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How I Manage Time Effectively at University with Internal Deadlines?

Language/语言:   English   简体中文
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By: Ken Deng   Published on 17 Mar. 2024

Approx. 1600 words, 7 mins

At university, time management⏳ plays a critical role⚠️ for students, from academics to daily life matters. Only with it can we enjoy a fruitful🌈 university life.

Among many previous articles (including high-school study and A* tips💯), I emphasised avoiding procrastination (i.e. leaving too many tasks until deadlines⌛️) and improving your time management.

As my biggest personal project📚 from 2019 developing my various skills (e.g. UI/UX design🎨, programming⌨️, server maintenance🧑‍🔧, content sharing📤, storytelling📣, modern tech development and applications🛠️), I handle all matters on my (this) website (Ken's Study Journey & Planner) while not affecting my study.

In this article, I will introduce my time-management tips at university and how can I handle tasks📚 and be diligent🌟.

High School vs. University

Before my time-management tips, let's talk about the differences between high school🏫 and university🏛️, which will impact your study habits🕘 and time-management methods.

At university, students are fully responsible for not only their studies but also living matters.

This includes course registration☑️, fee payment💸 (e.g. tuition fee, Hall/accommodation fee), checking graduation requirements, applying for opportunities and student societies, completing assignments and tasks📝, and getting familiar with the campus environment and life, and so on.

HKUST (My University) Campus Environment

Did you Know?

At university, there may be some banks🏦 (branches and/or ATMs) allowing students to withdraw cash💴 from their bank accounts when necessary.

The beginning of the first term at university Year 1 may be very busy, making preparations like opening local bank accounts💳 and SIM cards📱.

For this reason, notifications (usually in student emails📨) may not be automatically forwarded to parents🔕, but students can let their parents know when necessary.

Giving students a flexible and free🔀 studying and living atmosphere, no one pushes them to finish and submit tasks early. You can do your tasks at any time before the given deadlines🗓️.

Finish Assignments at Any Time

Finish Assignments at Any Time

Generally, no one automatically guides you without asking for help.

Electronic devices are allowed✅ and required for some courses, which means students can play games🎮 without rule restrictions.

There may be no attendance for lectures, which means students can be late for lessons, skip⏩ lessons and leave campus.

The restaurants usually open continuously (with cut-off times among breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, etc.).

HKUST Can.teen II and my Breakfast

Dormitories (or Halls, Apartments, etc.) typically do not have stipulated sleeping and get-up times (when lights MUST be turned off during sleeping times🕯️) which are replaced by Quiet Hours🤫 (be considerate of others; e.g. 23:00 to 07:00 in our university Halls).

Did you Know?

Being self-disciplined, I used to be an inspector of disciplines📋 in my high school, checking whether students violated the school rules (e.g. talking too loud and disturbing others during sleeping times).

Learn More 

In addition, unlike high schools usually with stairs🪜 only, universities have lifts🛗 and escalators.

For example, at our university, we can easily find the lifts by following the lift numbers on the orange signs🪧 (e.g. Lifts "13-15", "17-18", "31-32").

Lift Lobbies (13-15; 17-18) at our University

Did you Know?

Aiming to help and guide🤵 Year 1 students to be familiar with university life and habits⏰, our university has a 1-year HMAW (Habits, Mindset and Wellness) course.

It typically includes Peer Advising🧑‍🏫 sessions (by Peer Mentors) and Sports Skill Class🏃.

Why is Time Management Important at University?

One important feature of universities is the flexible🔀 environment where students can make their own choices within some given deadlines.

So, it is the student's responsibility to finish their tasks on time.

Some assignments and tasks have late penalties (partially deducting marks⏬, depending on each course), while some can directly get zero (0) marks⚠️ for any late submissions.

Late Penalty for University Assignments

Late Penalty for University Assignments

Occasionally, there may be emails✉️ in which the subject starts with "REMINDER", "URGENT" and "LAST CALL"‼️ near deadlines. (but sometimes not!)

Reminder/Urgent Emails

Reminder/Urgent Emails

Without time management, you may miss⏩ your assignments (which may affect your final grades💯) and tasks as well as some university opportunities🎨.

In the worst case, you may fail course(s) or it may affect your graduation process, like HMAW and LEGL courses.

