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Time Management Tips for Online Students

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 6/5/2015

As an online college student, you are likely juggling a job and a family while building a better future through education. Your schedule is packed beyond capacity. Proper time management is the difference between reaching your dreams and crazy, stressful, exhausting failure.

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    Time Management Tips for Online Students Rich people may have many possessions: exotic toys, huge homes and fancy clothes—but one thing the wealthy can never buy is time. Nothing is more precious, valuable or irreplaceable. We all get 168 hours per week. Success and happiness come from using those hours with precision.

    Managing time and balancing work, home life and school may not come naturally, but you can learn to do it all. Adhere to the following tips to increase your chances of crossing the finish line with a diploma held high.

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    Start Early

    Procrastination is natural, especially with things that aren't fun. Studying isn't always enjoyable. It's okay to finish your homework just before the deadline, but don't wait until the last day to start thinking.

    Some of the best ideas happen when you aren't trying to have an idea. While showering, driving, goofing around, sleeping or otherwise not thinking about school, the lightbulb may spark. It won't happen, however, if you haven't read the assignment. So as soon as you learn about the project, presentation or paper you have to produce, do some reading and research. Ask the fundamental questions. Take a few notes.

    Now this information can bounce around your brain. You may not initially know what direction you will take, but inspiration will strike. In the hours or days between your initial thoughts and the final product, concepts will start to stick together and find some order. Maybe you'll think of some more questions. You have time to ask your teacher or another source. When you do sit down to finish your assignment, you will know the right way to do it.

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    Treat It Like a Job

    One of your jobs is to study, especially if you have a scholarship. Think of the financial aid you will lose or the tuition you'll waste if you don't do your best. When your education leads you to your dream job, you will put in blood, sweat and tears. Don't put any less effort now.

    You wouldn't show up late for work or go home before the job is done. Don't study that way. Online students who fail believe online school is easier than a physical institution. Nothing could be less true. You are responsible for directing your own schedule. No one will tell you when to go to class or when to study. It's up to you.

    Put your assignments, tests and deadlines on a calendar. Then schedule when you will get the work done. Set a regular time when you'll be at the computer working. Punch in and punch out. Figure how many hours a week you must study and be sure to put in the time. Be a professional student. This is not a video game.

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    Gather a Team of Allies

    You shouldn't be alone in this. You need quality help. Early in your career as a student, or even before classes start, cultivate a group of human resources. When you have a problem or a question, know whom you can contact to fix the situation so you can get back to work. Nothing is more frustrating than wasting study hours.

    To study online, of course you need reliable technology. But what do you do when things go wrong? Don't wait for computer gremlins to attack during midterms to find a savior. Know someone you can call before you need them. Does your school have quality tech support? Your local electronics store? A colleague studying IT? When you find someone available and helpful, keep that number close. Be good to them even when you don't have a problem.

    This is true not only for the tech end of things. For your research problems, childcare emergencies and other needs, have a fixer. Get to know library staff. Befriend older students who have studied what you are studying. Remember who is helpful and who isn't. When trouble pops up, you can knock it back down swiftly and get back to studying.

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    Reward Yourself

    You are working hard. You're doing more in a day than some do all week. Acknowledge that and schedule some reward time. All work and no play makes students crazy. Crazy students don't get the most of their study hours.

    Use rewards as motivation to get good grades, finish early and excel. What's your button? Chocolate, TV or a nap? Whatever refreshes, recharges or refuels you, make sure to do it sometime. When you take some time away from the pressures of school, you can return to work at maximum production. Better to put in fewer hours with an energetic brain than too many with a frazzled one.

    Set deadlines and milestones for yourself. Tell your friends and family. If you don't reach your goals or earn your reward, they should not let you indulge.

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    Communicate Your Priorities

    So many things want your time: children, friends, play and distractions. You likely have more duties than you have minutes in a week. You cannot do it all, so list your priorities clearly. Work, school, family and not much else.

    Now stick to it. People may think you can study anytime and will expect you to drop it for every call, text or knock at the door. Let everyone know, distinctly yet politely, that this is your study time and studying is your job. They can contact you outside of these hours. If something needs to be done, schedule it for some other time and don't let it bother your schoolwork.

    In addition, communication will allow your friends and family to encourage you. If they know what you are doing and what you're aspiring to achieve, they can check in on you. They will ask about your progress and congratulate your successes.