Though online learning programs have several benefits, the key one being their flexibility, it’s easy to fall behind or stray from the course since no one is keeping a close watch on you, unlike the teachers in classroom courses. If you often find yourself doing little headway with your course materials despite spending hours online, or fail to submit your online coursework or term papers on time, perhaps you need to learn some time management tricks that would let you achieve more within a stipulated time. Here are ten time saving tips that would help anyone who plans to learn online. These tips would even come handy if you have already taken up an online learning course.
1. Get familiar with the course
Any online course usually comes with a document at the beginning that gives you an overview of what you would learn, the time you would spent on each section/topic etc. You should read it entirely and thoroughly to understand what the syllabus covers and what’s expected of you from each course. Knowing this would help you plan accordingly, with an eye on optimal time management.
2. Create mini-deadlines on your study calendar for self-monitoring
Be it preparing the lessons ahead of your exams, finishing the research for your term paper, or submitting the first draft of that project work, have a solid study plan along with mini-deadlines that will help you stay focused, on track, and even monitor your own progress. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and stressed trying to do it all before the D-Day, having a study plan and sticking to your own mini-deadlines would help you sail smoothly through your online learning
3. Learn to prioritize
Be it making that phone call, designing the project, reading that chapter, or brainstorming with your peers online, list everything you need to do and then decide which one should be handled at first, by picking the item that’s most important on your to-do list. Next, handle the tasks that are important but not urgent, and leave the ones that can wait for later. Handling everything at the same time would mean you end up accomplishing nothing. Instead, you should prioritize and proceed with a cool head to check the items off your list one by one.
4. Identify the time-wasters
Do you often stray when researching your projects and end up spending hours watching YouTube videos, checking your emails, or browsing Facebook? Do your friends often interrupt you during your study hours and you too end up talking for long? Does a boring lesson make you take frequent short breaks? All these are extraneous activities that make you waste a lot of time. Identify them and their triggers and then try to avoid them consciously. Having a daily schedule or to-do list and sticking to it meticulously, and even rewarding yourself after accomplishing something (say, finishing a lesson, or completing the project work etc) would help you stay on track.
5. Time yourself properly
When creating your study calendar or to-do list, allow yourself adequate time to complete tasks. For example, if you know you need 30 minutes for lunch, having only 15 minutes scheduled would mean your entire routine goes for a toss. Instead, you should ideally give yourself 45 minutes’ of lunch break (with a buffer of 15 minutes). While you shouldn’t underestimate how long a certain task will take, you shouldn’t overestimate as well. For instance, keeping 2 hours for lunch (that you know would just take around half an hour) would again mean you would simply lollygag until it’s time for your subsequent task.
6. Learn to say “NO”
Self-discipline is important when you decide to learn online. It would mean sacrificing those frequent movie-dates with friends, or going to the park with them for a leisurely stroll often, or even accompanying a friend during his/her grocery shopping. This doesn’t mean cutting them out of your life completely. You can still do such things. You just have to learn to say “no” to avoid wasting time this way frequently, especially when you have courses to finish and exam preparations to take care of.
7. Learn the art of self-pacing
Smart online learning mean you should neither study for too long (or you’ll get bored) or study too little (which would make you ill-prepared). Ideally, your study schedule should have efficiency breaks every 20-25 minutes as they would offer your brain the much needed rest and even replenish you, which would make you even more willing and focused when you return from your break to study, read or write more.
8. Keep your work backups
Back your work up in multiple ways to ensure even when you lose one, you still have ways to retrieve it. For example if you work on a PC or laptop, use a pen drive, an external disk etc to create backups. You may even print your work (despite it being old-fashioned) because you can scan it and retrieve useful information in case your work stored online or in electronic devices gets lost or corrupted.
9. Don’t tax your brain unnecessarily
Don’t try to memorize everything – from exam and project deadlines, to course details, how far you have finished your term-paper and more. Instead, use to-do lists, study calendars and notepads. In case you come across any information that may be useful in the future, note it somewhere and return to the work you were doing. Don’t make your brain juggle all this information because your brain would be much more useful remembering the things that would really help you in your online learning endeavor rather than storing such unimportant stuff, which you can easily use other modes for storing and retrieving.
10. Seek help
Students who opt to learn online are often hesitant in asking for help – either from their peers or teachers. If you too belong to this league, speak up and seek help when you need it. This way, you can brainstorm with peers to clear some doubts, or even understand a concept clearly with the teacher’s help online rather than wasting precious hours trying to figure out the “whats” and “whys”.
Online learning has taken the world by storm. Nearly 6 million students are enrolled in online courses through colleges and universities, for instance, but the online learning marketplace extends far beyond degree programs.
You can find hundreds of fine online educators who want to help you reach your goals. Each one offers something unique to share, so you can take multiple courses on the same subject if you want to derive the most benefit from it.
Even better, you might find yourself wanting to switch roles. You could create your own online course, which would allow you to not only share what you’ve learned with your customers, but also generate some money for your effort.