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time management skills for students  how to manage time better what time of day is your brain sharpest best time for brain to study ways to improve productivity

Time management skills for students

Published Apr 18, 2023 | Updated Nov 10, 2023

Are you currently preparing for an exam or thinking about how to tackle all of your work tasks successfully? If so, time management is your best friend; it can help you improve your self-discipline and consequently improve the quality of your gained knowledge or the work you’ve done. Discover how you can influence your time perception and schedule your day for the most optimal results while learning when’s the best time for brain to study

What exactly is time management and why do you need it? 

The term time management represents the coordination of tasks and activities to maximize the effectiveness of an individual's efforts[1]. The purpose of time management is to enable you to get more and better work done in less time. Elements of time management include organization, planning and scheduling to best take advantage of the time available.

The importance of time management is in giving meaning to time, which lets you make the most of your time and help you achieve your goals[1,2,3]. Good time management skills help you improve self-discipline and the quality of your work [2,4].

Dopamine and time perception

There's a molecule in the brain, called dopamine, that is involved in time perception[5]. Dopamine levels also impact feelings of motivation and reward[5].

The ‘dopamine time hypothesis’ suggests that people who have upregulated amounts of dopamine within the brain have this sense that they don't have enough time in the day[6,7].  Think about the times when you have done things that are extraordinarily rewarding. For instance, if you sit down to play a video game and find that four hours have passed, it feels like you just started. While video games are fun they're also rewarding because we get constant rewards which serve as reinforcement to continue playing. Upregulated levels of dopamine can contribute to the feeling that time flies. A number of cognitive biases interfere with our ability to be productive and manage our time well. One is known as the ‘present bias’[8]. It represents our tendency to choose smaller rewards in the current time over larger rewards that are more distant in time[8]. It’s why you sometimes choose impulsivity and immediate gratification over long-range goals. Remember when you were saving your money for something really special but you just had to buy that captivating dress that now lies in the back of a closet? You’re not alone - that’s the present bias for you. Another bias is ‘rosy prospection’ or the persistent sense that someday, at an undefined point in some sun-drenched future, your life as you want it will finally begin[8]. You might imagine you’ll finally get a handle on time then and be able to do the long-delayed things that really matter to you, such as starting a hobby, reading a certain book, or playing with your children. You can do all those things now instead of waiting for them to happen.


Reframing stress: ‘Mind management’

Italian scientists from a University in Rome whose research was founded by the European Centre for Brain Research have found that dopamine levels are especially increased in times of stress when the levels of the stress hormone also known as cortisol are upregulated[9]. The results from their study show that psychosocial stressors, which upregulate the body's cortisol levels, also simultaneously upregulate dopamine levels. This could serve as a potential explanation as to why your time perception is so dysregulated when you are stressed out and why you feel like you just don't have enough time in your day.

What's particularly fascinating is that research has also demonstrated that participants who adopt a ‘stress is positive’ outlook or mindset tend to actually do better in terms of facing those stressors[10]. The idea here is simple; if we can look at stress in a way that positively affects our lives, we can actually re-regulate our perception of time. You can consciously choose to view stressors as obstacles or you can choose to see those stressors as opportunities for growth.

You can make sure your dopamine levels are regulated correctly by choosing to include foods in your diet that boost your dopamine levels. The building block of dopamine is a nutrient called tyrosine which is found in proteins, such as meat, soybeans, and fish. Higher tyrosine intake increases and regulates the release of dopamine when you’ve accomplished something, and when you're enjoying yourself. You can also opt for a nutrition supplement to ensure sufficient intake of tyrosine. brain feed created the world’s 1st natural 800mg tyrosine capsule. You can buy it from £29.99 GBP. As a new customer, you can get 15% off by using the code ‘NEW15’ at checkout. 


Boost your memory and learning chemical

Ever heard of the memory and learning chemical? It’s called acetylcholine and it’s made out of its building block called choline which can be found in eggs, beef, fish, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Your memory chemical can help you work for longer and be able to recall information faster. Its release positively impacts your working memory meaning you can easily remember what you are supposed to buy in the shops even if you run into a friend there. Higher levels of the memory chemical also help us task switch more effectively. Ever get a phone call at work while answering an important email which makes you lose your thread? Choline’s building block which produces your memory chemical called Alpha GPC is here to help. Boost your memory by either having a choline-rich diet or opting for high-quality nutrition supplements. brain feed has the world’s 1st 500mg Alpha GPC UK-manufactured capsule containing 99% Alpha GPC. You can buy it for £29.99 GBP here. If you’re a new customer, remember to use the code ‘NEW15’ at checkout to get 15% off.


Time management skills for students

Two studies conducted between 2019 and 2022 researched the impact of time management on students[11,12]. The first study found that a time management system provided to students aided them in practising more effective time management and thus improved their performance and self-regulation[11]. Results from the second study showed that achievement in science and mathematics was the highest among students with good time management[12].

Similarly, a study from 2014 showed that students who practised time management perceived their study tasks as more achievable while also feeling like they regulate their time efficiently. In that case, time management helped them deal with stress and with the perception of time as dopamine levels were normal. Given time management is an important component of effective learning and perceiving stress, read about how to manage time better, and learn ways to improve creativity with these science-based techniques. 

