6 Time Management Tips for Online Students Who Work

Time management tipsSome folks are blessed with encyclopedic memories. They never write stuff down, they are never late for appointments, they never miss birthdays, and they ace every test. For everyone else, notes and online calendars help keep track of daily commitments and weekly obligations.

Writing appointments down — or typing them into smartphones, tablets and laptops — is an essential element of developing productive time management skills. This is especially true if you’re working part time or full time while simultaneously pursuing an ambitious education program. The development of efficient time management habits can mean the difference between achieving your personal goals and staying in a rut.

Here are some time management tips to help you succeed in your quest to earn an online degree or advance your career while working.

1. Keep a current calendar

Paper calendars are useful for tracking holidays, jotting down dentist appointments and birthdays. With the advent of online calendars, however, we’re better able to keep track of daily, weekly and monthly commitments.

Electronic calendars are particularly helpful for students who juggle work with family obligations and school. Color-shading tools are great for distinguishing work and personal obligations from classes and study sessions.

At the start of each class, students have access to due dates for every assignment, discussion board post or paper. Electronic calendars help students block times to access video or audio lectures and presentations. They also serve as scheduling reminders for participating in online chats, discussion boards and various study groups, and to indicate test days.

2. Schedule everything

In addition to due dates for assignments, schedule time for required reading, for crafting that paper and for reading, responding and interacting with discussion posts. Estimates for completing coursework varies depending on course of study, so don’t forget to schedule your study time accordingly.

Student advisors suggest combining a schoolwork calendar with a personal calendar so everything in your life is tracked in one place. They also recommend blocking out time to sleep and eat. If a conflict arises, you’ll see it immediately.

If you’re working and simultaneously caring for children or an elderly relative, include those daily commitments in your calendar as well (“Pick kids up from child care at 6 p.m.”).

You may need to temporarily curtail your personal life as you earn your degree. This is where using electronic calendars to schedule appointments and daily study times are beneficial; they will help you prioritize social commitments and manage your time.

3. Take diligent notes

If you don’t already own several notepads, purchase a pack today from an office supply store. Carry a notepad everywhere. In addition to keeping a record of instructors’ lectures and assignments, the process of writing triggers brain receptors that will help your recall. This is extremely beneficial later, as you read your notes and use them to study or write papers, work out math equations, and complete other assignments.

The process of taking notes and embedding them in your mind also helps prepare you for questions on tests. If you sit passively during an online session without taking notes, your mind will invariably drift. You will forget what you need to know in order to learn and master your degree.

4. Develop study habits

The most important thing you can do to improve your study habits is manage your time efficiently, especially when each course lasts only five weeks. Here are some recommendations for making the most of your study time:

  • Set aside a dedicated study space where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Turn your cell phone off, and don’t check your personal email.
  • Bookmark the login page to the learning management system through your university portal.
  • Make sure your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari) is up-to-date.
  • Bookmark your school’s help desk page and online group discussion forum for easy access in case you have technical inquiries or questions for your peers.
  • Reach out for help from your instructor or technology support when necessary.

5. Organize computer folders

Every second you spend searching for a file is time you could be reading or writing, developing a spreadsheet and generally getting your coursework done. The sooner you locate files on your computer the less stress you will encounter and the quicker you can dive into that writing assignment, presentation, or other urgent project.

Develop a folder system that makes sense to you. Use logic in creating a file tree that makes it easy to locate whatever you’re looking for. When you save a file, give it a name that will resonate with you later and place it in the appropriate folder for easy retrieval.

  • Example: If you’re earning an M.S. in Reading Education, create a folder titled Course Assignments. Set up separate folders for each course based on the title. For instance, under Literature and Multimedia, you might create separate folders for Lecture Notes, Research Sources and Writing Assignments. When you complete and save a file, place it in the appropriate subfolder within Course Assignments, and you’ll know exactly where to look for it later.

6. Relax and decompress

Your vitality — and success – depends on scheduling some downtime to rejuvenate. Whether it’s taking long walks or breaking for short exercise sessions, going out for dinner and a movie or staying home with a good book, you must recharge your batteries or you will burn out.

And don’t forget to schedule your downtime. Relax and have some fun!

Related: How to Balance a Job While Learning to be a Teacher