Thu, 7 Aug, 2014
When it comes to continuing education and going back to school, it can be difficult for adult learners to balance work, family and their education - plus all the other things life throws at you unexpectedly. We'd like to applaud you on making the decision to go back to school, and understand your needs are different than those of a first time student that just graduated from high school. You probably have an existing work load at your full time job or next military mission, ongoing family matters and engagements, plus the new time commitments for your education. We'd like to share a few helpful tips to be successful, when at times you may become overwhelmed with it all. Behind every successful student is an individual that can manage their most critical resource - time.
This can be applied to almost every aspect of your busy schedule. Start by making a list of every activity you are involved in. Next to each item note the following:
- Mark it as a 'high-priority' or 'low-priority'.
- Determine if it can be delegated to someone else or if you need to be responsible for it.
- Assess how long each item will take. Assign it to a part of the day where it fits best.
This organized list should be used daily, but also create a weekly and monthly list for planned events. Keep in mind that when you feel in control of your tasks, you will be happier, and more relaxed. Once you get in the groove of becoming familiar with each task, it will become second nature.
Having a healthy body is just as important as a healthy mind. In fact, you will find that they constantly depend on each other. Know yourself by recognizing when you perform at your best and what you need to do so. Regular exercise can help reduce stress. It's also a good idea to include regular stretching and walking breaks between studying or switching activities during the day. This will help 'reset' your brain and clear your mind to take on what's next.
Coming to the conclusion that there just aren't enough hours in the day, you will need to understand that trading in excellence for efficiency is better than trying to tackle it all. Everyone's needs are different, so knowing when good enough is good enough will help you cope when you simply don't have enough time. You may need to take a moment to stop and look at your list to determine if something can be removed that is a low priority.
Consider the things that will make some tasks easier to complete than others. Taking online classes will help you better manage time for education - when it works around your bigger commitments. Build extra time into your strategy for unforeseen obstacles. You know when crunch time will happen for exams or finals, so plan accordingly. Smaller tasks will work in better between more pressing responsibilities. We don't necessarily mean multi-tasking, but if you are up to it, it can be very beneficial. The goal is to not waiting for the larger spans of time to get everything done. Accomplishing small things on a regular basis and developing good study habits will help keep your momentum going forward and put less focus on being overwhelmed with too much to do.
In the midst of your busy day-to-day tasks that you have under control, don't forget about yourself! You can schedule 'me-time' to do something that you enjoy. It's hard to break away, but remember that even intermittent breaks to pamper yourself will go a long way. Need some examples? Maybe a favorite hobby, reading a good book, visiting a coffee shop, watching your favorite TV show or getting a massage. Or you can simply take time to 'check-in' and see how you feel and how well your schedule is working or where it needs improvement. Some self reflection will determine if you are going in the right direction or need to make adjustments. Don't forget to sleep! A good night's sleep and adequate amounts of rest will help yolu refresh and mentally prepare for the next day.
You don't have to wait until you get your degree. Celebrate along the way. At each successful milestone, award yourself. Acknowledge that you did a great job on the exam, term paper or the completion of a semester. Let yourself be proud of the work you accomplished. This will help you realize what it took to get there and encourage you for the next round.
We hope you found these tips helpful. If you have tips that work great for you and want to share with other students, post them on CU Online's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ page. They'll appreciate hearing feedback from a time-management pro!