  • Follow a good routine
  • You’re probably wondering what time of day is your brain sharpest so you’ll be able to set your tasks in accordance. Figuring out your body clock helps you plan more cognitively demanding tasks for the part of the day when you feel most alert. Read more about the body clock and one’s active phases here. You can also fill in this online self-assessment tool to get to know if you’re an early bird or a night owl[14]. Knowing when your active phases are can help you set up a good sleep-wake routine which helps your body clock work like a Swiss one. See below an example of a routine for a night owl which includes scheduling tasks by time.

    8.00. - 10.00: Get up and get ready with a shower and breakfast
    10.00 – 12.00: Focus on lighter tasks, such as scheduling your day, repetitive tasks, and tasks where your mind can still rest for a bit 
    12.00 – 14.00: Complete deep or creative work, such as studying, reading, doing meetings, and group work
    14.00 – 15.00: Have lunch
    15.00 – 17.00: Focus on lighter, less intense tasks, such as answering emails, and preparing extracts or cards for studying
    17.00 – 18.00: Have your last meal of the day
    18.00 – 21.00:

    Engage in creative tasks, such as hobbies, workouts, socialising, or TV watching


    21.00 - 23.00: Unwind by showering and listening to music, or reading a book or a magazine
    23.00 - 8.00: Sleep 

     Opting for nutrient supplements? Make sure to take tyrosine in the morning, on an empty stomach and Alpha GPC with food in the morning, at lunch or just before you start work as both take about 1 hour to get the desired effect[15,16]. For example, a night owl should take tyrosine at 8.00 and might take Alpha GPC between 9.00 and 10.00, around 14.00 or just before doing any work.

  • Straight out your priorities
  • Using the table below you can make sure to prioritise tasks that are important and have a due date. You’ll have to define your tasks by importance and imperativeness. You can do that once a week or every day - depending on how detailed an overview of your schedule you’d like. 

    You can draw or print the table on a big piece of paper and use Post-it notes to write tasks on them. Stick the tasks to the corresponding quadrant. You should move the tasks from one quadrant to another throughout the day or week as their importance and imperativeness progress. Make sure to also throw a Post-it with a task away once you complete it. You can use a write-on board or a laptop to do this technique in a more environmentally friendly way. 

  • Tasks as ‘pomodoros’
  • You’ve already learned how to schedule tasks by time, importance and imperativeness, and now you’re probably wondering how to do the tasks. Try the Pomodoro technique, which helps you take necessary breaks to boost your focus[17]. Imagine a task as a pomodoro (the Italian word for a tomato). 

    Step 1: Pick a ‘pomodoro’

    Step 2: Set a 25-minute reminder

    Step 3: Work on your ‘pomodoro’ until the time is up

    Step 4: Take a 5-minute break

    Step 5: Every 4 pomodoros, take a 20-30 minute break

    Step 6 (optional): Repeat Steps 1-5 as many times as you want. 

    Manage your time with these techniques that will help you study efficiently and stress-free while always having enough time on your hand. 


    [1] Lutkevich, B. (2023).  time management.,work%20done%20in%20less%20time.

    [2]  10 Reasons why time management is important (n.d.). BrainBridge Workforce Solutions.

    [3] The 10 most important benefits of time management (n.d.) Bakker Elkhuizen.,and%20achieve%20your%20goals%20faster.

    [4] Pettit, M. (2020). The Top 10 Benefits of Time Management. Lucemi Consulting.

    [5] Mitchell, J. M., Weinstein, D., Vega, T., & Kayser, A. S. (2018). Dopamine, time perception, and future time perspective. Psychopharmacology, 235(10), 2783–2793.

    [6] Buhusi, C. (2003). Dopaminergic mechanisms of interval timing and attention. In W. H. Meck (Ed.), Functional and Neural Mechanisms of Interval Timing (pp. 317–338). CRC Press.

    [7] Meck, W. H. (1995). Neuropharmacology of timing and time perception. Cognitive Brain Research, 3, 227–242.

    [8] Damiano, S. (2018). It’s Not About Time Management, It’s About Mind Management. about my brain.

    [9] Cabib, S., & Puglisi-Allegra, S. (2012). The mesoaccumbens dopamine in coping with stress. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 36(1), 79–89. 

    [10] Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology, 31(5), 677–684.

    [11] Khiat, H. (2022). Using automated time management enablers to improve self-regulated learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 23(1), 3–15.

    [12] Santos, J. P. E., Villarama, J. A., Adsuara, J. P., Gundran, J. F., Guzman, A. G. D., & Ben, E. M. (2023). Students’ Time Management, Academic Procrastination, and Performance during Online Science and Mathematics Classes. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 21(12), Article 12.

    [13] Häfner, A., Stock, A., & Oberst, V. (2015). Decreasing students’ stress through time management training: An intervention study. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 30(1), 81–94.

    [14] Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) (2021). Calculate.

    [15] Schettini G., Ventra, C., Florio, T., Grimaldi, M., Meucci, O., Scorziello, A., Postiglione, A., & Marino, A. (1992). Molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a new cognition-enhancing drug, on behavioral and biochemical parameters in young and aged rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 43(1), 139–151.

    [16] Glaeser, B. S., Melamed, E., Growdon, J. H., & Wurtman, R. J. (1979). Elevation of plasma tyrosine after a single oral dose of L-tyrosine. Life sciences, 25(3), 265–271.

    [17] The Pomodoro Technique (n.d.). todoist.

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