A Time for Everything and Everything in its Time
By Julia Nielsen
Athabasca University students and their tutors are busy people; these ideas will help both of you successfully integrate AU courses into your weekly 168 hours.
For a week or two jot down what you currently do in a day and how much time you spend at it; be honest with yourself. Count unexpected things like answering the phone, going for milk, the trip to the emergency room, the surprise party. Don't evaluate the activities yet.
Now, consider what sorts of activities use the most time. Are the activities necessary? Could they reasonably be done in less time? Or by someone else? You do need to sleep, go to work, have time with your family, get some exercise; maybe you really don't need to talk on the phone or watch TV that much or make the entire holiday dinner yourself. And maybe for now the towels can go unironed and the kids can do the supper dishes. Encourage your family's cooperation with chores, transportation and such. After all, unless you are a single parent with a very young child, there's no rule that taking out the garbage is your job, is there?
Once you've decided what to keep and what to rid yourself of, write the keepers down. Be sure to schedule in sleep, grooming, and meal times; include also grocery buying, housekeeping, and the dog's walks. If you have a job include transportation time as well as work hours; if you have a family include daily time with your children and spouse, also your daughter's soccer games and your son's band concerts. Note them in your e-reminder, e-calendar or other organizational tools. Be sure to update all these at once or you'll start missing appointments and hurrying to get to canceled ones. Now for your University courses.
AU students must self-impose their own academic goals and deadlines; it is too easy to let reading and assignments pile up until your contract date. Because you are working to success though, you will not only set clear study goals and meet them, but will allow for the unexpected: the call from your child's teacher, a flat tire, an inheritance, a broken tooth, the visit from your high school best friend, the power going off...; life happens.
By now your calendar is filling in; study it to see where there are 1-3 hour blocks of time to designate for your studies. It may be you have 2 hours weekdays between the children's bedtime and yours; you may prefer to study for an hour before they get up on weekdays, or on weekend mornings while they sleep in. Write your times on all your calendars.
Using a schedule may initially seem over-restrictive but persist and soon you will realize that you are achieving your goals, that you are succeeding.
A few tips:
- Smart phone/tablet apps for study skills and time management can be excellent tools.
- Once you've established a practicable routine, work just a bit ahead of your scheduled assignments; that way, when unexpected things come up, and they will, you'll still be on track.
- Do keep in mind you will need a 5-10 minute break each hour to maintain your focus.
- However you divide your study week, treat that time as seriously as you do your job or your sleep time.
- Keep paper and pen by your bed; they are invaluable for recording thoughts that may otherwise steal your sleep time.
- Never leave home without some portion of your coursework that you can review. Think about the 10-30 minutes waits you have at the bus stop, in the doctor's office, after hockey practice...
We have created a few hard-copy planners for you to print to help you keep track of your tasks. Also see tip list above, re: time management apps and tools.