Time management is easily one of the most important skills a student can have. How you spend your time and whether or not you’re using your time effectively can play a serious role in your academic success.
Time management is especially important if you’re taking a self-paced course. With a traditional semester-based course, you are expected to be in class at a certain time and on specified days. With online learning, especially if your course is self-paced, you have to be the one that’s disciplined enough to set aside time to study and go through coursework. You’re the one who needs to prioritize studying over work, Netflix, or scrolling through TikTok.
The great news about time management is that it’s a skill that can be learned, and there are practices you can put into place now to help you effectively manage your schedule and your priorities.
A calendar is a busy student’s best friend. It can easily handle all those deadlines and test dates, freeing up brain space and the anxiety that comes with forgetting when an assignment is due. Plus it helps you time block, where you can easily set a study schedule around work shifts and other activities.
There are a million and one ways to make a calendar, and you’ll find a lot of people trying to tell you how you should be keeping track of your calendar. The key is to find the one that works for you. It may be by keeping the calendar on your phone or as complicated as a bullet journal. Either way, you need to find the one you will actually keep up with, and then block out the time to take your online courses on that calendar. Treat your study and learning time as you would any other regular meeting or event.
Every course you take, online or traditional, should have a syllabus. If you don’t see one, ask your instructor for it. The syllabus will outline everything that you will cover in the course and should also detail due dates and test dates. Make sure you know every assignment and test that’s expected of you by reading your syllabus thoroughly at the beginning of the course and continue to reference back to the syllabus as your course progresses. Also, make sure to add all of your syllabus due dates to your calendar.
Take the time at the beginning of your course to make a plan for how and when you will study. This includes making a decision on your pace for course completion. Make sure this pace is reasonable. If the pace is too fast, you’ll get stressed out and frustrated. If it is too slow, you’ll fall behind. If you need help with making a plan, reach out to your TEL Student Coaches and they can work with you to create one.
If for some reason you find yourself struggling in your course, there’s no shame in asking for help. Don’t let yourself fall behind because you don’t understand something. Reach out for answers. Remember, no one is going to care about your academic success more than you are. Own your learning and get the help you need.
Make sure you’re learning in a quiet environment without distractions. If you are settling in for a good study session, put a note on your door or let your family or roommates know so they don’t bother you. Use noise-canceling headphones (with or without music) if you need to dull sounds from outside your door. If you have trouble checking your phone every five minutes, use the Do Not Disturb function (available on Apple or Android) or just turn it off. You can check it when you take a break every hour. It’s easy to let online distractions eat up the time you’ve set aside for study.
Having your favorite YouTuber’s latest video on in the background is not helping you study. Research has shown over and over that human brains are not good at multitasking, and the time you lose switching between tasks can eat up to 40% of your study time. Stop trying to multitask while studying. If you’ve set aside an hour for schoolwork, the last thing you want is for 20 minutes of that time to go to some other task. Multitasking never works and you end up shorting yourself precious time.
The great thing about online learning is that you can take it with you. What could you learn in the 15 minutes you stand in line at the grocery store or riding shotgun during a take-out run? Use small windows of time throughout your day to fit in just a little more coursework. It’s much more fruitful than scrolling through your Instagram feed for the 100th time.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.” Creating a plan for your coursework and being intentional with your time can help you juggle the demands of college with all the other activities vying for your attention. With a little planning and a lot of determination, you can become a time management master.
Want to learn more about being successful in an online course? Check out these 12 tips for making the most of your online course.