Time management for distance learners is something all students learning from home need to consider. In this post, we aim to quell your fears and show you how, with a bit of careful thought and planning, time management for distance learners can be achieved and even allow you to reap the rewards in other ares of your life.
A big challenge facing mature students is how to fit studies into an already busy life. Learning to balance work, family, social and study commitments so that nothing gets neglected, while keeping stress levels low, is not easy.
Distance learning courses can actually help you improve your time management skills, so here are a few handy tips for doing so. If you’re apprehensive about the extra demands on your time that taking a course might involve, read on…
Improve your sense of time
How long is a minute?
Everyone knows the answer to that. But many people have an imprecise view of time, especially their own time. (Ask a friend or colleague to close their eyes for one minute – you’ll find few people will estimate the duration accurately!)
The first step towards better time management is to analyse how you use your time now. We are notoriously bad at estimating how much time we spend on particular tasks. So even if you THINK you know what you do with your time, it’s worth re-evaluating – you may be surprised!
Keep a log of how much time you spend on each activity, for a week. Be as specific as possible – break “work” down to individual tasks, for instance. Then consider: where is time being wasted? Am I spending my time on the right things – the things I want or need to be doing? Where are there opportunities for improvement?
Just being aware of how you spend your time will help you manage it better.
Take control of your time
Then make sure that there isn’t a discrepancy between how you spend your time and what’s really important to you. Knowing your priorities is essential for developing strategies to manage your time, especially when life is busy or stressful.
The following tips should help:
1. Set and review priorities
Set priorities in order to avoid wasting time on things that aren’t important. Is it your top priority to get your first job? Change your job? Improve your career prospects? Manage both your family and a paying job? Be sure to review your priorities regularly. What’s important today may be less important a year from now. This applies to work, school, and your personal life.
2. Set objectives
Objectives describe what you need to do to achieve your priorities. For instance, do you want to earn a certain result on your exam? To gain entrance to a university? To become fluent in a new language?
3. Set aside time for others
Include your relationships when you think about time management. You can’t address issues like time and stress management without taking account of the other aspects of your life. If your friends and family are a high priority, make sure you put time aside to maintain those relationships – they won’t maintain themselves!
4. Use physical aids
Find the time planning tool that’s best suited to your way of working and stick with it, whether it’s a daily ‘to do’ list, a paper diary, or a smartphone app.
5. Develop strategies for ‘time robbers’
Interruptions, paperwork, emails, crises – they can all place heavy demands on our time and are sometimes described as ‘time robbers’. Be aware of them, and work on finding effective ways to cope when they come up.
6. Plan ahead
If you don’t plan sufficiently ahead, you may end up only ever responding to events, rather than taking control of your time. Be proactive rather than reactive!
Develop your own approach to time management for distance learners
If you’ve made the leap back into education, learning to develop a systematic way of managing your time can benefit you enormously, even if it requires an initial investment of time. But remember this: each individual’s approach to time management is unique. This is reflected in:
the variety of priorities and objectives that people have;
the subjectivity of deciding what’s “important” and what’s not;
even in the way in which your performance varies throughout the day
(some people find it much easier than others to work efficiently in the morning, for instance, others late at night).
So ultimately, your time management for distance learners strategy has to be tailored to you – your goals, interests, and abilities.