Time Management & UPSC prep

Prioritising effort when there are too many things to do.

Table of contents

Managing your time effectively is a key skill for UPSC preparation. And good time management involves planning. So let’s start with basic essentials for good planning.

Start from the end.

And work you way towards the present. This will allow you to actually gauge how much time you have for particular topics/sections.

Plan for 85–90%.

If your study limit is 10 hours (I used to study about 8 hours) a day, make your plan as per 9 hours of study in a day. This will ensure that you don’t face burnout and are consistent with preparation over time.

UPSC prep is a marathon not a sprint, always keep that in mind.

Don’t over plan.

This is a major problem that you need to deal with, if you have more to do in a day than you can do in a day you’re setting your plan up for failure.

Keep breaks.

This is because unforeseen circumstances can pop up at any time, you can fall sick, you might need to attend to some family duties, etc. These breaks will ensure that a few days missed here and there don’t mean that your entire plan is shaken up. Generally I used to keep Sundays off and a week’s gap after every 6–8 weeks.

Review your plan.

It’s a good habit to review your plan after every 4 weeks because those 4 weeks will give you data about how much you had planned and how much you could cover. If you’re behind, then you might need to pick up pace or reduce the targets; if you’re ahead then consider increasing the targets.

Top 5 lists

Of things:

  1. That will help you succeed
  2. Things that will stop you from succeeding.

Call this a pre-mortem (things that might cause failure), and back casting (assume you’ve cleared the exam and discuss the things that gave you success) exercise.

This will ensure that YOU are aware of what YOU can do to give YOU success.

We cannot clear UPSC CSE for you.

But with our personalised mentorship support, you will be able to do it yourself.

Admission open for courses for UPSC CSE 2024 Prelims.

Planning for UPSC CSE

Now that these are dealt with I’ll share some UPSC CSE specific planning guidelines:

1.Read + Revise the syllabus 3 times before the exam.

Once you’ve completed reading the entire syllabus your plan your time to ensure you’re revising everything atleast 2–3 times, more if you can manage.

Keep the last 1 month for revision.

Prelims is the toughest stage of this exam (5 lakhs appear and about 10-12k qualify) and you need focused prep to ensure that you can see your name in the final list. More than just focus you also need to plan your

2.Cover optional at least once before prelims

The gap between prelims and mains is reducing and it will be somewhat less that 3 months for CSE2021. This isn’t enough time to cover your optional post prelims so if you want to clear the exam, ensure you’re on top of your optional before prelims.

NOTE: This is aimed at people preparing for CSE25 or later.

3.Make revision a part of your plan.

The importance of revision for this exam cannot be over emphasised.

You will NOT REMEMBER what you’ve read in the month of February when you need it in May during the exam. Unless you’ve revised it a few times. Ensure that your plan has days/weeks dedicated to revision.

4.Make tests (prelims+mains) a part of your schedule.

Ideally, you should be writing one GS answer and one optional answer everyday. I’m recommending just one each to make sure that you actually write those answers. Writing regularly will ensure that you’re also working on your presentation along with your content.

Similarly, once you’ve covered the entire syllabus make sure you’re regularly giving prelims mock tests.

And finally, I’d say don’t rush.

Go slowly because slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

All the best!

Plan Template Sheet

This sheet will enable you to look at an ideal year, an ideal week and an ideal day.

Not everyday will be ideal, but you will know what you are working towards on a daily basis.


Open sheet from link below.

  1. Go to file -> Make a copy.
  2. Edit the copy as needed.
2024 Plan Template / UPSCprep.com
Ideal Year January,February,March,April,May,June,July,August,September,October 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2 3,3,3,3,3,3,3,3,3,3 4,4,4,4,4,4,4,4,4,4 5,5,5,Last date for applying,5,5,5,5,5,5,5 6,6,6,6,6,6,6,6,6,6 7,7,7,7,7,7,7,7,7,7 8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8 9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9 10,10,10,10,10,10

This video discusses how to use this sheet.

How to manage time during UPSC prep - Trident Calendar Method
About:00:00 Time management00:50 Phase 1 - Planning an Ideal Year.07:26 Phase 2 - Planning an Ideal Week.14:30 Phase 3 - Planning an Ideal Day17:50 Template…

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