Learning online is a great option for those of us who may have multiple responsibilities, such as full-time work, family responsibilities, and community obligations. Because of our busy lives, we must be very diligent about managing our time! Here are five strategies for time management. Some of these approaches are the opposite of each other, and that's the point: one of them may work for you!
Adopt a dynamic task list
There are plenty of ways to create a To Do List that tracks your progress. Whether you use a Notes app on your computer or a Task List app on your Smartphone or just a list on a piece of paper, Task Lists that update and change with the needs of your life are essential to ensuring you make steady progress. Update your Task List throughout the day, and even schedule "To Do List" time into your daily calendar!
Preview your work
This approach sets aside specific time at the beginning of each day and at the beginning of each week to plan your tasks and schedule ideal completion deadlines. The approach can be ideal for your morning coffee as you take 5-10 minutes to sketch out your responsibilities for the day. It also allows you to fit your learning plan into your life: half an hour here, an hour there, instead of trying to wait for a free block of hours that is likely never going to appear!
Similarly, set aside time Sunday night to sketch out your week, and some time to set up each project along your path. Doing so will ensure that you make steady progress towards your goal!
Focus on high-impact tasks
When facing a long list of tasks, it can feel pretty overwhelming. One time management strategy is to begin with the things that are most essential to your success. For instance, I may want to clean my house before guests come, but I will start by cleaning the kitchen and living room area first since that's where they will be. Then maybe I clean the bathroom and, if there is time, the areas they are unlikely to see, such as my bedroom.
The same applies for your work. What task absolutely must be done today? Do that one first, then the second most important, etc. That way if you run out of time, at least the most important things are completed!
Build Momentum by doing a few small things first
Alternatively, sometimes staring at your long to do list can feel paralyzing. This often leads us to procrastinate and ultimately to lose our motivation and focus. Build momentum by identifying those small things that you can do quickly and easily. By crossing small things off your list, you will feel a sense of progress and accomplishment that will feed into your focus. Soon you will realize that half your to do list is completed, and you will feel accomplished enough to tackle that big project that has been intimidating you!
Similarly, consider replacing any big project on your to do list with small, bite-size pieces. Break down large projects into their smaller parts so that you can work on them little by little. Soon you will realize that the project is 80% done and it's all because you took the longer journey one step at a time!
Use a Calendar
It is an easy trap to think "I can do this tomorrow" or "I'll finish this after work" and suddenly realize two weeks have gone by. Avoid this trap by scheduling time into your day that is dedicated to your learning! This time may be after lunch or before dinner. You might put aside 30 minutes in the evening. However it fits into your life, be sure to schedule it there. This will ensure that it pops up like a regular reminder: time to take a course, time to prepare for my mentor meeting, time to submit my project for assessment.