What many students love most about pursuing a degree online is the flexibility to study when they want and fit school around the rest of their busy lives. The freedom to juggle is definitely an advantage, but if you don’t manage your time properly, it can also be your Achilles heel.
One of the first things a good online instructor will tell you is to create a plan for keeping up with your classwork and all your other responsibilities. At Averett University, we think it’s so important, we provide a worksheet to help adult learners assess their stress and develop a time management plan so they can achieve their academic goals and still have a life. Here are some top tips they all agree on:
- Schedule class and study time. Instead of cramming school into your free time, do it the other way around. Block specific time slots for attending class, completing assignments and studying for tests, then arrange other activities around them. This structure will feel more like you’re attending a traditional school, even if you go to class at 10:00 pm after the kids are in bed.
- Work on hard assignments first. Diving into whatever is due next may not be the most efficient way to work. If you have several assignments, look at all of them and estimate how much time and work will go into each one. If you have a big paper to write or a group project to organize, you might want to work on those first even if they’re due later to avoid running out of time at the end.
- Say no to multitasking. Doing three things at once seems impressive, but it can actually make you less productive. You’re better off focusing on one thing at a time and doing it well so you don’t have to do it over. Just make sure you do urgent and important things first and avoid getting sidetracked by things that can wait.
- Look ahead. Managing your time goes beyond class schedules and due dates. When the term begins, look at your course syllabus to see what’s coming up. Maybe while you’re doing research for next week’s assignment, you can make notes that will help with a paper or project coming up weeks from now.
- Block out distractions. With content bombarding us from every direction, it’s easy to get caught up in your Twitter feed or texts from your cousin. Turn everything off when you’re studying and tell your family and close friends your class schedule, so they’ll know when to leave you alone.
- Ask for help. If you’ve done your best to stay on track and still feel overwhelmed, speak up. Most instructors will work with you on deadlines if you’ve put forth the effort, and most online programs have student advisers and counselors who can help. Averett University’s Academic Support staff offers free services to help you manage your time, develop more effective study habits and get tutoring if you need it.
- Make time to reward yourself. When you’re blocking out time for classes and studying, be sure to schedule some time to take a break and enjoy yourself. Even small rewards along the way will help you avoid burnout and stay motivated to reach your goal.
Developing great time management skills will not only help you be a successful student, it will also give you an edge in your current job or in the new career you’re working toward. And remember, Averett’s here to help! You’ve got this, and we’ve got you!