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Time management techniques to boost your CIMA studies

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We teamed up with CIMA to offer some thoughts and tips around reigniting your studies. For those who feel they may have lost their way a little during this tough time.

Hopefully this will prompt you to think differently about managing time and provide you with a few tips to improve your study planning.

The background

We recently conducted a survey to find out how students were progressing with their studies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We discovered that 68% of students felt that they were off track, and the majority of those surveyed said the reasons were either study load pressures, not enough time, or work and family commitments.

These are recurring time management issues that we see so often.

The best way to think about time

Firstly, think about a timeline that covers past, present and future.

The things that you’ve done before are in the past, and there for you to learn from. Time moves forward but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the past.

One of the key principles of learning is the process of reflection. So despite this forward motion, don’t forget your ability to go backwards.

Plan backwards

So you’ve got the timeline in your head, and it moves from the past to the future. However, planning, which is one of the key time-management skills, goes backwards. So start with your ultimate objective and go backwards.

For example - if you want to qualify by 2023 then today you decide how you’re going to get there. You need to put milestones in and create a sense of reality around what’s achievable and what’s possible.

So to qualify by 2023 ask yourself - “How much time is that? How many exams a year do I need to take and pass if I’m going to qualify by 2023?” That’s going to have to be 4 exams a year. Then ask “When do I need to start? 2021 - or how about today?”.

By breaking it down like this, you’re turning what seems like an impossible journey into a series of manageable steps.

Then you can break it down further. You know you need to start in 2021, but what are you going to do each month? So now you’re turning a year into chunks. You need to put into your diary the important dates and deadlines that you have to hit.

If you want to sit four exams a year, your diary could look like this:

March exam
June exam
September exam
November or February Case Study

In that case what do you need to do in January? How about - start studying 4th January, finish Chapter 1 by 11th January. Set yourself achievable targets.

Then decide what you need to do right now. Maybe decide the best way to study, book a course and exam, and, if relevant, speak to your employer about the course.

Making deadlines and planning helps break large tasks into manageable ones, and shows you the future. Work backwards from what you want, and stick to your targets and deadlines.


Use technology to help with your time management. Technology can improve productivity by helping you become more organised, making better use of your time, and reducing distractions.

Firstly we should mention MyKaplan, it has a built in calendar and provides easy access to all of your study materials in a logical order broken down into small manageable chunks.

Here are some others you might want to explore:

Google calendar - ideal for targets, reminders, and general planning

Trello - productivity app that can help you become more organised

Myhomework student planner - track assignments and manage deadlines

Remember the milk - great tool for “to do” lists

Stay focussed - a Google Chrome extension that blocks distractions

Focus keeper - POMODORA app that links to Trello


Prioritising is about identifying what’s most important. Sometimes it’s hard as many things can seem equally important, but you can usually break things down using these 4 terms - “urgent”, “not urgent”, “important”, “not important”.


Important and urgent? Do it now.

Ask yourself if you could have foreseen this and planned your studies differently. Did it become urgent because you procrastinated?

Important but not urgent? Decide - schedule a time to do it.

These are activities that help you achieve your goals, and complete important work.

Not important but urgent? Delegate or push back

These are tasks that prevent you from achieving your goals. Sometimes you need to say no.

Not important and not urgent? Delete it.

These activities are just a distraction and can be ignored whilst you have much more important and urgent tasks.

Getting your priorities right

Many of us spend too much time on what is urgent, but not enough time on what is important.

The one that’s really important for time management is “important but not urgent”. This is where your planning skills are essential. For example - you don’t need to book your exam today, therefore it’s not urgent, but it’s really important.

You definitely need to book your exam at some point, so make sure you put it in your planner as a “to do” on a specific date.

Many students feel that they need to get to a certain level of knowledge or competency before they book their exam, and if you don’t set a date, then you may feel that you’re never ready for the exam.

Booking on a certain date will give you a target to aim for and will hopefully encourage you to put the work in to get to the point where you feel ready for it.

Procrastination - what’s stopping you?

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something that you should do. We all do this at one time or another. And when we find something hard it’s very easy to procrastinate.

How to overcome procrastination:

Recognise that you’re doing it. Admit to yourself that tidying your bottom drawer is actually a delaying tactic, distracting you from study.

Ask yourself why? Why are you procrastinating? Find the root cause and tackle it. If it’s a subject you're struggling with, reach out for some help.

Break down the work into smaller chunks. Make the studying more manageable and easier to digest.

Plan and commit. Put your study into your planner and commit to doing it.

Reward yourself. For every chunk of study make sure you have a reward at the end of it. This will give you something to look forward to after your hard work.

Create a habit. Procrastination is a bad habit, and it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Apply the two-minute rule to help break bad habits. So if you can study that subject you hate for two minutes, you can then do it for four minutes, then six, and so on.

You don’t have to spend hours and hours on study, but make sure the time you spend is worthwhile.


Finally, to help we have some resources that you can use to help with time management:

Kaplan Study Planner - you can timetable your studies using the planner over a 12 week period. (see example below)

Revision and Exam Preparation Guidance - gives you hints and tips on how to get the best out of your revision, helping you spend your revision time wisely.

Kaplan Study planner

This piece summarises some of the main points raised on a webinar hosted by Clancy Peiris, Senior Learning Development Manager at CIMA, and led by Kaplan’s Head of Learning, Stuart Pedley Smith, and Mark Foley, CIMA’s Director of Relationship Programmes. Watch the full recording online.