Distance learning courses offer students the flexibility to study when and where they would like, but the demand and intensity of them should not be underestimated.
For many distance learners, the experience often feels like a juggling act of various responsibilities – work, family, studies, other personal commitments – it all adds up and can become overwhelming.
But the key to attaining balance and reaching achievable goals, as with any course, is to keep on top of your studies through discipline, organisation and above all, effective time-management. Here are some time management tips for you to consider:
Get a Head Start
Before your course has even begun, you should become thoroughly acquainted with your timetable and map out a personal schedule. Be aware of deadlines, exam dates and important personal commitments that you’ll need to work around. Tell your family and close friends when you’re likely to be busiest so they can support you through stressful periods. Consider your priorities in advance and be as best prepared as you can.
When Should You Study?
When you study very much depends on your own personal circumstances. Consider when your mind will be in its most active state and when there are very few distractions around you. If you feel that this is in the morning – but you have to go to work – then consider going to bed and getting up earlier. If this doesn’t work for you then make sure you take a break after work, before hitting the books. Being aware of what time of the day suits you best for studying is a key time management skill.
Frequently Self-assess Your Time-management
It’s important to regularly ask yourself: “Am I using my time effectively and efficiently?” Sometimes, you may feel as though a whole day has passed you by and you haven’t learned anything. This might be because you get distracted easily, or have a tendency to procrastinate. It’s a good idea to make to-do lists, either at the end or beginning of each day, and cross each thing out as you go along. This way you’ll know if you’ve managed your time effectively and efficiently.
Keep Up to Date
Sometimes things change unexpectedly, so it’s important to check your emails every morning, afternoon and evening to ensure that you keep abreast of any major changes like due dates or syllabus modifications. Use your phone when you’re away from your desktop and don’t completely switch off while on your holidays, lest you return to a catalogue of unopened, urgent emails!
Dividing Up Your Work
Diving into assignments or leaving them to the last minute is not good practice. Assignments should be broken up into different parts – research, planning, writing, editing, finalising – and approached with due caution. Each stage requires equal portions of time and effort. It’s important to prioritise tasks too; don’t get bogged down in work that is of less consequence to your overall grades.
Studying at home means it is a lot easier to become distracted. Switch off your phone or keep it out of sight (and earshot!), turn email notifications off, stay logged out of social networking sites (unless they are being used for study purposes) and try to coincide your kids’ studies – if you have any – with your own. No matter how many dishes there are to do or how much hoovering needs to be done, don’t let it eat into your study time. Procrastination often happens without you realising it so try to pre-empt it as best you can!
Take Time Out
It is of course important to take regular time out, to give your mind a rest, but if the creative juices just aren’t flowing or you keep coming up against a brick wall, take a break for a while and divert your attention, even if it’s not a scheduled break. What you do in your free time should be positive and healthy; don’t have a nap or watch an episode of your favourite series – this will only make you tired – instead, go for a walk or do some exercise. Later you’ll feel refreshed and ready to dive back in.
Having trouble staying positive? Maybe we can help with our guide on how to stay motivated while studying.