Posted April 07, 2015 by

Put Time Back on Your Side: Time Management Tips for Online Students

Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge

When taking online classes, there’s no one around to tell you what to do — but there’s no one to hear you scream, either. Time management is more essential for the online student, because typically you’re taking classes around distractions like work and family life. Of course, you have the full intention of prioritizing school, but who can concentrate on Econ homework when the baby is crying? This is exactly why so many distance learners have a rough time keeping up.

With that in mind, here are seven tips to help you keep your eyes on the prize.

1. Surround yourself with reminders.

As an online student, you only have yourself to rely on when it comes to reminders. As soon as you receive the syllabus, set up reminders. Don’t put updates to your schedule off for a single second. There will be no teacher writing on the chalkboard to tell you when an exam is around the corner. So, get your own board — ideally a corkboard or dry-erase board where you can easily post notes or make adjustments on the fly. Set up alarms on your computer, too. Treat consistent upkeep of that calendar like a life or death situation. As soon as you think of it, do it. Don’t even wait until the end of this senten…

2. Respect the schedule.

Online education is more flexible, but takes more discipline on your part than traditional on-campus schooling. Establish ironclad study times on a weekly basis and don’t let them slip away. If you mean to begin working regularly at 10 a.m., don’t let it slide to 10:15 — pretty soon that will be 10:25… and that can creep and creep until you’ve lost your mojo.

3. Don’t disconnect.

Stay connected with your online classes throughout the week. There can be a temptation to zone out for a few days if there doesn’t seem to be anything due or you think you are up to date, but make an effort to check in at least once a day to see if there are any updates to your classwork. It’s not only good practice, but it keeps you engaged with the idea of being a student.

4. Check your mental state.

If you’re a chronic procrastinator, it may be the sign of a psychological issue. I know this is a bit of a catch 22, but if you find yourself consistently falling horribly behind in your work, it might be time to check with a professional to see if it may have something to do with an emotional issue that needs addressing.

5. Be the teacher’s pet.

Just because you can’t actually shake hands doesn’t mean your professor isn’t prepared to help you at any moment. Contact your teachers with questions or concerns whenever you can. Their job is to help you and they take it very seriously — don’t worry that you may be bothering them or that they don’t know what you look like.

6. Get wired.

If you look around, there are a number of apps designed to help you manage your time more effectively. These vary from programs that limit your social media exposure to those that help you divide your time into convenient chunks. Even if you usually wouldn’t do that kind of thing, make it a priority to check these out and utilize them.

7. Eliminate your worst distractions.

Sticking to your study time is more difficult when working online because of all the potential distractions. Studies show that when those pesky email or push notifications come up, they can steal valuable minutes and, more importantly, cause you to lose your focus. Turn off your phone and notifications, so you are not distracted. Whatever it is — it can wait.

Because you are on your own, you need to be extra vigilant when it comes to how you focus, study, and think about your time. Making an extra effort at the beginning will pay huge dividends when you are able to more easily face your online school requirements. Focus, breathe, and achieve!

By Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Petersons & EssayEdge

About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.

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