The very first thing I did when I got into the MSc program was get a diary, which I put all of my course and assignment deadlines in. This way I was never caught off-guard when things were due and I always knew I was on track. The second was to make a table of contents for my dissertation and a list of goals. The table of contents made me have a bit of structure to follow and the goals ensured that I was progressing all the way along and not procrastinating.
2. Read, Read, Read
The more that you read earlier on the easier it will be for you to organise your ideas and to get them down on paper for the dissertation or class work. It also means you will have a better grasp on your subject area in general. This goes hand-in-hand with:
3. Write, Write, Write
The more that you practice writing the easier it becomes and the better that you get at it. This means that even if you aren’t required to write something, try to: write coherent summaries of articles, lectures, course reading, etc. or write up work you have done, work that you would like to do, things you are interested in. In the end some of the stuff that you have done may help you in course work, studying or your dissertation and I guarantee that your writing skills will improve.
4. Discover Your Own Working Style
Find out how you work best, are you a morning person who needs to have everything finished by 2. Do you work well in the afternoon and night? Are you more productive when it is quiet or loud? Is working in the library better or at home? Do you need things to be neat or messy, bright or dark, etc., etc., etc. These are all things that you need to find out in order for you to be the most productive you can be. Remember that everyone is different, so there is no right way to be productive.
5. FINALLY: Don’t Forget to Have a Life
While the degree is the most important thing, you need to keep yourself sane by also having a life. Try to work on the masters during the week for regular hours, for example, 9-5 Monday – Friday. You will always guarantee that you have a weekend for yourself and you will likely not have to be rushing at the end as you have given yourself a schedule to follow.
By an MSc Survivor (2011)