Time Management for online students

Time Management for online students

Time Management struggles

Time management is something many people struggle with when it comes to school, jobs, family, and life in general.

Developing skills in how to manage time effectively can help a person be more efficient and successful in what they are trying to accomplish. Take education for example.

When an adult student begins taking classes, whether it is at a regular college or an online elearning course, he or she must learn ways to manage the course’s schedule effectively to be the most successful. This, by itself, may seem a minor issue when compared to the complexity of the study matter.

However, as most teachers know, time management is one of the most important issues a student can face. Even talented students may find themselves lagging behind schedule, with an ever increasing amount of assignments and activities to be completed.

Soon, past due work will start piling, and depending on the school’s policies may even not be accepted anymore or require prior approval of the instructor.

How to avoid lagging behind schedule

By practicing scheduling skills, students will be able to not only manage their studies effectively, but also manage any other activities they are involved in. This applies to online courses as well as traditional classroom based instruction, but is especially important for online learners that engage in creative arts.

A film-making assignment, or a visual effects shot, are bound to rely much more on previously completed assignments than any kind of fact-based training where knowledge has to be retained instead of being applied to an open project.

Listed below are some useful tips and strategies that will enable students to stay on top of their activities, and practice effective management of time and study habits.

The first thing any student needs to do is evaluate how they will spend their time, and use that to determine their overall schedule. In order to set an effective schedule, keep the following things in mind:

What out of a person’s schedule takes top priority? (Going to class, studying, family, hobbies, etc.)

  • Make a list of activities and prioritize them.
    Trying to apply a fine grading is not likely to be effective. Roughly, any activity can be assigned a priority ranging from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Restricting the amount of choices works best in this context because it forces to draw a clear line between activities. For some students, an 1 to 3 scale may work even better.
  • Determine how much time to dedicate to each activity.
    Time should not be estimated according to the task itself: for example, an hour of live lesson should account for the time necessary to drive to the classroom. Needless to say, this is another significant benefit in online learning. As a general rule, always round up any estimate: things can (and will) go wrong, often when it would have been most useful they didn’t. That’s life.
  • Finally, rearrange the list sorting it by priority.
    Now each task will have a priority and a rough estimate of the time it will take. Of course higher priority items in the list should be tackled first, but sometimes it may be necessary to switch an higher priority item with a lower priority one, because doing so will optimize the time spent (i.e. three task can be completed in one day). If some task exceeds the estimated time, it may be necessary to re-evaluate the schedule: actual time spent on a task should always be relative to where it ranks on the priority list.

Don’t forget about Life

One thing many students do not realize when they create their class and study schedule is that they don’t usually account for enough studying time into their week. For many students attending class, studying, and completing assignments is always the top priority.

However, a lot of adult students taking online or regular classes in addition to juggling other life activities, don’t usually budget the right amount of time to their studies. The average amount of time for study should equate to 2 hours for each hour of class time. So, when creating a schedule, one must make sure that they budget enough time for effective study time.

Be effective with time: it’s not a commodity

Every student should realize how critical is to use their time wisely. Being “penny wise and pound fool” is never a sound strategy, but when it comes to time is much more dangerous than when applied to money.

It’s often said that 10% of the work requires 90% of the time, and this applies to any kind of activity. It’s of course a generalization, but one accurate enough to be recognized as true by most people. Students determined to meet their goals in an online or other college course, must understand how to use the time that they do have most effectively. This in turn, will help avoid things like procrastination or becoming overwhelmed.

Below are some useful tips in using study time effectively:

  • Stay motivated
    Students should attempt to create an environment must conducive to learning: comfortable, productive and distraction free (see below for some specific tips). Even if students loose focus, they should continue to remind themselves why they are there, and how this activity will benefit them long term.
  • Don’t Get Overwhelmed
    Sometimes life and other obligations can create stress for adult students. Try to set limits on interruptions and rescheduling things to meet other’s needs. It is important that a person dedicates as much time as they can to their studies, and that they attempt to omit or reschedule other stressful or time consuming commitments.
  • Break Down Tasks
    Looking at an assignment or task as a whole can be daunting. Try to break tasks down into chunks, and dedicate a specific time to complete each chunk. If one tries to do the task all at once, it can become overwhelming. It may even be useful to create a sub-section of the original schedule entirely devoted to a specific task. However, don’t get obsessed by planning, as this may lead to the well known “paralysis by analysis”.
  • Stay on Top of Assignments
    Never procrastinate and always stay on schedule. If a student does not stay up to date with the course material, or underestimate the time necessary to complete a task, falling behind is the most likely outcome.
  • Take Breaks
    Avoid overload and never ever think about over exhausting your energy because “everything is so urgent”. Schedule breaks to get food, coffee, or take a walk. Clearing the mind every once in a while is the best way to study, because it avoids the worst enemy a student can face: creative burnout.

Find the right place to study

The last thing a person should try to do is determine the best study environment for their needs. Examples include:

  • Is there a time of day that works best for long hours of studying?
  • Does the student prefer to work alone or in study groups?
  • Do they prefer to work in quiet environments, or prefer music?

These types of things can help a person decide where to study, when to study, and how they should study for maximum results.

By engrossing themselves in scheduling skills, online students will only prioritize their time better, but get the most effective results from their hard work. These tips and strategies will work for anyone, young or old, trying to develop their time management skill set.


  1. i really think this will help me manage my time better in the future

  2. Great read with very helpful tips.

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