Virtual school offers many advantages for students, chief among them being the opportunities to craft your own school schedule, work independently, and go to school from any location. In order to succeed in an online environment and derive the most benefit from these advantages, students must be strong self managers. Since one of the keys to successful self management is the ability to manage time, let’s take a look at tips for time management that help online students stay on track:
Tips for Time Management for Online Students:
Tip One: Always have a plan - and don’t forget to plan ahead.
Planning is your best friend when it comes to time management, which is why students who do well in online school tend to be students who know how to plan and stick to a realistic schedule. Here’s an example of what that planning process might look like:
Start with a baseline schedule: Students should work with parents to map out daily/weekly/monthly schedules that best suit the student’s needs and schedule outside of school. You can adjust as things come up, but it’s always good to have a baseline schedule as a starting point for success. Be sure to include time for everything: Live lessons, assignments, meet-ups, tutorials, independent reading, testing and test prep, extra-curricular activities, work, college visits and college test prep, time with family and friends—and of course free time and rest.
Expect the unexpected: Life has a way of throwing obstacles in our path when they’re especially inconvenient. Building “wiggle room” into your schedule—in other words, allowing more time than you think you’ll need—will help you avoid disaster when something unexpected happens, like getting sick, dealing with technology breakdowns, or assignments that take longer than expected.
Learn to anticipate: Let’s say that you have a soccer tournament, a church youth retreat, multiple assignment deadlines and a visit from your grandma all scheduled for the same week. Rather than waiting until the last minute to manage things, you should ask yourself if there is anything you can do ahead of time to make your life easier that week. For example, you might carve out time to complete your assignments early or put in a request to take time off work, or you might set up calendar reminders in advance that will help you keep everything on track when your extra-busy week rolls around. The more you build these anticipation time management skills, the better you’ll be able to avoid the overwhelm that can happen when your schedule becomes more challenging than normal.
Tip Two: Start with what’s most important.
Rather than beginning each day with the school work that comes the easiest to you or that you most enjoy, ask yourself instead what’s most important or most difficult, and then begin with those assignments or subjects. Getting the hard stuff out of the way early will keep your stress level to a minimum, plus you’ll reduce the risk of running out of time or energy before you tackle your toughest tasks.
Tip Three: Aim to beat deadlines, not just meet them.
While it’s true that meeting your deadlines is what counts in the end, you’ll find that your life is much less stressful when you develop the habit of starting right away and finishing before the due date. Working ahead of schedule can also come in handy when something unexpected interferes with your plans, as discussed in tip number two above.
Tip Four: Don’t bank on marathon work sessions.
Planning for extra-long “catch-up” days can seem like the perfect solution when you fall behind or your schedule becomes extra crowded. However, this tactic will backfire in a hurry if something unexpected pops up to prevent you from working as long as you'd planned. Rather than putting all of your eggs in one scheduling basket with marathon work sessions, consider instead if there is anything optional that can come off your to-do list, or if you can work on some of your assignments during open time slots you don’t normally reserve for schooling.
Tip Five: Be realistic.
Does it sometimes take an hour to get home from skating practice if there’s a lot of traffic? Do you work a little slower in Spanish than you do in your other subjects? Have you noticed that you start losing focus if you work longer than four or five hours at at time? No matter how much we might wish that certain activities didn’t take as long, or that we could work forever with unflagging energy, it’s better to face reality when you’re planning your time.
Tip Six: Work on one thing at a time.
Do you hop from task to task when you’re working? Despite what you may have been led to believe, multi-tasking does NOT help you do more and do it faster. In fact, numerous research studies suggest that it’s just the opposite, which is why it’s best to give your total focus to whatever you’re working on before putting it away and moving on to the next item.
Tip Seven: Schedule breaks and rewards.
We also do better work when we stop working once in a while to recharge our internal batteries and give our eyeballs a screen break. Take a break every hour or two and eat a nutritious lunch, listen to music, or enjoy a 10-minute stroll outside on a nice day. In similar fashion, planning an end-of-day reward, like an outing with a friend or an hour of your favorite Netflix show, can provide the motivation you need to power through a challenging or labor-intensive day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Kaye Rogers received her Ph.D. in Educational Administration with a minor in Statistics from the University of North Texas. She earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Tarleton State University. A life-long Texan, she has taught math and science in public schools and also in Spain. She has worked in public education for over 18 years, where she is committed to innovation and choice for families. She has opened three choice schools and is currently the Director of Virtual Learning at Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, where she oversees their state-wide virtual school and blended schools program.
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