time management for UPSC

TIME MANAGEMENT META-HACKS FOR UPSC : For Working Professionals and Students

Einstein said time was relative and he was right. 

Have you noticed how it quickly it passes while you’re on vacation and how it lulls to a stop while reading boring textbooks?  Why does this happen and can you use this effect to your benefit for UPSC preparation?  Yes, you can. This assignment and lesson is about what makes time speed up and slow down and how you can control that dial.  

Whether you are a working professional or a full-time student, your time constraints are similar and this article will apply to you.

time is relative upsc time management


Challenge number # 1 is Obviously lack of Time as you prepare for the UPSC exam.

Lets see how much time you really have every week for UPSC exam preparation.


Assuming you have a 9-5 job, which means spending 8 hours at an office/college every day. Six times a week.

You spend about 50 hours at work each week/college/other activities.


Add between 60-90 minutes, every day (probably more if you live in a metro city) for commute to and from work. On off days also you may travel for social engagements and leisure etc.

You spend approximately 10 hours every week travelling.

prepare for UPSC, UPSC preparation, ias  preparation, UPSC motivation

Pre And Post work routines

Add another hour for changing, refreshing etc before and after work. You do these things every day, so it remains Constant over weekends.

You spend about 7-10 hours every week preparing to go and to work and refreshing after you return home.

Wastage and unexpected events

Assume half an hour wasted on social media or just being lazy. Another half hour every day dealing with unexpected events.

So, 10 hours are wasted or spent dealing with whatever new thing happens to you.


Assuming 7 hours of sleep every day, which is the minimum recommended amount for remaining healthy.

time is precious

You are asleep for about 50 hours a week.

Chores and Entertainment

Add a very conservative one hour of leisure time to unwind and including time with spent with family and friends.

Time spent in chores includes things like getting groceries, returning phone calls, washing clothes or whatever it is that you have to do on a daily basis.

You spend at least 10 hours a week on chores and Entertainment.

By adding the above, you will calculate a time range of 130-150 hours per week.

This means you spend approximately 140 hours every week NOT studying OR prepare for the UPSC exam.

Time not spent studying

The total number of hours in a week is 168. Subtracting the time available from the time total time, we get approximately 25-30 hours per week.

(Note that I have NOT included time for exercise, which is important.)

So Effectively speaking, you have approximately 30 hours a week available for preparation for the UPSC exam.

And in these 30 odd hours, you have to do a lot of things, so this time has to be sub-divided into time for-

  1. Strategics and progress-tracking
  2. Learning new material
  3. Revising old material
  4. Discussing and clearing doubts
  5. Practicing

If we divide the time equally between these tasks, it means that

you have approximately 6 hours a week to learn new material.

Now that we know what your time frames look like, lets move on to see other challenges.


These are less obvious but more difficult challenges than time faced by working professionals while they prepare for the UPSC exam.

And it is these mental challenges which make many working people quit mid-way and never attempt the exam.

Roughly half of all people who apply for the UPSC exam but do not appear for at the day of the exam because they have dropped out of the race due to these challenges.

Low Energy Levels

Your brain is an organ which requires a LOT of energy to run. It gets tired, like your phones battery and needs to be rested and recharged every 12 hours or so.

your brain needs recharging

Not just that, energy levels change during the day- There are a few hours of the day when you are alert, focused and quick to think.

While at other times, you are sleepy, drowsy and basically, incapable of much reading and learning.

No wonder then that after spending 10 hours at work and in traffic, you are too mentally exhausted to study geography and remember the names of rivers and tributaries.

Low Curiosity levels

The drain of mental resources directly leads to a loss of interest to learn new things.

But this what the UPSC expects from you. The UPSC wants curious people.

UPSC notification wants interest

You can read more about what the UPSC wants here.

This means having an interest to know more and more about the world around you, APART from your personal life, your job and your problems.

To nurture this interest about the world for a many months, you need free time and extra energy, which as we saw above, you do not have much of.


With a job come a lot of responsibilities and many things which have to keep track of like deadlines or targets. These usually remain in the mind even after you return from work .

And to switch over from the world of deadlines and targets to the world of UPSC preparation- where there is polity, Science tech and optionals, is NOT easy.


The underlying problem is not that you are not good at multi-tasking, it is that multi-tasking is impossible.

