You’ve heard the phrase “Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.” While technically true, it isn’t helpful when you’re struggling to get everything done. Managing time effectively takes a lot of planning and determining what works for your situation.
Students taking classes online are often juggling other priorities as well, like working full-time jobs, raising children, and trying to maintain a social life. While it may seem impossible, plenty of online students have found ways to capitalize on their time in order to succeed in school and life. It just takes some planning and determination.
5 tips for managing your time as an online student
If you’re looking for ways to successfully juggle all your responsibilities while taking classes online, consider implementing these time management tips for students.
1. Commit to using your calendar
If you don’t already use an online calendar, start doing so today. Having a command center to see all your meetings, class schedules, assignment deadlines, and personal obligations can be a game changer. A big part of managing your time effectively is simply knowing what needs to be done so you’re able to prioritize.
There are a lot of easy yet effective tricks to getting the most out of your calendar. Consider starting out with these:
Block time: Do you tend to procrastinate starting big projects? You’re certainly not alone. Set yourself up for success by reserving one- or two-hour blocks for study or work time. You’re more likely to hold yourself accountable if it’s already on your calendar.
Color code: There are many ways to use color coding to help you comprehend your calendar at a glance. For example, try choosing a shade for personal commitments (medical appointments, lunch with a friend, etc.), another for school (essay due dates, upcoming tests), and one for work obligations.
Set reminders: Setting reminders for repetitive tasks or one-off obligations can help you free up mental space and build good habits. For example, you can set up a recurring reminder at the same time every day to stretch, take medications, drink water, call your mom, or anything else. It’s also useful for ad hoc assignments or events.
Integrate: If you use other productivity tools or platforms (Slack, Teams, HubSpot, etc.), be sure to integrate your calendar(s) into the apps so you don’t miss anything.
2. Minimize multitasking
With so much of our lives taking place online and on devices, multitasking seems as natural as breathing. It may seem like you are saving time and being productive, but research shows the opposite is actually true. Most people vastly overestimate how good they are at multitasking; instead, they’re just switching between different tasks and taking longer to complete anything at all.
When you’re faced with complex tasks – like writing an essay or a lengthy discussion post – being interrupted by email alerts, text messages, and social media notifications can impair your focus. Consider the following tips to avoid this:
Reduce distractions: When you’re already on the computer, it’s easy to become sidetracked by social media, the news, shopping, or anything BUT the task at hand. If you’re struggling, consider eliminating the temptation altogether. There are phone and computer apps designed to block access to your favorite time-sucking sites. Also consider turning your phone on vibrate to avoid further distraction.
Set a timer: Pick one project or task, and set a timer for at least 25 minutes. Do your best to work only on what is in front of you until the buzzer sounds. Reward yourself with a quick break, and repeat. Many people find that this method helps them get more done in less time.
Find a focus playlist: If you’re someone who enjoys listening to music while working, try to notice what songs, artists, or genres help you concentrate. There are thousands of premade playlists all over the internet, or you could make your own.
3. Create a comfortable study space
It’s a rare luxury to have a home office all to yourself. But with a little trial and adjustment, you can still create a designated place for studying. It’s especially important if you spend time on video calls because you need a stable internet connection, adequate lighting, and minimal background noise. Try testing out different spots in your home, then choose the one that’s most comfortable, and tailor it to your liking.
An improper work setup can lead to chronic aches and pains, especially you’re pulling long hours sitting at the computer. While you certainly don’t have to spend money to make a comfortable study area, you might benefit from investing in things like:
Blue light-blocking glasses to combat glare from screens
External keyboard and computer monitor to reduce hand and eye strain
Adjustable sit/stand desk to spend less time sitting
Noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions during deep work
4. Take advantage of your school’s student resources
Many schools provide a variety of academic support programs and/or advisors to help connect students with helpful resources. Bellarmine University’s Student Success Center, for example, offers free peer tutoring for 100- and 200-level courses across many disciplines, plus individual and small-group sessions on writing and test taking.
Just because you’re taking classes online doesn’t mean you don’t have access to the support your school offers. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the available offerings so you’re aware of the resources you have access to should you encounter some difficulty.
5. Strive for balance
With so many competing priorities, carving out a space for yourself can seem difficult. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture when your to-do list seems never-ending. Even getting enough sleep – something fundamental to your mental health and physical well-being – can seem impossible at times.
If you feel guilty for sometimes choosing a nap over homework, remember that you’re in an endurance race, not a sprint. Prevent burnout by taking time for rest, relaxation, hobbies, or whatever self-care looks like for you. Put it on your calendar if you have to!
Here are some tips for prioritizing personal wellbeing:
Set realistic goals, and reward yourself for achieving them: Breaking up large projects into smaller, actionable tasks helps keep you motivated. Work backwards from your deadline, and plan out working sessions in the days/weeks leading up to the due date.
Learn the art of saying “no”: Achieving balance requires transparency about new boundaries and demands on your time. It can be awkward to turn down friends and family, but clear and honest communication can help mitigate any hard feelings. It’s better to do a handful of things well than an armful of things poorly.
Make time to be offline: When is the last time you disconnected entirely from the internet? If you can’t remember, you’re definitely due to unplug. Even if it’s just for an hour or two, it’s important to get some time away from your screens.
Find success taking online classes
Now that you’re armed with these time management tips for students, your next semester of online classes should be smooth sailing. At Bellarmine University, even online students feel a part of the close-knit community. This is one of the many reasons students feel at home.