The key to a successful online learning experience is time management. This term gets passed around a lot these days, because it’s important. Maybe you haven’t had to be all that concerned with time management up till now. Just go to school the same time each day. Lunch always at the same time. Work, sports, friends all just fit in to the schedule organically. Am I right? That won’t necessarily change when you’re learning online, but you’ll have to be more diligent about and focused on creating a reasonable schedule and managing your time wisely. Fact is, time management is going to be a huge part of the rest of your life, personal and professional, so might as well start developing some good habits now!
If you’re anything like me, you might have a little of the procrastinator in you. When I was a full-time online student, I started out with the mindset that studying from home would be great. I soon realized that I was surrounded by distractions and that if I wanted to get anything done, I’d have to make some changes.
I recently came across a great article, and I thought I’d share it here because the points it makes, in terms of the experiences I’ve had, are all really good ones. The article is called “7 Time Management Tips for Online Students” (Miller, 2020) and the seven tips are as follows:
This one’s simple, right? Maybe. The article recommends gathering all of your course syllabi and outlines and making note of when assignments are and when the tests are for each class. Simple, right? Logical? Absolutely. HOWEVER, you have to be active about it. Use the calendar in your phone or on your computer, or on your wall if you’re old–school. And don’t just stop there! Work backward from those landmarks in your calendar. Set alerts, count backwards and schedule in time to work on those assignments and tests. Being aware of when things are due and regular review and preview of your schedule is an excellent way to keep on top of everything and make sure that you have enough time to get everything done.
- Suggestions for free project management apps https://www.fool.com/the-blueprint/free-project-management-software/
- Suggestions for calendar apps https://www.techradar.com/best/best-calendar-apps
- Suggested apps for creating focus time: https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/focus-keeper-pro-manage-time/id830466924
Basically, don’t spread yourself too thin. Keep yourself focused on one thing at a time. If you have large, multifaceted assignments, break those down into their component parts and work on one part at a time. Spending a focused, purposeful 30 minutes on one task will be more productive than trying to juggle four things for two hours, I guarantee it.
If you have trouble managing projects and assignments and breaking things down as suggested above, there are a lot of tools that you can use to help keep you focused.
If you don’t have a room that can be outfitted as a private office/study space, try to set up a part of a room for this purpose. It’s important to set this space up so that you’ll be comfortable there. You should have internet and any materials you might need (computer, tablet, paper, pens, pencils, textbooks)) all immediately accessible to you in this space.
This is huge! If you’re easily distractible, set goals and reward yourself for achieving them. For example, maintain focused work for a certain amount of time and then reward yourself with a short break once the goal is achieved. It’s tough, but don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of YouTube or Facebook. Include these things in your reward system if you like, but the important thing is to set goals for focused work time and to make it important to achieve those goals.
Just mentioned it, but be good to yourself. Don’t overload. And give yourself something to look forward to. This will keep you on track and keep you from smashing head-first into the wall and burning out.
Everyone has lots to do. Students, especially, have a lot on their plates. Maybe you have family obligations or significant relationships or a job. Finding a balance with all of these things is important too! Finding a balance between your studies and your personal life will also keep you from burning out and give you some much needed variety in your day–to–day.
Sometimes you might need to pull an all-nighter to get done what needs to get done, but don’t make a habit of it. Making sure that you are rested and that you’re mentally and physically awake will have a huge impact on your ability to keep on top of everything.
Finally, I don’t think that this is in any way, shape or form a complete list. Everyone is different. Every situation is different. That’s just the way it is. There’s no way around it. I hope that as you read this summary of seven time management tips from the above-mentioned article, you were thinking about how they apply to you and your situation. If you did that, you likely also started to think about how you would or wouldn’t apply the tips to your situation. If that’s true, you’re on your way already. It’s all about finding what works to for you. If I could add one thing it would be, BE FLEXIBLE! Don’t be afraid to reevaluate, react and pivot. It’s necessary. Best laid plans, right? You need to have that ability to adapt to change sometimes. Good luck and enjoy the ride!