Research in Cognitive science suggests that we only pay attention to one task at a time and while we think we are multitasking ,we are actually switching attention rapidly between one task and the other. And performance reduces drastically as a result.

graph of multi-tasking

This is also precisely the reason why you should not text while driving.

And also the reason that after a full day of hard work, you don’t feel like understanding plate tectonics or the revolt of 1857.

Will-power depletion

Research shows that will-power is also a resource like your phone battery which gets drained as the day goes by.

You can read the research from the American Psychological Association here.

The more challenging tasks you do, the more your will-power currency depletes. Which is why at end of the day, when your reserves are running on empty, you do not want to read Laxmikant’s book and memorizethe articles of the constitution.

You experience this as lack of motivation.

This does not mean that you are unworthy or lazy-only that your brain is tired.

prepare for upsc, upsc motivation, prepare for ias


If you have a full time job or a full-time student and are considering preparing for the UPSC exam then you are inviting high levels of Stress in your life. Stress is inescapable in any competitive environment and you should prepare for it.

Apart from the stress at work, you have to deal with family, relationships and money issues.

The problem is that effects virtually all mental faculties associated with learning negatively. It causes a decline in cognitive functioning which directly translates in to a low quality of learning.

To top it all,these mental challenges are self-reinforcing. They form a cycle where each one feeds in to the next.

prepare for UPSC, upsc preparation

I call this the Mental Drag Cycle.


Strategy means a plan which divides your goal of becoming IAS into smaller chunks AND the system which keeps you on track along the journey.

The company which you work for has a strategy to get work out of you. This includes pay structure, incentives, rewards punishment, deadlines, bio-metric attendance, etc.

These policies are enforced so that the company gets the best out of you for itself.

upsc preparation
prepare for UPSC
Prepare for UPSC with a solid and scientific strategy


You need a strategy for the many months while you prepare for the UPSC exam and to track your progress. You need clearly defined goals.

No goal setting = No discipline

But how can you rationally set goals, if you don’t know how much time the goal requires?

This is why goal-setting is easier said than done.

It is difficult because you don’t know how much time a piece of material is going to take to learn unless you learn it.

How you do you know how long it will take for you to cover polity unless you actually COVER POLITY?!

More often than not, it takes longer than you expect.

Self-discipline and Accountability measures

Strategy also includes methods to maintain discipline .

Just like your company has various methods to keep you on your toes, you need methods to keep track for your preparation for becoming IAS.

You need intelligently designed systems that force you to stay on track during UPSC preparation.

Which means you will have to enforce accountability for your goals on your-self.

prepare for UPSC 
upsc motivation
ias syllabus

You must ensure self-discipline WITHOUT brutalizing or burdening yourself with guilt.

If you try to do it with sheer will-power, you will fail.

Because Will power, as you saw, is not an unlimited resource at your disposal.

Will-power will run out in a few weeks and you will drop-out of the race.

Not an intelligently designed system.

No feedback = No error-correction

You will have no idea how well you are doing or if you are even on the right track or if you have strayed hopelessly far from your goal.

Without feedback, its only natural to feel lost.

prepare for UPSC, 
lost upsc syllabus
Lost during UPSC preparation

Most working people feel lost and confused during the UPSC exam preparation because they have no feedback and review mechanisms.




It is not a test of knowledge, nor of the test-taker’s capabilities in any way. It is an exercise designed to force the test-takers into conversation with himself/herself about how well they are controlling their time and energy to prepare for the UPSC exam.
As an addendum, this test will bring insight into the test-takers level of consistency, deadline-structuring and energy management.
For yielding maximum benefits, this test should be taken with utmost honesty even if it does not reflect well on the test-takers.
REMEMBER: This test should be repeated every 6-8 weeks for maximum benefit.


It is all about Energy. Where, when and how you invest it will determine how effectively you use your time.

I have been working hard to build a research-backed, scientifically proven POWERFUL SYSTEM which will tilt the odds heavily in your favor.

My aim is to maximize your advantages and minimize your disadvantages, in order to boost your performance WAY past your competition.


I hope this article was helpful.

All the best!

