For many students, particularly non-traditional students, college coursework is only one important aspect of their lives. Even as academic intensity increases, work, family, and other obligations continue apace. However, attending an online college has many tangible and intangible benefits that make juggling school and home life more manageable. Flexible schedules, state-of-the-art technology, and individualized instruction are just some of the many things that make pursuing a degree as an adult possible. 

Despite online education advancements, managing your time remains a valuable skill. Improving your time management is one of the most important skills you can develop, in work and in life. There are numerous systems, techniques, and schools of thought that can be applied to managing time.

1. Use a Day Planner

Microsoft founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has shared that he schedules his days down to the minute. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, also takes pride in his rigorously structured schedule. If these titans of technology use day planners, they can probably help you, too.

To use a day planner effectively, schedule new assignments daily, as they come in, so you always know what to expect. Try to set weekly goals. to track and quantify your progress according to your own key performance indicators. Lastly, keep track of all upcoming big events:, not just exams, projects, and papers, but also birthdays, vacations, and family obligations.

2. Try a New Process 

There are many proprietary methodologies that approach the problem of time management and productivity with a particular process. Getting Things Done: A five-step process created by business guru David Allen, simplifies the complexities of overcoming personal hurdles, and Kanban, a visual, card-based system used by Toyota, that strategically constrains the ability to multitask. This allows for better focus on one particular assignment, and manages the workflow between tasks.

Despite these perks, however, it still takes well-honed organizational skills to keep up. But it can be done, if it’s done intentionally.  

3. Minimize Distractions

Several influencers and social movements can help you to catch your breath and simplify your life. Minimalism. Mindfulness. The KonMari method popularized by author and Netflix sensation Marie Kondo. These philosophies all offer ideas for how you can clean your home, improve your organizational skills, and take a more realistic, deliberate, and determined approach to tackling your busy schedule.

4. Evaluate Your Lifestyle

If you're returning to school and you want to make sure you get the most from this opportunity you’ve created for yourself, take full stock of your habits, your mindset, and the way you organize your life. Keep what works, refine what can be improved, and discard anything that has outlived its usefulness.

5. Remember these Simple Strategies of Time Management

When in doubt or feeling stressed out, recall these core principles of productivity and time in mind:

•    Be realistic about how you spend your time
•    Dedicate blocks of time to certain tasks and eliminate distractions
•    Don’t be afraid to say “no” or take a break when you need it

If it’s helpful to you, print out this reference sheet to help you stay on track:

how to better manage your time

The effects of managing your time poorly are painful and limiting. Some of the many results include increased stress, missed deadlines, and poor work quality. However, by planning your weeks around important dates, defining your academic and personal objectives, remaining consistent and proactive with your approach, and getting the right amount of rest and sleep, you can take charge of your life, and you’ll be up to the challenge of earning your degree. 

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