How to Manage Time as an Online Student

Kierstin Pitcher-Holloway, Southern Utah University / Southern Utah University »

Transitioning to a completely remote or online education can be difficult. Students no longer have to worry about campus parking or being on time to class, but these problems have been replaced with a whole new set of concerns.

With all these online courses deadlines seem to come out of nowhere and classes can become a jumbled mess of assignments and online discussions. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With a little time management, working and studying from home can be a breeze. Here are some useful tips to finish the semester strong:

Be Organized

  • Have planning sessions. Have a planning session on Saturday or Sunday where you set goals and map out your week. This can help know what to prioritize and keep yourself accountable.
  • Keep everything in one physical place. Sometimes electronic reminders can get lost in the myriad of notifications on your device. So, whether it’s a calendar, planner, or a list on the fridge, having all your reminders in one physical place helps to keep things simple.
  • Have designated spaces for specific activities. The human brain associates tasks with places. For example, doing homework in bed can disrupt sleep patterns. Having designated spaces for different tasks will increase productivity.

Utilize Schedules

  • Follow the 50 minute rule. The average task-oriented attention span for a fully developed adult brain is about 45 to 50 minutes. This means gluing yourself to a laptop until finishing a big project is actually more harmful than helpful. For maximum focus and energy, schedule 10 minute breaks for every 50 minutes of work.
  • Create a realistic work/study-at-home schedule. Don’t try to fit too much in, or the schedule will become overwhelming and you will find yourself spending your time procrastinating or stressing when you could be working.
  • Break it down. When creating a study schedule it can help to break down large assignments and projects into bite-sized pieces, completing the biggest or most important assignments first.

Eliminate Distractions

  • Place your cell phone across the room from you. This way you can hear important timers or phone calls but won’t be distracted by social media or other notifications. Wait for a break to check those.
  • Have a water bottle nearby. Staying hydrated will help keep you alert and attentive.
  • Set boundaries for those you’re living with. Whether it’s with a spouse, roommate, or younger sibling, it can be distracting to share a living space. If you can set and communicate clear boundaries, then hopefully they will wait to show you a funny cat video they just found.
  • Keep your spaces clean. Messy spaces not only hinder productivity but can be distracting and create unnecessary stress.
  • Know when to multitask and when not to. Running a batch of laundry through the dryer while you complete an assignment might not be that distracting. However, trying to memorize vocab terms for a final while watching TV isn’t going to be as productive. Before you know it you will have binged watched an entire season and only memorized two words. It’s different for everyone, so before you decide to multitask make sure it would help you utilize time, not waste it.
  • Avoid procrastination like the plague. Procrastination is often the result of feeling overwhelmed. To avoid this set mini-deadlines and reward yourself for meeting them.

Establish Productive Routine Habits

  • Keep a regular sleeping routine. Nothing is worse than trying to stay awake while doing homework. A regular sleeping routine will give you more energy throughout the day.
  • Regularly choose healthy food choices. Sugar will cause you to crash. Meal prepping healthy snacks to have in between school or work projects can help save time and money.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise not only helps with overall health and energy levels, but it also increases blood flow to the brain, improving your ability to perform in class.
  • Stretching. Daily stretching can be so important when working or going to school online. Because online students/employees spend most of their time sitting and bent over a laptop, their posture starts to suffer. This can cause a lot of issues, from back pain to tension headaches—all problems that decrease productivity.
  • Get Dressed. Comfy clothes are great as long as they’re not the pajamas you wore to bed last night. It might seem redundant to change from one oversized t-shirt to another, but the act of getting dressed will tell your brain it’s time to get to work.

These uncertain times can be stressful and overwhelming, but a few small changes can make a big impact on the way you feel and how productive you can be. There are plenty of fantastic tips for managing your time, so find a few that work for you.

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