I’ve always thought of myself as fairly competent in the time management department.
However, ever since entering the social media forum, I’ve realized more and more how easily too many tasks can distract me. For example, while writing this post I’ve a) checked the company's Facebook account b) Re-tweeted two relevant articles c) straightened my desk…well, you get the picture. There are distractions everywhere!
We’ve already discussed how online courses can give students the flexibility to take their class anytime, anywhere. While it’s great that an online course can be worked around a full time job, kids and their activities, and so forth - without a set schedule or face time with instructors, the trick is staying on top of those courses. An online student is left to set their own schedule.
In my search for time management tips, I’ve uncovered many great pieces of advice. Think of it as a cart blanche menu, if you will, as every individual is designed differently and what works for me may not work for you. Also, understand it is okay to try one method, evaluate it after some time and feel free to discard the idea if it’s just not working for you. After all, isn’t life about learning and evolving?
1. Find an organizational system that works: Online students need to develop and organizational structure. Calendars (online, on your phone, on your refrigerator) and scheduled reminders help a student meet deadlines and stay accountable. Write down due dates of projects, exam dates, and even pencil in study times to give structure to your week.
2. Organize your materials. Online courses come with syllabi and course outlines. Keep these as well as course sign in information and mentor contact information in a folder right on your desk.
3. Although a benefit of online courses is the ability to study anywhere, anytime – set up a work station with the materials you will need – paper, pens, textbooks, laptop, etc. This will cut down on time spent searching for the items you need to complete your coursework.
4. Check in daily: One of the best things a student can do is to check into their courses on a daily basis. All that’s needed is an internet connection – and with cell phones acting as mini-computers – checking in can be done easily and quickly. Checking in will allow you to find out if due dates have changed, if new material has been presented, or if your mentor has any questions for you.
5. And while we are on the topic of cell phones – turn them off when studying. The same goes for Facebook, twitter, Skype, etc. There are too many distractions that will pull your attention away from the task at hand. Eliminate as many as you can. If this is hard to do – set a goal. Study for thirty minutes and then do a quick “text” or twitter check.
6. Plan ahead: Don’t let assignments catch you off guard. Once you’ve noted the due date of a project, work backwards on your calendar and pencil in steps along the way. This way you will be working towards the final goal of a finished project, and you won’t be overwhelmed with needing to complete it all in one night.
7. Utilize Technology – There are apps and programs that will help you with not only time management, but you may also be able to download audio files to support your studies.
8. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Mentors are available to answer any questions and many courses have discussion boards where students can ask one another for help. Don’t fall so far behind that it’s impossible to get caught up. Speak up early if you are experiencing any difficulty or if you need any help at all.
9. Give yourself a reward for project completed, good grades received. It’s hard to juggle the demands of family, life, work and school so celebrate the successes both big and small. Congratulate yourself on a job well done throughout the journey – not just at the end.
10. Remember to take it easy on yourself. You are working towards a positive goal. Make it as positive an experience as you possibly can.