Everyone has their own list of priorities, and aligning them with deadlines can be difficult. Not all online students have a family to care for, or multiple jobs to attend to while taking classes, but that doesn’t mean their list of responsibilities isn’t as stressful.
The average online student may have one to two kids, a full-time job, and activities outside of the home. This leaves limited time for reading for class, writing, and responding to discussion posts but they somehow make it work. Now look at an online student with a full social calendar, a full-time job, and other ambitions outside of school. While they don’t have a family to focus on they may just have ten hours a week to dedicate to classes. Either scenario can leave one feeling stressed and stretched for time. Creating a calendar of events for daily activities is one way to stay organized, but not everyone operates this way. For those who have the flexible ability to rearrange their schedule at a moments notice there may need to be more strict guidelines to follow in order to stay focused on school.
If you’re not organized…
Look at making one to two commitments a week. When you’re used to committing to things last minute it can be hard to shake up that routine with a schedule. Instead roll the education component into the same realm as you would a social event, or movie night. Sometimes all you need for your class is five or so hours a week. Get rid of distractions, except for maybe some light music, and hide out with your class materials. Allowing yourself to indulge in the reading or writing for class can be time well spent if you think of it in that way. It’s personal enrichment time; so put away the “free time” reading until you’ve completed your assignments for the week.
Now that you have a plan, don’t procrastinate!
Even if you’re a spontaneous person don’t be spontaneous with handing in assignments. Not having a steady time to hand in your work can result in a last minute submission that’s subpar. Set up an alert in your smartphone to post on the same night every week. If you’re consistent with this action it’ll become routine, and hopefully something you look forward to.
If you’re organized but always busy…
Don’t pile onto your current schedule. For those of us that have children, and possibly two jobs, the thought of getting schoolwork done in those limited weekday hours can encourage unnecessary stress. It’s great to have a posted schedule for your family and their activities in someplace visible in your home. Instead of mapping out every hour of your week, trust me that can even be stressful, put a special spot on the family calendar for “class time.” Explain to your family that this is when you need to read for class and to give you some space. Find someplace peaceful; don’t underestimate the stress reducing powers of reading outdoors in beautiful weather!
With your plan sorted it’s your job to make it work!
Like any other commitment it takes time to get a good groove and momentum going. Don’t give up after the first couple classes if it seems like too much. There’s always the option of taking a month or two off after your current classes have ended and starting fresh. Find what works for you, and involve your family in the process. They’ll notice before anyone else if you’re stressed. It wouldn’t hurt to crowd source with your kids or significant other to see how they think you’re doing; kids are typically brutally honest!
Regardless of your personal situation try to remember that you’re doing this to fulfill some type of educational goal. There is no need to act like you’re in competition with others based on their priorities. When we’re online in the classroom we’re at a level playing field, and all the instructor will see is your intellect and the effort you put forth. Make sure to put your best foot forward and pump the breaks if your head is swooning from being overbooked.
By J. Mason
Online Learning Tips Editor