Learn how to work smart and say no

Many people spend their lives drifting from one task to another. Setting SMART goals means you can clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving your end goal.

Working SMART

Working SMART means setting yourself targets that are:


have you decided exactly what you need to do? (Some people lose time, for example, on things which are interesting but are not relevant to the task).


Think about how you can check your progress - e.g. what you need to find out, how many words you need to write (be careful not to measure your progress just by how many words you've written - some people focus on reaching the word count which means they might waffle [use too many words and say little or nothing useful] or give too much information on certain points).


Can you actually do it? is there enough time? (taking on too much can be overwhelming and extremely disappointing when you find you can't do as much as you wanted to).


Stay on topic. You might find lots of interesting information during your research, but you won't get extra marks for information that's not relevant to the task. (You can always read more after you have finished the task/assignment - make a note of any good sites/texts/etc. so you can find them again later).


When's your deadline? how much time do you have for studying and writing? which things need to be done straight away and which things can be done later?

This can help you avoid working too hard. 

  • Set yourself reasonable targets and give yourself breaks and time off. Working for too long, or overworking, can increase the risk of making or missing mistakes in your work.
  • Don't try to read everything on a topic. Always look for relevant information.
  • If you find that you are getting stressed - check our information and guides, and ask for help. Try using the techniques and resources in this course to find out which ones work best for you. Some students, for example, use our tutorials as 'mini' deadlines so they can get information and support while they are working - this can help them 'stay on track' instead of leaving things to the last minute.

Watch out for procrastination

There are many ways to avoid doing work - are you promising yourself, for example, that you'll do the work next weekend? Suddenly deciding to fix or clean your house or car? Losing hours on social media, video games or TV? Avoiding work will mean you have too much to do, too close to the deadline. This can be very stressful too and also leaves you with little or no time to check and edit your work before you submit. Use the approach and your calendar to manage your assignments and tasks and give yourself time to work, time to get important things done and time to relax and enjoy yourself. 

Saying NO

Sometimes, friends and family might not appreciate how much work you have to do for your course.

Saying no isn't always easy, and it doesn't always feel nice to say it, but sometimes you will have to think about yourself, your work and what you need to do too.

One thing that has helped a lot of students with this situation is - do you know when your deadlines are? Do you know how much free time you have and when you need to study? Your timetable/calendar can help you show someone when you're free and when you need to work - we recommend using a calendar app to keep track of classes, work, deadlines, activities and events.

Of course, it may take others a while to adjust, but sometimes this approach might be all you need to help someone understand if you are busy, or when another time might be better.  It might also take a while for you to get used to this, but it is worth doing to make sure you get the most out of your time at university.

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Clearing 2024

If you're considering your options for university this year, Clearing is a way for students to find the right course and university. Whether you aren't sure you'll meet your predicted grades, you've changed your mind about your firm choice, or you haven't applied yet, Clearing could be for you!

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