Ravi Kapoor IRS


53 thoughts on “TIME MANAGEMENT META-HACKS FOR UPSC : For Working Professionals and Students”

  1. આજ સુધી મને એવું જ લાગતું હતું કે મારી મહેનત ઓછી છે પહેલીવાર મને સમજણ પડી કે મહેનત નહિ ઊર્જા શકિત નો વપરાશ યોગ્ય રીતે નથી કર્યો. હવે માત્ર પરીક્ષા જ નહિ પરંતુ જીવનની તમામ સમસ્યાઓ સરળ લાગે છે , રવી સર હું આપના દરેક મેઈલ ની દરેક લાઈન ઝીણવટપૂર્વક વાચું છું . કોઈ વસ્તુ ના સમજાય તો ભરપૂર માત્ર માં ભાષાંતર ઉપયોગ કરું જેનાથી મારી ભાષા માં પણ સુધારો થઇ રહીયો છે. દરેક બાબત નોંધ રાખવા એક અલગ બુક બનાવી રાખી છે. ખૂબ ખૂબ આભાર

  2. Thank you so much sir Your article on Time Management is very helpfull me. for prepartion in upsc.
    i am Akashgola, in a job holder,
    I’m a beginner for UPSC CSE but don’t have actual knowledge.
    1. idea about where to start,
    2. what to do,
    3. how to do and most important when to do.
    So please suggest me.

    Thank’s for regards

  3. Hi Sir,

    Firstly Many thanks sir for all the work you are doing to highlight the points which are crucial for preparation.

    sir I am a full time aspirant & I left my job for preparation. Sir I am person who fears, doubting myself in every aspect.
    I thought I could overcome these things and be a person who is eligible for this job.
    But sir I started coaching in january this year, still i feel I am the same person who is in my tenth standard. I am not seeing any progress of myself in the last 6-7 years.

    This makes me think am I eligible for this exam or not in every second of my preparation and this sucks me day by day, my curiosity is going away, feeling lost sir. Can You please give me an advice sir.

    Thank you sir

  4. Sir this is aadil.
    After watching your video and giving a cursory glance to your blog I found out that my time is wasted because I’m covering difficult lesson in the daytime which require more energy to finish it so I try to give time on the basis of energy level.I keep ignoring this issue and this led me get exhausted with my day to day goal

  5. Sir i have nothing more words to say after reading your article 😌🙂

    Sir your article is just fantastic…..suprb❤️

    Sir your article makes my many doubts clear which is my mind from last 8 month . It is very useful for me….

    At last i am very excited to watch your next upcoming strategical lecture and also syllabus based lecture
    Thank you sir ❤️

  6. Thank you so much sir Your article on Time Management is very helpful and the things mentioned there that actually happen with all.
    Sir,I’m Tanya,i am pursuing my B.com (hons) final year without any regular college and coaching.I teach tuition to the children.And I work in part time.
    I’m a beginner but want to start my preparation for UPSC CSE but don’t have actual knowledge/idea about where to start,what to do,how to do and most important when to do.So please suggest me.

  7. Thank you so much sir for this article! Generally, nobody talks about this aspect of the UPSC journey which set apart the aspirant vs officer.
    We have the standard resources to cover but no details are present on how to cover them.
    After reading this article, I feel empowered that you have made us realise that we can use these hacks to overcome our lost confidence and come back on track expecting stellar performance in the exam.

  8. Respected Sir,
    Your Suggestion and hard working for student is very helpful for students.
    I feel, i am very lazy but having passionate to crack upsc. Am tried all methods to be energytic all day, but cannot donw well.

  9. Hello sir, I’m Beno Saral working as Sub Inspector of Police in Tamil Nadu. I’m a single parent of my only 12 year daughter. Right from my childhood, I wanted to be an IAS officer. These years i haven’t got the courage to attempt the UPSC exam because of the responsibility i have both in Profession as well as a mother. After reading your article, it has boosted my level of confidence and have hiked up my hunger for achieving my dream. Thanks a lot sir. Looking forward for your guidance sir.

