Keys to Student Success - Time Management Tips for Online Learners

William Penn once said, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." 

Browse through any "How to Succeed at College" article or book and the one skill that is undoubtedly listed as critical would be time management. What is time management and how can you put it to work for you? Time management is the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours of your day. Simply put, it's how you prioritize the tasks needed to meet goals. In this case, how do you take online courses, work, and have a life?

One indispensable tool for managing your time is an organizer. Sure, it's easy to rely on the handy smart-phone and the endless options of calendar and task-related apps, but the good old fashioned paper organizer can be a life-saver for busy non-traditional college students when trying to visually schedule out and prioritize their day.

There are two types of organizers. Used in tandem, they give what might look like an impossibly full week perspective. And once you write all of your tasks/goals down on paper, (whether big or small), you can let the information you've been trying to organize in your head go and enjoy less stress. You'll refer to the organizer often so keep it in a handy p

Time-Oriented Organizer vs. Task Oriented Organizer

A Task Oriented Organizer would be a to-do list. Your list might look something like this:
  • Get up
  • get dressed
  • eat breakfast
  • brush teeth
A Time Oriented Organizer looks like this:
  • 6 a.m.--get up
  • 6:15 a.m.--shower
  • 6:30 --get dressed
Start by listing all the things you do in a week; include everything: school, homework, shopping, eating, sleeping, personal time, family time, etc. The planner is for everything, not just college. Once you have all of your responsibilities/tasks listed, you can better organize them and the time it takes to do them. Next to each activity, write down how much time you think it will take you to complete it. It's better to allow yourself more time than too little to perform a task. Give each task a priority rating--1,  2, 3, or A, B, C, for critical, important, optional. Different people will assign tasks a different priority; for example, exercise is critical to some while it is only optional for others. Go here for more on that topic!

The internet is full of templates for time management. Microsoft Office, for example, has templates within the software and available for download here. Alternatively, office supply stores have a plethora of scheduling tools. Once you've decided on the actual planner, it's time to plug in each and every task in their proper slots.

Plug in your A tasks first, then your B tasks, and if there is room on your schedule, your C tasks. Once you've got a working schedule, you'll be able to see where you need adjustments as you work through the week. It's not written in stone, but don't get in the habit of delaying or changing your plan too much, otherwise, you'll be back at the same place--feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Final thoughts: don't load up your schedule to overflowing and be realistic about the time it will take to get each item done. Marathon study sessions are rarely productive so when you see a big block of time, don't jam all your studying and course work into that one time slot. Think creatively about when you can review notes, check email, respond to texts and so on, but avoid too much multitasking.