Time Management for Online Students is Perhaps the Biggest Challenge

Hands down, if you ask any online student what the most challenging aspect of online learning is, they will responds that time management for online students is the biggest problem. I have been teaching online for a decade, and nearly every one of the thousands of students I have taught has made some comment about problems with time management. So, let’s look at this issue and go over five ways that time management for online students can move from problem to no problem.

Tip #1: Time is money.

For most people, the purpose of earning an online degree is to get a better job or move up the corporate ladder of your company. In many cases, earning your degree – particularly an advanced graduate degree – will result in earning extra money within one to five years. This means that your degree is worth money – the faster you earn it the faster your income could rise. So, your first tip is to remember that time is money. Once you embark on your degree, commit to earning it as quickly as you can so that you can start putting it to work for you. However, also be careful not to take on more than you can manage. I recommend taking a single course your first quarter of school. Then, once you have developed some time management skills and gotten used to what is required of you, jump in with two courses. Even consider three courses if you do not have children and get your degree online fast.

Tip #2: Find a place to do your work.

Part of time management for online students is about making efficient use of the time that you have. To do this you need to identify a quiet, comfortable place where you can do your work without interruption. This can be your home office, with the door locked and a “do not disturb” sign. It can be a coffee shop, if you are not easily distracted, can keep yourself away from spending too much at the counter, and have headphones or ear plugs to block out noise when it gets busy – the options are endless, but you need somewhere. Try a few places until you find one that works for you. Personally, I love to go to Barnes and Noble bookstores; many of them have a great study area in the back of the store that is relatively quiet, comfortable, has free Wi-Fi and has ample plugs for laptop computers. You can also walk around and look at books when you need a little break.

Tip #3: Set a schedule.

Once you have your place, you need to make the time. Set a specific schedule for doing your work and stick to it as closely as you can. Tell your family that this is your homework time and that you cannot be disturbed. Turn off your cell phone, if necessary. Make each block of study time at least 60 minutes long and no more than four hours. Try to set aside time at least three days a week, preferably four or five days. You will learn more working two hours a day for four days a week than you will working eight hours on a single day.

Tip #4: Create a “to do” list.

I have to say that in my own work and study life I have become amazed by the power of the “to do” list. Really. It frees you from worry and prevents you from wasting time by wondering what to do next. Keep a “to do” list that spans at least the entire week. As you put your tasks on it, assign each task an estimated amount of time. Also, schedule an hour each day for miscellaneous things such as checking email and answering phone calls. Ensure that you do not schedule more than you can realistically do in a day. Then, stick to it. Tell yourself that your day is simply not done until you complete your entire list. If you let things slide one day it will just give you more the next ; avoid this. Make a list that is doable, and then do it. You will be amazed at how much stress it can relieve.

Tip #5: Time management comes with, well, time.

One thing that I have learned about time management for online students is that it is simply something that needs to be worked out and learned for one’s self. Yes, the previous tips can be very helpful in making that transition into online education, finding ways to make time work for you. But in the end you need to use these tips on your own, decide which ideas work for you and which do not, merge them with your own ideas, and eventually create your own habits which help you successfully manage your online learning schedule. Through practice and diligence, you will find the recipe for online success that works best for you.

Do you have a time management tip that helps you do well in class?

Share your knowledge here.