My Time-management Tips

These are the typical characteristics and the importance🌟 of time management at university.

Now, let's introduce my time-management tips.

Mentioned in many previous articles, my time-management advice states:

Do your Tasks at a Steady Rate,
Do Not Rush or Cram,
Do Not Leave Too Many Tasks until Deadline.

My Bedroom Decoration Reminder (2022)

My Bedroom Decoration Reminder (My Words; 2022)

If you Leave Too Many Tasks until Deadline

You will finish them before the deadlines very quickly💨 which may lower the quality and create excessive burden📚.

In the modern world and information era🗼, universities generally use electronic online🌏 assignment systems.

Did you Know?

As well as online assignment submission, our university also has an online system (iPRS) for in-class quizzes☑️.

However, due to a large number of students submitting tasks📤 at the same time, some online systems may be overloaded😵‍💫 to handle them.

While some systems may not be responding, some systems can have protection such as displaying error messages like "503 Service Unavailable"🚧. I call it "The Last-Minute Problem".

Suppose the external (official) deadline🗓️ of an assignment is 23:59. There are thousands of students submitting it after 23:55 this day, causing the system overload.

Exactly at 00:00, the submission closes and, because of server overload, some submissions may fail❌.

You can imagine that you are waiting in a very long queue⏳ buying tickets🎫 when travelling.


The "Last Minute Problem" in Assignments: Server Overload

So, how can we finish tasks early?

I will share my useful tips💡, such as Internal (Virtual) Deadlines.

1. Record New Tasks Immediately

The first important thing is not to forget🤔 about the tasks to do.

To achieve this, record📝 the information and mark down dates🗓️, whether it is assignments, exams or tasks, in your notes and/or planning system (e.g. Calendar, Ken's Study Planner, Notion) immediately after getting them.

2. Set Internal Deadlines

University assignments (homework) can last for several days and up to several weeks.

However, as mentioned above⬆️, it's not❌ a great habit to leave many tasks until external (official) deadlines.

To overcome this problem, I set my internal deadline🚧 (I also call it "virtual deadline") for each task to push myself to finish tasks at the earliest time possible💨.

Let's say, I received 4 assignments🗞️ in a lecture on 1st September (Monday) where the external (official) deadlines are all on 26th September (Friday), more than 3 weeks later.

I will not leave all until the 26th. Instead, I will plan out🗓️ and mark down✍️ the internal deadlines on the 4th, 8th, 10th and 12th September respectively.

An Example of Internal Deadlines

An Example of Internal Deadlines

Generally, I only postpone my internal deadlines under extenuating circumstances😰, including:

  • illness (sickness),
  • more time needed to figure out🛠️ and/or ask friends,
  • other urgent tasks🚨.

While external (official) deadlines are fixed📌, I can dynamically adjust↔️ my internal deadlines when necessary.

Did you Know?

Missing internal deadlines does not imply the submission closes, as long as they are before the external (official) deadlines.

As part of my personal website project, I use my self-invented🌟 and programmed⌨️ Ken's Study Planner🗓️ online tool to manage all assignments, exams and events in one place.

While using my Planner, I usually say: "Every time I remove ("push") a red bar (from my Planner), I will have a sense of achievement."

Ken's Study Planner 4 Projects Display

Ken's Study Planner 4 Projects Display

3. Be Mindful of Days Left

Keeping my habit from 2020 (in high school), I plan my study based on the Days Left📆 until upcoming (next) exams, competitions, activities and other events.

When the Days Left approaches a certain value⌛️ (I use orange for 7 and red for 3), I will have a sense of urgency🚨 to be prepared.

Days Left for A Level Exams - from Study Tips Sharing Lecture PPTs (2023)

Days Left for A Level Exams - from Study Tips Sharing Lecture PPTs (2023)

Did you Know?

Since electronic devices were generally not allowed📵 in high school, I used a physical Days Left Board in my home🏡 bedroom and school🏫 apartment bedroom.

I needed to decrement⬇️ the Days Left by 1 manually every day before sleeping🛌.

Physical Days Left Board in my High School Apartment Bedroom

Physical Days Left Board in my High School Bedroom

Be Mindful of University Notices

Universities generally use email📧 (with university domain names) in daily communication.

