4 Time Management Secrets Every Online Student Needs to Know

September 21, 2021

Time management concept image with clock, keyboard and books in the background

It’s amazing to think about how online learning enables you to reach your personal and educational goals, all while you continue to work, care for your family and maintain so many other aspects of your life. But to manage it all, you’ll quickly realize how critical good time management is to your success.

As one student from The University of New Mexico commented, “When you don’t have someone who is telling you ‘you need to be here at this time’ and ‘do this at this time’, you have to take that on yourself.” He added that, “There’s a little bit of extra responsibility on your part.”

But this extra responsibility doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. In fact, with the right approach and positive mindset, it can be quite inspiring—that extra push you may have needed to finally start or finish the degree you’ve always wanted.

To help you make the most out of your experience as an online student, our team at UNM Online put together four tips that are bound to unleash your productivity and help you maximize the time you have to successfully manage school and life responsibilities.

1. It's Time to Make a System

Don’t worry—it doesn’t have to be complicated, but a system that encompasses and connects your schedule, tasks, and notes can give you a clear and dependable framework for tackling even the busiest of days.

  • Start with your schedule. If you already rely on a scheduling tool, regardless of if it’s physical (paper) or on the cloud (an app), consider introducing colors and categories to help you distinguish between school, work and home/life responsibilities. Color-coding courses, for example, is one of our favorite ways to easily and very efficiently distinguish between online studies and day-to-day life.
  • Create clear, repeatable tasks. It may sound too simple, but setting up clear tasks and related subtasks is often forgotten. It’s quite easy to pencil in classes and coursework on your schedule and leave it at that, thinking you have enough time in that one day to get the work done. In reality, however, there are a series of smaller tasks that need to be completed before you can submit that paper or project. So, it’s important to establish clear and repeatable subtasks in your system. This way, whether it’s a one-off study session or multiple tasks to brainstorm/outline/write/proof a paper or complete reading assignments, you’ll always have a reliable way to remember what you need to do.
  • Find a safe, searchable place for your notes (and thoughts). Organized notes make reviewing material and completing coursework much easier. It’s always a great idea to write your notes down on paper, but if you introduce a cloud application to your study system, you can maximize your productivity by saving on the time it takes you to find relevant assignment notes. For example, OneNote is one of the free apps offered to UNM students. It offers a safe, always on and IT-backed place to sync all of your notes. It’s searchable, taggable, so you can be extra organized, and what’s more, you can attach a variety of files. Imagine the power of such a robust and well-organized study guide, especially during exams. And if you prefer a more traditional approach to keeping your notes organized, try journaling. It’s a fun, visual personal organizational method, described in more detail in the video below:

2. Stay Off Social Media (For Now)

When you start a study session, hold off on the urge to see what your friends, family or colleagues are up to or to look at “just one” (of course) cat video. Put your studies first so you can have less stress and more guilt-free time to unwind. Otherwise, those distractions can overcome even the best of intentions.

3. Do You Need to Adjust Anything?

A few weeks into your courses, evaluate how you’re spending your time. If something isn’t working out well, you can always change and fine-tune your initial approach and study system. Do these assessments periodically and remember that it’s never too late to form a new plan.

Should you log into class early in the morning instead of at night? Is it time to use or ditch a specific productivity tool? What needs to change? If you need help, some ideas and/or accountability, make sure you include the people who can impact your time and success.

4. Your Support System is Larger Than You Think

You already know that your family and friends are the very people who can encourage and support you in all aspects of your life. The same is true for your studies, so let them get involved. Maybe they can help you with childcare, quiet study hours at home, motivation and the opportunity to celebrate what you’re doing.

But don’t forget that you have a lot of other support available to you while you learn online. Ask questions, join study groups and, in general, connect to your professors and peers who can help you and relate to you. Tap into resources at your institution, like the Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS) available to all students at UNM.

The award-winning CAPS program offers free live tutoring and academic support services for more than 800 classes each semester. Every year, it delivers more than 53,000 hours of tutoring. Many services are available online.

You can join a caring community and advance your education flexibly at UNM Online. Choose from more than 20 online degree completion programs at an institution Carnegie-classified as R1 for very high research activity, making it one of only 131 institutions in the country with that distinction.

The University of New Mexico stands out as the state’s flagship university, and nearly 75% of students receive financial aid. 

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