Time Management: Five Essentials for Online Learners

Many of us struggle to master the art of time management. For online learners — who are often juggling many obligations and responsibilities between school, work, and family — good time management skills are crucial for academic success.

Here are five key essentials that can help you stay productive and organized as a busy online student. 

Study-friendly space. Ideally, you should have a dedicated space in your home or office where you can focus without distractions. If not, look for a spot at a local library or see if there are any co-working spaces in your area.

Calendar tools. It’s important to stay on top of deadlines and due dates. Even if you prefer old-fashioned paper planners and desk calendars, it’s smart to also use an online calendar system like the ones built into Office 365 or Canvas, so that you can take advantage of the electronic alerts and reminders. Tip: divide large projects or assignments up into smaller pieces, assigning your own deadlines for certain milestones. That helps you avoid procrastination that can lead to a last-minute scramble. 

Quick action. If you suspect time management will be a challenge for you — or you see yourself starting to fall behind or get overwhelmed — make changes in your routine right away. The sooner you take steps to become more organized, the easier it will be for you to get back on track.

Reasonable goals and a smart plan. Trying to squeeze too much into a 24-hour day is a surefire route to burnout and frustration. Don’t set yourself up to fail by attempting to do more than you can realistically accomplish. Consider your current obligations and think about how much time you can devote to classes and studying. Then create an organized plan and outline a schedule you will be able to follow. Think about your natural energy cycles — if you tend to be more productive in the morning, try to reserve blocks of time early in the day for the most challenging tasks. Also, be sure to include built-in breaks — your mind and body will need a chance to recharge.  

Support resources and cheerleaders. Penn State has many resources that can help you succeed. Tutoring services may be available, and you can also reach out to your adviser for advice or assistance. Enlist people around you to provide help or motivation when you need it. Remember, you have lots of people — including your Penn State family — rooting for you!

Get more quick tips on time management here.