Time Management for Online Students: Tips and Resources

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A student working at home practices time management by checking their watch while taking notes.
March 22, 2022

Almost half of full-time college undergraduates work, according to a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Many of them, especially those enrolled in online programs, juggle family responsibilities as well. It’s a challenge. However, college students can develop productive strategies to balance school, work and family obligations.  

Time management for online students entails building schedules, avoiding distractions and setting the stage to become an effective learner, whatever the circumstances.

Why Is Time Management for Online Students Important?

The benefits of time management for online students are many, including:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Reduced stress
  • Targeted goal setting
  • Better prioritizing

These benefits can result in:

  • Increased life satisfaction
  • Boosted academic performance

Time Management Tips for Online Students

To begin reaping the benefits of time management for online students, consider applying the following key tips:

Create a Schedule

When people create a personal schedule with their priorities in mind, they turn isolated behaviors into intentional habits. Writing out a schedule can have a powerful effect on creating order and productivity in one’s life. 

Online students can mark out the inflexible hours on their schedules, such as times when they go to work. Then they can plan out their weekly assignments, paying close attention to:

  • Due dates for assignments
  • Class-related activities, such as virtual study sessions
  • Professors’ office hours 

For assignments that involve several tasks, students should determine the various steps required and allot time for each.

Set Goals

Online students can increase their focus and productivity by setting reachable goals for each study session. Goals give students a clear purpose, making it easier to measure their progress and stay engaged. Goals may focus on reading or writing a certain number of pages, getting a particular score on a practice quiz or gaining understanding of a specific concept. 

Students should align their goals with the objectives in the course syllabus.

Start Early

Online students should try to get started on their coursework early, keeping in mind one can’t always predict how long it will take to complete an assignment. This is especially true for larger projects, such as class presentations and research papers. 

A helpful tip is to first separate out an assignment’s tasks and subtasks. Then space those tasks out on a timeline, each with its own start date and due date.

Remove Distractions

To work effectively, students should avoid distractions during study sessions. Good ways to maintain focus include:

  • Turning off device notifications
  • Avoiding multitasking
  • Putting away one’s phone
  • Asking family members not to interrupt
  • Using apps to block attention-drawing websites
  • Maintaining a dedicated study space    

Online students can help themselves avoid distractions such as email and social media by scheduling specific times during the day to check email and limiting that time. They can also limit social media use to planned leisure time.   

Take Breaks

Planned study breaks can help online students recover focus and energy. These built-in rest periods can also boost memory and increase a person’s ability to learn new skills. Recent research in Cell Reports found that the brain needs such breaks to improve skills.

Planned study breaks might include:

  • Meditating
  • Taking a walk
  • Taking a shower
  • Practicing deep breathing 
  • Doing a yoga session
  • Listening to music
  • Enjoying a healthy snack 

It’s worth noting that scrolling through social media is not helpful during a planned study break. The Journal of Behavioral Addictions reports that checking social media in between tasks can actually result in less mental acuity.   

Time Management Apps for Online Students

Technological tools can be useful when it comes to time management for online students. A wide variety of resources exist that assist individuals with everything from setting up goals to delegating tasks to keeping track of deadlines. Helpful time management apps include: 

Todoist

Todoist allows students to create tasks and subtasks and add them to their calendars. The app delivers reminders and allows users to highlight priority tasks. Online students can also use Todoist’s task delegation feature to manage home responsibilities they share with family members or class projects they’re collaborating on. 

Toggl Track

Online students wanting to track how they use their time can take advantage of Toggl Track’s time tracking software. The app also offers a calendar feature that allows users to plan out their days, weeks and months. 

Flipd

Flipd allows users to track their time and visualize their progress toward school goals. The app motivates users with milestone badges given for completed tasks. The app also provides public study rooms and clubs designed to encourage productivity and create a sense of community. 

Calendar

Calendar offers analytics features that help users identify how, where and with whom they’re spending their time. This can help online students structure their time according to their priorities. Calendar users can integrate their personal, work and school calendars to keep up with responsibilities across all areas of their life.

Google Calendar

Online students can mark important deadlines, class times, office hours and more on Google calendar. App users can easily toggle between daily, weekly and monthly views. A search option helps students quickly look up assignment due dates or teacher conference appointments. The app also automatically populates users’ calendars with events mentioned in their Gmail accounts.

Prepare Yourself to Succeed as an Online Student

Effective time management for online students can play a critical role in ensuring they get the most out of their studies while also successfully balancing other life responsibilities. As you prepare for your online degree program, consider how to set yourself up for success by managing your time wisely. 

Discover more about Peru State College’s online degree programs and how we support you during your educational journey.

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Sources:

Cell Reports, “Consolidation of Human Skill Linked to Waking Hippocampo-Neocortical Replay”

College Life Today, “Why Is Time Management Important in College (and How to Learn Those Skills)”

Forbes, “Deepen Your Focus: Five Time Management Skills That Work”

GradePower Learning, 10 Ways to Improve Time Management for Students

Journal of Behavioral Addictions, “Reach for Your Cell Phone at Your Own Risk: The Cognitive Costs of Media Choice for Breaks”

Lifehack, “10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills”

National Center for Education Statistics, “The Condition of Education 2020”

Verywell Mind, Best Time Management Apps

Verywell Mind, “Taking Breaks Is Key to Learning, Research Shows”

Verywell Mind, “Time Management for Working Students”