  10. Hello Sir,

    I am 22 years old and a working professional. I just started this year to prepare for the UPSC examination. What you have mentioned in this blog is 100 percent correct! The emotions and the feelings are reflected here.
    My working time is bit different than others. i.e. 12 pm to 9:30 pm. I’m trying to utilize the time in the morning hours but i would wake up by 7 or 8 am because i have always been a night owl since college days where i used to study in the night. After becoming a working professional with afternoon shifts, there would be some sort of less motivated and tiredness most of the days. i would start by 10pm and study till 1 am.
    Eventhough, I study till 1 am sometimes i feel like I’m missing out something. Could you please guide me if i need to change my study hours from night to morning or any other things which should be included?


  11. Hello Sir,
    I m Karishma Shrivastava and I m a govt officer in Mp govt.I want to start my preparation for civil services but i m not able to work on it properly.My work is not office related and i m a field officer.I cant keep my phone off bcz it rings any time and i have to solve the issue.My work load decreases during rainy season so i can start my studies properly now but not able to schedule it properly.We have By elections in Mp so few days will be going there, as my election duty orders have come.Sir plz guide me so that i cant properly start studying and manage my time

  12. Your article is awesome sir.
    I’m working in village secreteriat in AP government and my work-schedule became hectic and I’m working for 8-9 hours on an average(though we are supposed to work for 6 hours as said). Being the full-time working person,I agree with what you have said especially the lack of motivation.My aim is to get into any of the Accounts services(Postal/Railway/Defence),if not then Trade Service or CAG.

    Please guide me as I could’nt be able to make a plan.Though I’m studying morning ( 4 hours) & evening times (3 hours) the static part effectively but I could’nt be able to spend time for current affairs. I would like to choose Commerce & Accountancy optional as I’ve strong commerce background of CA-Inter. Sometimes I feel bore on reading IR,though I’m switching the subjects time to time.

    • Thanks Krishna.
      WHY do you just want to get into these services? is it because you want to work there or because you are aiming low?
      In any case, you cant really aim for these services because the rank you get is subject to randomness.
      If you are aiming low because you think IAS/IPS is out of reach, then dont! Because statistically all these services are equally likely outcomes of a successful exam.
      You are doing a lot already.
      If you are attempting the exam this year, you want to keep upto date on current events
      But if youre aiming for next year, then dont worry about them in detail. Because when the exam comes they will not be current anymore.
      You should have a broad overview of whats happening. Plenty of apps which give you a good outline- I like FLipboard.

      I think switching to a subject of your interest is an excellent move!

      As for your plan, I suggest breaking up the syllabus into very small parts. Then assigning daily tasks to yourself. The tasks shouold be so small and manageable that you can
      strike them off one by one. Do not assign more than 3 tasks for a day. Keep them simple but effective. example- read 20 pages from History NCERT today.
      And tracking progress. I know its not easy. We are trying to build a system where all of this is automated but it will take time.
      In the meantime, keep doing what youre doing. It sounds like you are on the right track.
      Good luck

  13. Hello sir!
    Sir I have just done my 11th, and in the verge of starting my 12th grade. I have opted PCM as my stream. Sir I want to become an IPS officer. Sir sometimes I don’t know why I feel fear quite strongly and that literally leads to production of tremendous amount of discouragement. And often I ask my self that “Maybe, its only for gifted people. I have do what my parents urge me too.” They asks me to pursue engineering and just work under some and earn couple of lakhs. And I literally hate doing that. I want something dynamic. Something powerful. IPS is one of the job which offers tremendous power in hands of youths. And I fell in love with. I love learning new things over and over again. I don’t get bored of them anytime. I am a lot more curious about the training that IPS officers go through. But sir the thing is the people around me who doubt me in every aspect. And the thing is when my mind just gives a moment to think what they said, that’s all! Give up! Go and do your homework. I sometimes think, I am actually dreaming wild. I have to stay rooted to reality. But sir I can’t give this dream up anyway. Even I feel it impossible, couple of times I wonder how wonderful the process is, and what it likes when you qualified CSE. That’s beautiful. And when I think about the people appear for this, around 1.5 million every year! This is enough to drain all the dreams in me. Sir please give me a piece of advice for this. Can I actually do this? Because right advice’s can be seek from right people.

    Thanks a lot sir! ☺

    • Hi Bragu,
      I like your enthusiasm!
      You are right about the journey of UPSC prep- it will enrich you
      But it will also TEST you.
      More importantly,
      If they tell you you should not think about the UPSC exam, ask them WHY. If they tell you its because you are not good enough,
      then they are not worth listening to.
      If they tell you some other reason, then investigate that reason. Find out if its valid for you or not.
      Your love of learning will be a bigger gift than getting into IPS, I can tell you that.

