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Time Management for Online Students

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In April, everyone had to convert to online classes. One of the huge questions on everyone’s minds of many was how to manage time as an online learner. Even online-learning veterans began wondering how to balance time while their family was families were at home, whether it be noisy siblings, parents or partners working from home, or kids needing to be homeschooled.

So, how can you effectively manage your time while learning online? Here are 10 tips to help you with managing your time as an online student:

1. Keep a Macro and Micro Calendar

Keeping a calendar is one of the best ways to stay organized. For extra help, try keeping two separate calendars with a bullet journal, planner, computer, or any way that works for you. On your first calendar, your macro calendar, fill in due dates and commitments for the whole month, that way you can see everything at a glance, including weeks that may be heavier on due dates.

On the second calendar, your micro calendar, focus on the current week. Fill in all your commitments, including work, family engagements and coursework so you can easily schedule time to study for a test or write a paper. Keeping both of these views can help with organizing time. For those currently enrolled, UCF’s Webcourses offers a calendar feature that you can use to help stay on track.

2. Prioritize

“Prioritizing” is a word we often hear but may not have mastered in our day-to-day lives. Prioritizing is similar to highlighting tasks in your schedule based on factors such as the immediacy of accomplishment, access to resources to complete, and overall goals. When looking at your due dates, are some assignments due before others? Naturally, you want to complete the assignment that’s due on Tuesday before the one that’s due Friday. If you have a quiz that doesn’t open until Thursday, go ahead and tackle Wednesday’s discussion post first. By working through assignments as they’re due, you can make that task list look less daunting and lower your stress levels. Another resource available through UCF’s Webcourses is a dashboard that features a “List View,” which allows you to view your assignments in order of due date, which can be a great asset for determining what to work on next.

3. Develop a Routine

This one is especially important for those who may have families, jobs, or other commitments that affect their ability to pick up studying at any point during the day. By making a set time every day that is devoted to studying, you’ll find your productivity increases as you become accustomed to the time you set aside. Even if it’s only for an hour, try blocking off that time each day after work or when the kids are asleep to really pack a punch in completing those assignments.

4. Plan Ahead

If you have a large project or paper due at the end of the course, the last thing you want to do is wait until finals week to start it. Be sure to plan ahead by keeping an eye on those big assignments and starting on them ahead of time. By doing this, you’ll find your seemingly large assignment becoming more manageable, along with your schedule.

5. Keep a To-Do List

Is there anything more satisfying than crossing off something on your to-do list? Keeping a to-do list can not only help you stay organized, but it can also motivate you to keep going. Try adding a to-do list to your time-management techniques and see how it empowers you to do more!

6. Work Ahead

Sometimes professors only open modules during their assigned week, but other times they may open the entire course. If you have a course that has all of the modules open, use the opportunity to see what’s coming up. If you’ve completed all your assignments for the current week, take the time to work ahead in that course, whether it’s completing the reading, making an initial discussion post, or starting on a written response.

7. Stay Up to Date

Many professors recommend you log into your course at least once per day. This is because announcements on updated dates, changed assignments and more can be added at any time. Making sure you check in regularly can help you catch any dates that are moved to be sooner or extended so you can adjust your assignment planning. UCF utilizes Canvas which is a learning management system that has its own app that gives you quick access to your classes and other resource tools. Check it out so you can receive notifications when a professor adds an announcement.

8. Get Creative

Online students pick up the ability to approach difficult tasks or situations with flexibility, and time management is no exception. Try thinking of new ways you can incorporate your studying to save time. Do you have a long work commute? See if there’s an audiobook format of your textbook available. Having trouble balancing studying and family? See if they if your family members can help you study. Flexibility is a huge part of online learning, so experiment to see what works best for both your learning style and your schedule.

9. Take a Break

When it comes to time management, we often don’t consider breaks. However, breaks are an important part of time management to ensure you don’t overwhelm yourself with tasks. As you plan out your studying schedule, try to incorporate time to take a break, such as a five-minute break for every 25 minutes of studying or a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes of studying. Incorporating these can actually improve your productivity, which will help out with your time management.

10. Reach Out

Sometimes it may seem like getting everything done and keeping your commitments is impossible. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, try reaching out to someone else who can give you another perspective and help you with fitting everything in. Here at UCF, every online student has access to their own Success Coach, who is available just for this purpose. If you find yourself struggling to manage your time, try reaching out to them by scheduling an appointment. They’re always happy to help.

About the Author


Courtney Moody
UCF Class of 2020 Alumna
English, BA (Creative Writing)