Whether you’re working full-time or part-time, an effective time-management policy is essential to your success in online college coursework. Before classes start, sit down and think about the best ways to spend your time so you can achieve the best grades possible. Here are a few ways to help you design your time-management plan.
1. Prioritize. Which tasks need to be done first, and which can wait? Make a list and stick to it. Remember the Milk is a great app that assists with keeping track of your tasks, and it can also sync with your Gmail and Outlook calendars, as well as the popular note-taking app, Evernote.
2. Create a calendar. Assessments and projects have established due dates. Mark them on the calendar, and look at when you need to start working on them. Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to also add in time for fun activities that can help you de-stress. If you’ve downloaded Remember the Milk, all your calendars will be synced up effortlessly.
3. Know your schedule. Are you a morning person, or do you work better at night? Working on assignments during times when you’re not at your best will affect your success.
4. Be flexible. “You can’t make up for lost time. You can only do better in the future,” author Ashley Ormon once said. Class schedules change, but so does life. When you build your calendar, give yourself some slack time in case obstacles arise. If something does pop up and you lose a day, you’ll be able to plan ahead and figure out how to fit in the tasks for the next day.
5. Keep healthy habits. By getting enough sleep, you ensure strong mental acuity. Less than adequate sleep stresses you out and also affects your performance. While studying, take brief stretch breaks to refresh your brain.
6. Divide and conquer. If you know there’s going to be a big research paper or project, work on it in chunks. It’s easier to manage a 15-page paper if you work on it a little at a time instead of trying to do it all the week before it’s due. If you’ve ever heard of the Pomodoro method, you might want to try using it for these larger projects. Pomodoro, which is Italian for tomato, is a fairly simple method that involves spending 25 minutes on a task, then taking a 5-minute break to do something fun. The website Tomato Timer will set up pomodoros for you.
7. Don’t procrastinate. This is a pretty obvious one, but working on assignments ahead of the due date will alleviate the need to scramble and turn in sub-standard work. Using a time management strategy like the Pareto analysis may help you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or having trouble completing assignments on time. Pareto analysis, also known as the 80/20 rule, theorizes that 20% of a person’s effort accomplishes 80% of the results. In other words, focus on the 20% of your tasks that will provide the best results.
8. Learn to say no. Don’t commit to the work softball league if you know this next course is going to be pretty intensive. Friends can adjust plans if they really want to hang out with you – that big exam is more important than a movie date. Saying no can be hard at first, but keep your end goal in mind.
9. Use time-saving apps. We all have smartphones. Use yours to your advantage. Instead of spending time on social media, download an app that helps you keep track of your time. RescueTime is an app that works behind the scenes of your computer or phone to track how you spend your time, and reports back to you with data and analysis of how you can adjust your day. There are also apps that let you create to-do lists, which could benefit you as you monitor your course assignments and daily workload at your job.
10. Keep your assignments with you. Those hour-long lunch breaks during the week add up. Spend your lunch break studying, or if you commute via the subway or bus, you can get in some reading time there as well. If you have kids, work on assignments during their extracurricular activities.