1 hour)
  • Write essay body (6 hours)
  • Write conclusion (1 hour)
  • Review essay (2 hours)
  • Make corrections/changes to essay (2 hours)

You would then look at the study sessions in your weekly schedule and give each a goal based on these chunks.

For instance, if you have 1 hour set aside for study on a Monday evening, you may make the goal for this study session “research for essay”.

Assigning a study goal to each study session ensures you have structure to your study time, cutting down on procrastination. Study goals also make sure that you leave adequate time for each task in your course.

Tick off your goals

It is important for your morale and mental state to acknowledge when you achieve your goals.

Acknowledging your achievements will keep you motivated and give you solid proof that you are making progress, and not just lost somewhere mid-course.

So, when you complete each study session goal, place a tick next to it in your weekly planner and give yourself a pat on the back!

Put it where you can see it

Put your weekly study planner somewhere you can see it. This may be on the fridge, above your desk or next to your computer.

Keeping your planner in sight helps you to stick to it and will keep you accountable! Remember, online study is all about self-discipline.

study planning done right

Review and rejig

Life happens and we get busy when we least expect it. That’s one reason why online study is so great, because you can put it down when things pop up unexpectedly.

With this in mind, throughout your week, review and rejig your weekly planner to accommodate any changes or unexpected events.

Make it a weekly ritual

Every Sunday night spend an hour or so working out your planner for the week. This will help you to stay on top of, not only your studies, but your life.

Daily planners are also a good tool

In addition to a weekly planner, some students find daily planners can be helpful. These are not necessary like a weekly planner, but for some, they can be helpful.

For those who want to try a daily planner, you can choose one to print one out from

Basically, after you have filled out your weekly planner, print out seven daily planners and fill them out with a more detailed list of daily goals and timings.

Again, with daily planners you can review them on a daily basis to make sure that they reflect where you are at.

It does really make a difference

Having a weekly schedule can really make a huge difference to your studies. It ensures you continue to progress through your course and graduate with a nationally recognised qualification!

It can also cut down on last minute study stress by helping you to progress through your course at a slower, more considered pace.

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Open Colleges
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