time management strategies for online school

6 Ways to Manage Your Time in Online School

Updated By Staff Writer on January 29, 2021

One of the greatest benefits of online learning with Independence University is flexibility. You have the freedom to organize your schedule, you don’t have to worry about making it to campus on time, and you can study wherever and whenever you please. However, all this freedom can backfire if you don’t properly manage your time.

Work and family obligations get in the way, and the freedom to study whenever you want can slowly turn into never studying. That’s why time management is a critical skill for online learning success. Here are five time management strategies for online students so you can better focus on your schooling.

#1: Study the Syllabus

Your professors will give you a course syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Read it! Syllabuses are your greatest tool for online learning success. They will keep you informed about important due dates and exams. It may also have helpful notes from your teacher on what to study.

Have easy access to a copy. This could be a PDF you’ve downloaded onto your phone or computer. Or you can print it and have a physical copy in a folder so you can jot down additional notes.

Also, check the syllabus weekly. It’s easy to skim past an assignment due date. Checking your syllabus regularly will help you stay on top of your course work and make it much harder to fall behind.

#2: Make a Study Schedule

After you have a clear understanding of your syllabus, it’s time to put those dates into a planner or digital calendar. If you go the digital route, schedule alerts to remind you of important deadlines. Make sure to give yourself at least a week’s notice for more critical deadlines, such as exams or when large projects are due.

Making a schedule goes beyond putting dates into a calendar. You need to plan out your time and decide when you should have your tasks and assignments finished.

Be honest with yourself. Everyone has different study habits and time commitments outside of school, so there’s no right answer to when you should begin studying for a test or working on assignments.

If you’re not sure what your study habits look like, don’t worry about it! With online classes, you have the flexibility to figure out a timeline that works best for you. At first, consider planning more time than you think it will take you to complete a task. Then, if it takes you less time, you can adjust your schedule. Take your best guess on how long a task will take you to complete. If it ends up taking longer, adjust your schedule to accommodate that. With online classes, you have the flexibility to figure out a timeline that works best for you.

#3: Find a Way to Work Effectively

There are a few different ways you can tackle your tasks and while they all can prove to be effective you may find that some compliment your habits better than others. Here are a few methods that you may want to try:

Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” But what does that have to do with your daily tasks and class assignments? Eating the frog represents completing the hardest and most dreadful task you have on your to-do list. If you do that first, you have the rest of your day to complete the tasks you’re more excited about, which can make your day a lot brighter.

Rock, Pebbles, and Sand

Another way to look at managing your tasks is by comparing them to rock, pebbles, and sand in a glass jar. Rocks represents your large, high-priority tasks, pebbles are the important tasks without a high priority, and the sand represents smaller and relatively insignificant tasks. The glass jar is how much time you have in the day.

If you prioritize the smaller “sand” tasks, you can quickly fill up the jar but leave no space for your critical projects. So you should start with the high-priority tasks, then any other major projects, and then fill the leftover time with smaller tasks. Following this method may help you accomplish more in the same amount of time.

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule dictates that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your actions. This idea can help you identify your time usage, highlighting those 20 percent tasks that will bring you better results.

Pomodoro Technique

It’s important to take regular breaks during your study and work sessions. The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break up your working time into short, succinct productivity sessions. The traditional method has the following steps:

  1. Decide on the task.
  2. Set the timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task.
  4. When the timer rings, take a 3-5 minute break.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4.
  6. After four 25 minute sessions, take a longer 15-30 minute break.

#4: Get Ahead When You Can

There’s nothing wrong with taking a breather now and then. But if you’re always finishing your assignments faster than anticipated, that’s a perfect opportunity to get ahead!

Use any extra time during your study blocks to look at future assignments. Which ones look like they’ll take more time to complete? Are there any instructions that are confusing to you? Jot down some notes and contact your instructor. They are bound to appreciate your extra preparation and will be happy to answer clarifying questions. You could even get some tips from your instructors.

Getting ahead can help you later on when unexpected life events interfere with your schedule. Life is full of surprises, and getting ahead can help reduce stress.

#5: Find Effective Ways to Multitask

Multitasking does not mean you should read your textbook while watching TV or listen to a lecture while attending a work meeting. These examples lead to cognitive overload—your brain is trying to take in too much information simultaneously and won’t retain anything.

Instead, you can multitask by fitting in your studies with your everyday activities. Try listening to a lecture on your way to work or when doing household chores.

Experiment with different ways to multitask. What works for your classmates may not work for you, so keep trying new methods until you find something that feels right. You may find that multitasking isn’t effective for you at all, and you need to spend dedicated time working on school.

#6: Communicate with Your Friends and Family

When it’s crunch time, you probably won’t be able to go out as much. Communicate this with your friends and family. Chances are they’ll completely understand, and will want to encourage you in your academic journey. If not, stand up for yourself and your study schedule.

Don’t feel bad if you have to cancel your plans in order to study. It means you’re prioritizing your education, and your friends should understand that. Offer suggestions on activities that aren’t as time-consuming or can be done during study breaks.

You might consider sharing your study schedule with your friends and family, highlighting the dates when you’ll be the busiest. That way, they’ll know ahead of time when you will be available and when they should reach out.

Find a Path to Success with Independence University

Developing these time management skills for online students could help you find outstanding success in your experience at Independence University. And that’s not all— you are supported at every step of your program. At IU, you’re earning your degree online, but never alone. We have a wealth of resources designed for students of every kind.

Check out our Online College Student's Survival Guide to understand what steps you can take now to succeed at Independence University.