Effective time management strategies are an important part of a positive, successful online learning experience.
A woman works on her laptop at home in the evening.

If you’ve made the decision to earn your degree online, you may be wondering how you’ll keep up with your online education while balancing work and family commitments. Time management is an important place to start—and these strategies are surprisingly effective. Follow the tips that work best for you:

  1. Wake up early. If you’re a “morning person” by nature, taking advantage of early hours is a good time management technique. Between academics and daily responsibilities, waking early to start your day—even if you begin with exercise or other productive tasks not related to your online degree program—can help you more effectively manage your time throughout the day. Of course, if you’re more productive later in the day, use the evening hours in a similar fashion.

  2. Make a list. Whether you use a smartphone app or pen and paper, create a list of tasks for each day. Include your household, professional, and personal needs as well as those related to your online education. After all, paying bills on time is as important as meeting your academic deadlines. This time management strategy is popular for another reason—marking items as “complete” leads to a sense of productivity, which in turn helps motivate you to accomplish more.

  3. Prioritize your academic tasks. While you're making your list, prioritize your tasks so you know what you need to start immediately and what can wait. One advantage of learning online is that most of your assignments, exams, and other responsibilities are clearly planned out for you. Take some time to review what you need to do, how much time it will take, and when it needs to be completed—then prioritize accordingly.

  4. Avoid distractions. Social media. Streaming videos. Texting. Thanks to technology, there are more ways than ever to be distracted when pursuing your online degree (or doing anything that requires significant concentration). An essential time management skill is being aware of what distracts you, then developing the willpower to avoid those distractions so you can concentrate on your online education.

  5. Learn to say no. One of the more difficult time management techniques to master, especially when you’re pursuing an online education, is the delicate art of saying “no.” From social invitations to doing favors for friends and family who may not understand what it takes to earn your degree online, it’s easy to take on too much—then not have enough time for your studies. Don’t be afraid to say no. The important people in your life will understand.

  6. Set milestones toward goals. It’s normal to focus on the end result—that’s ultimately what you’re trying to achieve. However, setting smaller, short-term goals is a time management tip that can reap great rewards when it comes to online learning. From an uninterrupted study session to writing a few sections of a research paper, setting attainable goals will help you throughout your online education.

  7. Be realistic. As much as you’d like to finish a research paper in a day, chances are you won’t be able to. Your online degree will be challenging and you’ll have other priorities outside your academic life, and you’ll need to set aside enough time to complete your tasks. Setting realistic goals for yourself is the first step in accomplishing them.

  8. Reward yourself. When it comes to your online education, checking things off your academic to-do list feels good. Build in extra motivation by rewarding yourself, too. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when there’s a reward waiting, such as watching a favorite television show or enjoying a decadent meal. This simple tip might not seem related to time management, but it’s surprisingly effective.

  9. Disconnect. While it may feel counterintuitive, there’s no rule that says you have to keep your phone on or check your e-mail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as you learn online. Your online education takes brainpower and concentration. People can leave messages, and e-mails can wait to be read. Set aside time to focus only on education-related tasks, then reconnect with others once you’ve accomplished your academic to-do list or reached a good stopping point.

  10. Look at the big picture. While pursuing an online education, it’s important to take a step back and look beyond what you have to do on a daily or weekly basis. Quarters and semesters pass quickly while you’re earning your degree online. Mapping out your future time, including nonacademic deadlines associated with your online college or university (such as class registrations and financial aid applications) will not only help you manage your time more effectively, it will help increase your likelihood of completing your degree on the schedule you’ve set for yourself.

Ready to start your education online at an accredited university? Walden University offers more than 80 online degree programs to help professionals around the world achieve their academic and career goals in a flexible, convenient format.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.