Time Management for Online Students
November 11th, 2011 by Dr. Bruce Johnson
Managing the demands of your work as an online student requires a significant investment of time, energy, and effort. You are often balancing many responsibilities and you need to find time to participate in class, study, and complete your assignments. Development of an effective time management plan involves finding tools and techniques that help you create an effective approach, which is a plan that is flexible enough to meet your needs. Here are methods that can help you create a well-managed plan.
Review the Current Use of Your Time
Before you decide what time management tools you need, it would be helpful to analyze the use of your time now. Take one day during the week and map out your day in 30-minute increments. Next, record all activities during that day and keep notes as you complete the chart to help you remember every choice or decision you made about the use of your time. This is a method you can also use periodically to review the effectiveness of your current time management plan.
After the day has concluded, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did I complete all of the required assignments and tasks on time?
2. Were there any periods of stress encountered during this time?
3. Were there any assignments, tasks, or projects that were not completed?
4. Did I allow enough study time?
5. Did I allow enough time to post substantive discussion board messages?
6. Did I allow enough time to complete my assignment effectively, or would more time have allowed me to do better?
Once you've identified what needs to be accomplished each week and reviewed your current plan, you will be able to choose tools and techniques that help you make the most of your time.
Time Management Tools & Techniques
Possible time management strategies include the following:
• Focus on your goals: What do you want to accomplish each week? Start with a clearly defined goal to help you stay motivated. If your goal is to complete all of your assignments and have enough time to do well, schedule plenty of time throughout the week to accomplish it.
• Establish priorities: What are the most important tasks each week? Determine a priority level for each of your assignments and then work on the task that has the highest priority first. Your level of priorities may be established by the assignment due date and the degree of difficulty for that task.
• Schedule a specific time: Allocate time for all of your tasks. This is especially important for the more difficult tasks, so break down large projects into smaller ones that can be easily managed. For example, if you have a 10-page paper to write, schedule a block of time to conduct research, develop an outline, write your initial draft, revise the draft, and complete the draft.
• Use time management tools: Consider what tools can assist you with the development of an effective strategy. For example, would the use of a calendar, to-do list, planner, or a schedule help you keep better track of your tasks? Also, can you set up reminders through your phone? Do you have an online calendar that you can synch with your phone? Many students utilize technological tools to help keep track of their assignments and tasks for the week.
• Avoid time wasters: Have you discovered any activities that are not necessary and could be eliminated? Often, students find it necessary to make tradeoffs in order to complete what is necessary or required. If you have an important task to do and the deadline is approaching, you may need to postpone activities that are not as important, like texting, surfing the Internet, and watching television.
• Be alert for procrastination: Being organized is an effective strategy to avoid procrastination. If you know what needs to be done you are less likely to put it off, especially if you make a commitment to follow your time management plan. You'll recognize that you are procrastinating when you miss scheduled tasks and deadlines.
• Plan ahead: Begin to study and work on assignments early in the week to avoid missing deadlines and the possibility of stress. If you wait until the last minute to complete your assignments you are not likely to do your best and you may experience anxiety.
• Look for pockets of time: Is it possible to work ahead during unexpected periods of available time? When you have free time available, you can use this to catch up, get ahead, or review your current plan.
• Analyze the use of your energy level: During what time of day do you feel the most productive? If it is possible, match the time of day that you have the most energy to the most difficult or complex tasks because they will require the most concentration and focus.
• Prepare for stress: Recognize sources of potential stress and then monitor your response to that stress. If you begin to feel stress, review your plan and make certain you have allowed adequate time to complete your assignments and if necessary, make adjustments to your plan. You can schedule downtime and other activities to help alleviate stress.
When you have an effective time management plan in place, especially one that is focused on your goals and weekly requirements, you will feel more prepared and in control of your time. And as an online student, your academic success may depend a great deal on maximizing your time.
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