Time Budgeting for Success

When you get the text from the Student Loans Company that your loan is coming in it's exciting, you've suddenly got all this money in the bank and you can do what you like with it. A couple of months and a few regrettable purchases later, you realise it can disappear pretty quickly. This is similar to what happened to me for the first two years of university, where I didn’t budget my time, made some regrettable decisions and scraped by right at the end of the semester. After 2 years of nearly missed deadlines and sleepless nights, I finally pulled myself together and started budgeting my time. Here’s how I achieved a good grade in my dissertation by planning effectively and budgeting.

Since learning about the fragility of laptops, especially when any liquids are around, I have worked in google docs (literally the biggest lifesaver with its built-in autosave). One of the biggest helps was to make a new document with a table containing all the information about the module I needed. This included the amount of words I needed to write, how long it would take me to research, plan, write and edit all the different components of the dissertation. The total amount of weeks before the deadline was fourteen, including the Easter break, which I had already expected to work through.

For each part, I generously overestimated how long I would need and planned for that. I wrote out exactly what I needed to do each week so I could open my laptop and start as soon as I was ready.

I budgeted the first three weeks for brainstorming, planning and researching. I know it seems like a long time, but if you plan things well, it’ll practically write itself (not quite though). Having this much time allowed me time to come up with a thesis and continually edit it while doing in-depth research. First-year me would be crying at the thought of three weeks for planning, but like buying a good waterproof for living in Cornwall, it’s worth it.

The next most important component for me was the editing. I already knew I wanted to spend two weeks on that and proofreading after I’d finished, so my budget would allow for inevitable last-minute changes.

This left me with nine weeks to actually write the dissertation, which worked out at roughly 1,110 words a week. If I factored in the work for my other module too, I had to do about 1,550 words a week. This doesn’t seem like much, but you also have to go to classes and keep up with hobbies, health and some sort of social life so you don’t go crazy. My dissertation was 2,000 words of critical essay and 8,000 words of creative portfolio.

I managed to finish the essay in three weeks and the creative portfolio in six, although I ran over slightly and ended up having a week and a half to finish off the pieces. As it turned out, that was more than enough time, as I’d edited everything while writing it.

At the end of the fourteen weeks I broke-even, and when results day rolled around I found out I’d managed to achieve a 1st in my dissertation, while avoiding some of the crippling stress so many third-year students experience.

From scraping 2:2s in first year to this just goes to show a little bit of planning can go a long way. It took me about an hour to come up with my time budget, which was well worth it in the end. The most important thing I’ve learnt is to always overestimate how long it will take to do something, allowing extra room in the ‘budget’ in-case of any unexpected things coming up, which they did.

Budgeting is a great tool that can be used for more than just money, and it’s worth giving it a go.

by Holly Farr