Time Management Tips for the Independent Online Learner

The convenience and flexibility of online courses are attractive to students who may also be balancing responsibilities associated with jobs and families. Whether you are enrolled in one of the best online computer science programs or the best online criminal justice programs, adding studies to your busy schedule, however, does create challenges. Being proactive is one of the best ways to reduce stress and increase productivity in your online courses. Here are a few ideas for managing your time more effectively:

Assess Your Skills

How are your current time management skills? Start with an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Be honest with yourself. How have you handled projects and deadlines in the past? Take some time to reflect and consider the lessons you’ve learned and identify specific areas in which you still need improvement.
  • Take an online self-assessment. These free interactive surveys not only help you identify your skills, but also provide additional tips and resources. The MindTools.com time management quiz is just one example. Check with your school for more assessment options.

Plan Your Schedule

Gather all of your commitments (i.e., work, family) in one planner or calendar and prepare for the academic term ahead.

  • Closely review each syllabus. Add all of the assignment due dates to your calendar as soon as possible.
  • Schedule time to study. Block your calendar for class activities, such as meeting with your student study group, reading the textbook, and preparing assignments for submission.
  • Include study breaks. Staying healthy can also save time and increase productivity, so schedule breaks to relax, exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep.

Prioritize Daily and Weekly Tasks

  • Create to-do lists. Include items that need to be completed as well as those that you would like to complete.
  • Prepare to sacrifice. There won’t always be time to do everything you want to do, but being clear on the “musts” can help you make good decisions about how you spend the time you do have available.
  • Keeping your long-term goals in mind. Why did you decide to become an online student? Whether your reasons are personal or professional, put them in writing to motivate you on those days when the deadlines and to-do lists seem overwhelming.

Organize Your Work

Think about how and where you will study, and create an atmosphere that is conducive to accomplishing your tasks.

  • Store all of your study materials in a central location. Whether they are digital or printed, keeping everything in one place can save time spent looking for what you need. Online learning gives you the opportunity to continue your courses no matter your location, so consider creating a study bag for use on a commute, at your local library or coffee shop, or when traveling.
  • Minimize interruptions and distractions. Make your friends and family aware of your study schedule and find a quiet place to work.
  • Connect with your school’s support services. Learning, writing, and math centers provide a variety of assistance including advice about specialized study techniques. Note-taking strategies, for example, may improve your reading comprehension and save you time reviewing course materials.

Take Action

Having a plan is just the start. How will you put your time management skills to use?

  • Avoid procrastination. Begin each week by reviewing your to-do list. Many online courses run on accelerated schedules, meaning that you have limited time to react to unexpected changes, so getting a head start each week is encouraged.
  • Get moving on your first task. Your total schedule can seem impossible to manage, but you’ll get things accomplished by maintaining your focus and tackling one task at a time.
  • Keep an eye on the future. Take a look at what is due in the following week. Don’t allow yourself to be surprised by the course requirements.

Like most skills, time management takes practice and you’ll improve with each course you take. Learn more about how and when you should study, as well as techniques for accomplishing everything you need to accomplish during each week of your course.