      Also,its easy to fall in love with things at your age. I was in love with it too. But reality is NOT as we see it when we are in love. You love the idea of IPS. But will you love the
      actual job as well? Which parts of it will you love? Which ones you wont? You can bet there will be both. right now, your view is partial.

      But thats perfectly fine! Now widen your mind and ask difficult questions.

      Investigate this for yourself. Find out what the job really is like. You may discover some new things about yourself which could be worth more than
      all the IPS in the world.


  14. Respected Ravi Sir

    Many many Congratulations for the rare feat of success achieved by you sir , I had gone through your articles on QUORA and got lucky to be associated with your blogs ,it’s a very inspiring and logical aswellas rational series of blog’s which are based on perfect analysis of different situations in which UPSC aspirants feel trapped in.
    Sir your blog on( UPSC preparation by working aspirants ) guides and throws a deep insight into oneself and to their own situations ,It aroused myself from a slumber and deep sleep and filled me with a new ray of hope and made my day.

    Sir wanted your guidance on UPSC CSE preparation, before this I wanted to give a brief introduction of myself.Sir I am working in a Govt bank( PSB ) as an Assistant Manager for the past 7 years and I am now 29.5 years old .I don’t have any previous experiences in the preparation for (UPSC CSE) and I am a complete novice in regard to UPSC Civil Service Exam preparation.I , therefore request you to please guide me in this situation should I start my preparation now for UPSC exam or it’s too late for me with regards to my age as it’s already approaching the age limit of 32 years fixed by UPSC for Gen category .Sir,here I also wanted to ask that whether can I start my preparation from now onwards from a scratch or zero level and can I get success if yes please guide me on this issue also ,Finally if all the above doubts of mine leads to an affirmative end please guide me how to proceed from here and how to start the preparation as I have the desire and I am willing to work hard .
    As you know sir that being in PSB job we are not getting much time for preparation and I want to continue my preparation along with my job as I am not financially from a well off family ,So in this scenario what will be your suggestions or advice for persons like me sir who decided to go for the arduous journey at a later stage of there life .Your guidance can help me a lot sir.

    Thanks and regards
    Yours sincerely


    • Hello Vaskar!
      thanks for your interest in the blog.
      I understand your problem. I think you are at the right age to try this exam. Its not too late at all
      because you will later find that it takes a certain degree of maturity to do well in this job AFTER you have been selected. Your work experience
      and maturity will be an advantage. But you should know that it will take at least two years from start to finish to get the job.
      And that it will involve a Lot of work. It is doable but not easy.
      You are looking at 2 years minimum of consistent hard work and stress.
      I suggest that you look closely at your time-horizons and take an informed decision.
      We will take it from there..

      I hope this helps

      • Thanks sir , I decided that I am going with my resolve .
        Please guide me how to proceed now ,from here . Booklists and study routine etc.

        • Thats Amazing, Vaskar.
          Im not going to suggest books unless they are absolutely necessary.
          What I do suggest is that you download the UPSC notification 2020 and read the syllabus EXTENSIVELY and REPEATEDLY.
          Then GOOGLE each word. EVERY SINGLE ONE mentioned in the syllabus. Browse for about 5 minutes ONLY. Then Google the NEXT word.
          and so on.
          I want you to repeat this whole exercise at least twice.
          In detail, what exactly you should do in the beginning is not difficult.But extremely Important.
          I think its better if I put all this in a blog post….It will be live soon. Stay tuned.

          • What exactly you should do in the beginning is not difficult, but the important. I will do it right now sir .
            Thank you sir

  15. Your articles seems to the point and having very practical approach.
    I am a working professional and want to be IAS officer.
    Waiting for your article on how to pace the studies in logical way.

    • Hi Kranthi,

      Working on it.

      I dont think I will ever suggest a complete book to read at all.
      If something is relevant, I will suggest the pages which you should read in a book.
      Reading entire books is a very time-consuming task, ESPECIALLY when the UPSC never asks you to
      write more than 250 words at a time. Except essay paper, for which you dont need books anyway.

      Thanks for reading!

