Considering signing up, already enrolled, or just starting an online study course? Many find enrolling in an online course a scary proposition, as they are worried they won’t be able to motivate themselves to study independently and finish on time. How do people overcome this? The answer is time management!
Sure, people are becoming increasingly busy with family, work, study, and life in general, however by employing some of these simple tips discussed below you can turn yourself into a time management machine, and smash your courses out way before the dreaded deadline. Even if you consider yourself to be a chronic procrastinator and tend to leave everything until the last minute, the good news is that effective time management skills can be learnt by anyone. All it takes is a little knowledge (which this blog will give you) combined with a small amount of motivation and organisation.
Know What to Expect
Being somewhat familiar with the course outline, how much work is expected of you and when it is due, is the first step to being successful in studying any course, whether online or face-to-face. So make sure you at least have an idea of what you are getting yourself into.
Buy a calendar and visit it regularly
Having a calendar or diary is one of the best ways to stay on top of your study and manage your time. You can write down your schedule, deadlines, and plan study times so that you’ll never be surprised when it’s a Thursday night and your assignment is due at 8am on Friday morning. The best place for a calendar is on the wall right next to your desk or bed so you can see it at glance.
Have a designated Study Space
Having a quiet spot to study without distraction is essential to productivity and you’ll find yourself achieving much more in far less time. You don’t have to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on getting the perfect desk, chair, and set-up, it can be as simple as going to the library, your local coffee shop, or studying in a room at home where there are no distractions. Just remember to ensure that your study space is:
- Free of distractions (such as TV’s, video games, noisy people)
Also ensure that your study space can accommodate for all your study space items, such as:
- A study desk
- A study chair
- Writing utensils
- Good lighting
Essentially the key to a good study space is having one that is comfortable and puts you in a studious mood. There are many great suggestions for this, but ultimately it comes down to what works for you, and the best way to understand this is to experiment with different settings and set-ups until you find the one that you are most productive in.
Create a Study Plan
It’s all well and good to have a great study space, but it quickly loses its effectiveness if there is no direction or study plan in place. This is where the small amount of organisation mentioned above comes into play.
The best way to create a study plan is to get a diary or stick a calendar up on your wall and write your schedule in so you know when you are busy and when you have spare time. Once you have done this you can set aside and write in certain times during the week to do some study for your online course, even if it is only 30 minutes or one hour. Think of it like a school or university class that you have to attend each week. For example, you might schedule in a morning before work from 7-8am, meaning your study commitments are done for the day and you can go into work without that extra stress of study lying over your head.
Having a scheduled study time doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to just this time either. If you have a week where you are less busy you may choose to study a bit longer in order to get yourself ahead and be less stressed when it comes to assessment time or meeting deadlines. Creating a plan is all about establishing a routine.
Break it down
Create small milestones that will help you complete your course on time. You may break down your overall course by micro-managing your time and creating your own milestones with self imposed mini-deadlines to keep you on track, instead of leaving it all until the end. For example, you could be undertaking a six-module course, which you have 6-months to complete. You could give yourself a deadline of completing one module per month. Once you have established these mini deadlines you should write these dates into your calendar so they are visual and you can work efficiently towards them.
If you have created a study plan or intermittent deadlines for certain modules or assessment items a great way to ensure you follow through with them is to reward yourself when you complete them (but don’t reward yourself if you haven’t). For example, you could say that if you finish a certain task by Friday then you will treat yourself by going out with your friends on Saturday. Another way you could treat yourself is by watching your favourite TV show, or going to your favourite dessert bar. Incentives, whether big or small are a great way of motivating yourself to complete all your work, on your own, in a given time period. This is especially important with online courses, where you are left to work at your own pace.
Ask for help
There are two different sides to this. The first concerns coursework and the second is specific to time management:
- It is common for people when they are unsure on a certain task to leave it and forget about it, often until it is too late. This consequently leads to more stress, poorer results, and not completing all coursework in the given time. How do you avoid this? Ask for help from friends, colleagues, or your online tutor. They are always there to help and would prefer you to contact them with questions when there is ample time to help you, rather than last minute or after the deadline has passed.
- On the flipside if you are struggling with finding the time to study you may need to ask for support from family and friends to help with housework, taking care of the kids, or cooking dinner one night just so you have enough time to fit some extra study in. Don’t use it as an excuse not to tend to your normal duties, however if you have a super busy schedule or get sick one week then those close to you will understand this so don’t be afraid to ask for some assistance.
Do the course with a friend
Online learning can seem like a very lonely experience at times. By seeing if a friend or colleague will take the course with you will not only help motivate the both of you, but it may even lighten the workload if you can divide the labour by working through a module each and then sharing what you have learnt with each other. Discussing content with others also helps you to learn and understand concepts better.
There are many ways to help you become more efficient and manage you time better when undertaking an online course. Remember not everything works for everybody and it’s about finding out what works best for you to achieve results and finish the course on time. Online study gives you flexibility so use your time effectively!
Author: Jye Spriggs