From academics📑 (like assignments and exams) and extra-curricular activities🏃 (like exchange and internship) to living matters🏡 (like fee payment and campus facility change), notifications are usually sent to student university emails📬.

Students can pick up, apply to and join a wide range of opportunities matching their interests👍 at their fingertips👆 in emails✉️ before the given deadlines, including:

As well as emails, the universities also offer some alternative ways for information, including:

  • On-campus Notice Boards and Posters🪧,
  • Regular Events (e.g. orientation, on-campus performance💃).
Events and Notice Board at HKUST North Bus Station

Events and Notice Board at HKUST North Bus Station

Once you picked up your interested opportunities, mark down the important dates🗓️ and official deadlines, set internal deadlines and start your applications and opportunity journey🚅.

For example, following a university email, I applied for a Student Octopus💳 (half price for MTR rides🚇) in the first term which is essential in my university life.

Other Time-management Examples

Apart from the university (including academics and daily matters), time management is also crucial for my personal matters, including this Ken's Study Journey website🖥️.

For example, students need to renew their SIM card📲 plans (usually monthly fee) and paid plans💸 for online platforms regularly.

The digital certificates🔐 on websites should also be renewed🔄 regularly (e.g. every 3 months, 6 months or 12 months, depending on the providers), or visitors will see a Security Warning🔓⚠️ in their web browsers.

This means, like other website🌎 owners and tech companies🏢, I need to regularly renew my website's certificate.

Ken's Study Journey Website Certificate Expiry

Ken's Study Journey Website Certificate Expiry

Did you Know?

For security reasons, the maximum validity🗓️ of an SSL (HTTPS) certificate has been reduced to 398 days (about 13 months; 1 year 1 month) since September 2020.

This means website owners must renew their certificates at least once a year.

Learn More

Related Knowledge

Discover Knowledge in Real Life - My “Tradition” from 2019

Discovering🔍, applying🔬 and sharing📤 knowledge in real life can help me remember knowledge firmly, teach others and explain real-life phenomena.

This is my invented🌟 study tip in 2019 in middle school. It used to be available in WeChat Moments (among friends) only.

Since 2021, I started inserting knowledge, whether learned in middle school, high school or university, in Green Boxes in my articles📄.

Now, I discovered relevant A Level Computer Science (9618) Knowledge: SSL, TLS and Digital Certificate.

SSL is shorted by Secure Socket Layer and TLS is shorted by Transport Layer Security. SSL, TLS and Digital Certificates🪪 are used for HTTPS websites for data encryption🔒.

For better security, Ken's Study Journey website only supports TLS 1.2 or later (above).

Digital certificates usually contain the following information:

  • Date of Validity (Start Date and Expiry Date)🗓️
  • Version Number
  • Public Key🔑
  • Issuer's (usually Certificate Authority, CA) Information
  • Digital Signature🔏
  • (etc.)
Real Example

This incident occured several weeks after this article was published.

Around mid-April 2024, according to news, a company forgot💭 to renew its website HTTPS/SSL certificates, causing Security Warning for users.

This just emphasises the importance🌟 of time management for website matters.

Learn More 

Thanks for Reading!

These are my useful but personal time-management🕘 tips at university. Hope you enjoy a productive and fruitful🎨 university life.

In summary:

  1. Record New Tasks Immediately
  2. Set Internal Deadlines
  3. Be Mindful of Days Left

More university-related articles (e.g. my Time-management Tips) may be released later📤. You can subscribe to my Email Newsletter📩 and stay tuned.

More useful study techniques🛠️ and habits📝 are available on my website. You can explore them if you want.

Explore my Website My Study Planner


1. Related Knowledge displayed in this article is for ease-of-understanding only. I cannot ensure that they are 100% correct.

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Reading Questions

Ken's Study Journey has added reading questions (up to 5 per article) to help develop student's reading skills since March 2024.

If you wish, you can try to answer the questions below.

1. What are the Quiet Hours of our University Halls?

2. Which of the following typically doesn't appear in email subjects about tasks close to deadline?

3. According to my time-management advice, which one SHOULD I do?

4. Which deadline pushes myself finish tasks early?

5. Under which circumstance will I not generally postpone my Internal Deadlines?

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