  16. Hello Sir,

    Thank you very much for this Article
    This exactly shows, the average time a working aspirant get.
    I am working in Samsung Research and starting out in this journey
    Needed guidence on prepration strategies
    Waiting for your next Article on prepration strategies for Working Aspirants


    • Hi Abhay,

      Thanks! Im glad you liked it.

      We might ask for your inputs as a working professional to improve the article!

      Thanks for reading
      All the best

  17. Hi, waiting for your next article. I hope that might be motivational. This one, sort of pointed out all the challenges…

      • Respected sir
        I am a student persuing msc physics from IIT , as the name suggest the curriculum is designed particularly for research , although due to lock down students are at home hence i decided to use this opportunity and cover my optional ( physics ) a complete first revision along with basic ncerts .
        I want to sincerely give my complete shot in 2021 CSE.
        Kindly advice what else can i do which will work for me.

        Further to add that after lockdown , there will be academic pressure of college. Your words will be highly appreciated.


          • No sir ,we didnt hve any conversation on quora although i do contact you via fb but that was just to thank for such quality posts . Hence kindly guide me on above query

          • Hi Manish,
            I think you are doing a smart thing by covering Physics optional. If am correct, Physics is mostly conceptual and so wont require too much memorization.
            once you cover the syllabus, it should be easy-peasy for you. If this is not the case, then try to make sure you get the concepts deeply at this stage.

            You can cover NCERTs but I think you only need to cover 1 or 2. One of them is Modern India class 12th NCERT.
            This is an authoritative text on the Indian national struggle. More importantly, it is the OFFICIAL version of the INDIAN
            freedom struggle recognized by the GOVERNMENT OF INDIA.
            But this is not the case with geography or Economics or Science. Because these topics are not nation-bound. They are of global interest and therefore,
            the ABSOLUTE BEST CONTENT POSSIBLE for these subjects is already out there somewhere on YOUTUBE.
            There are mind-blowingly amazing videos abuot Plate tectonics or Earthquakes or The EL NINO effect. You name it, it is there.
            For Everything else watch amazing videos on youtube.
            We will be publishing a curated Playlist of the best videos on topics, which I have been curating for the past 6 years.

            Hope this helps

        • Hi Manish,
          I think you are doing a smart thing by covering Physics optional. If am correct, Physics is mostly conceptual and so wont require too much memorization.
          once you cover the syllabus, it should be easy-peasy for you. If this is not the case, then try to make sure you get the concepts deeply at this stage.

          You can cover NCERTs but I think you only need to cover 1 or 2. One of them is Modern India class 12th NCERT.
          This is an authoritative text on the Indian national struggle. More importantly, it is the OFFICIAL version of the INDIAN
          freedom struggle recognized by the GOVERNMENT OF INDIA.
          But this is not the case with geography or Economics or Science. Because these topics are not nation-bound. They are of global interest and therefore,
          the ABSOLUTE BEST CONTENT POSSIBLE for these subjects is already out there somewhere on YOUTUBE.
          There are mind-blowingly amazing videos abuot Plate tectonics or Earthquakes or The EL NINO effect. You name it, it is there.
          For Everything else watch amazing videos on youtube.
          We will be publishing a curated Playlist of the best videos on topics, which I have been curating for the past 6 years.

          Hope this helps

          • Thanks a ton sir ,I really appreciate that and will try and put your advice in my preperation strategy.


  18. Sir I am Jyoti choudhary, I am persuing PhD in chemical sciences and I am also a mother of a 7 months old kid. I want to prepare for UPSC but I can’t manage my time and I m in my 4th year of phd so can’t leave it at this point of time. After having kid I found myself less motivated than before for UPSC… Plz help how to keep myself motivated and manage my time..

    • Hi Jyoti.
      Your situation sounds hectic.
      we have been working to build a system for working people like you. But obviously it will have to be customized for different people.
      First of all, if you care enough about becoming a civil servant with a PhD AND a small child, I think, the government would be lucky to have someone as hard working as you.
      So dont loose motivation.
      In your situation, You could do a number of things but I need detail.
      Pls email me a sample daily schedule. Include how your energy levels change during the day.
      Add details of how far along in your journey you are at the moment.
      Ill try my best to build something powerful for you.

      Tc 🙂

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