5 Essential Time Management Tips for Online Learners
By Shere Brown
Advising Training & Development Specialist at American Public University
Online learners have the flexibility to take classes anytime, anywhere. However, without the structure of attending an actual classroom or the direct physical contact and interaction with the professor and other students, it’s easy to procrastinate and put assignments on the backburner.
Between balancing work, school, and family obligations, creating an effective time management system is imperative to academic success. Here are some time management tips to help you to create a better, balanced life with the aim to decrease stress and increase your productivity as you work towards degree completion.
Have you ever heard the quote, “It’s a dream until you write it down and then it’s a goal’? If obtaining a degree or a certificate is one of your personal goals, it’s important to keep in mind what you want to accomplish. Goal setting also helps you to decide what’s worth spending your time on, and what is just a distraction.
Here’s how to do it:
- Whether it’s completing a project before the due-date or finishing your degree with a 4.0, set both short and long term goals to have something to work towards and write them down.
- Make sure your goals are SMART-Specific/Significant, Measurable/Meaningful, Attainable/Action Oriented, Relevant/Rewarding and Time-bound and Trackable.
- Evaluate goals and objectives regularly to make necessary changes to keep you motivated.
- Tweet or tell a friend about your educational goals to help hold you accountable.
Attending courses online allows you to study and complete assignments at your convenience. However, to avoid procrastination it may be helpful to implement and utilize a schedule that includes studying, reading, and completing coursework.
Try the following:
- Before classes start, review the syllabi and note due dates on a calendar.
- Designate a specific timeframe (when you are at your best) to dedicate to your studies throughout the week and stick to it. Try to study a little each day, rather than cramming at the end.
- Use a day-planner, the scheduling function in Microsoft Outlook, or even a scheduling app on your smartphone to set up study appointments and due dates that cannot e missed!
- Schedule time to log into your classes daily to be up to date on course changes and important announcements.
Create a To-Do List
Creating a to-do list first thing in the morning or at night in order to prepare for the next day will help you to create structure in your day. By prioritizing tasks and assignments, you wake up knowing what needs to be done
Here’s why it’s helpful:
- Prioritizing each task will help you to focus on the most urgent or most time consuming tasks first.
- Be sure to use your calendar with your to-do list to ensure that you are staying on top of your assignments.
- Don’t forget to include fun things on your to-do list as well. For example, taking your children to the playground or watching a movie.
- Using to-do lists on your tablet, laptop or even in your workspace in the online classroom will make it accessible throughout the day.
- Remember, it feels good to check off tasks that have been completed on your list. Reward yourself to stay motivated!
Manage Interruptions & Distractions
While it is important to remain flexible to deal with unexpected interruptions or emergencies, dealing with distractions and interruptions effectively is essential to managing time.
Consider the following:
- Eliminate surfing the web, while studying, unless you are researching. Constantly updating your Facebook status will not help you earn your degree.
- If TV seems bothersome or distracting, turn it off and instead listen to your favorite playlist, to remain focused.
- Make sure your study space is comfortable, neat, and organized to eliminate distractions to get the most out of your study-time.
- Warn family and friends ahead of time, when you will be studying so they won’t bother you. If interrupted, pause briefly before continuing your work to refocus.
Just Say No!
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated when you are trying to balance work, family, and taking classes online. Therefore, it is important to know when to ask for help, delegate tasks or just say No!
- Share and delegate household chores with family or roommates.
- If you don’t understand an assignment, ask the professor or a classmate.
- If you need help with scheduling and planning, contact your Academic Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org
- To avoid burnout, it’s okay to say ‘NO’ and not over-commit yourself to various activities.
- Stay positive! Especially when things get tough. Positivity and motivation go hand-in-hand.
Remember your goals and keep working towards it!
Additional Helpful Time Management Resources
- For more tips to maximize your time and avoid distractions, check out ‘Top 10 Time-Management Tips for Online Students“
- For general advice on time management and organization, take a look at http://www.organizetips.com. They have everything from a wedding planner, to organizing for seniors, to a variety of time saving tips.
- If you’re overwhelmed by email — whether at work or home — you’ll want to review these tips for effective email time management from First Step Communications.