Skip to Content
Time management is a critical skill and can be crucial for Distance learners. Distance learning is more flexible by nature, and it is often fitted into an already busy life. There is a feeling of distance from other students and support structures.
There are 12 teaching weeks in a semester. The credit value of the course generally indicates the number of hours per week of study required per semester. A 15 credit single semester course requires 12 hours per week—not always equally spread out!
To find the time to study, you will need to reorganise your time in various ways. Your target is to save the time you need for study—approximately 12 hours per week for one course. Use the "4D method" to estimate the time you can save in hours per week.
Thinking about using all available time during the day, we can divide our time into three broad categories:
Some study tasks are more suitable to accomplish in large chunks of time, and others can be achieved using many small chunks of time. Think about how you can use time, think about your tasks, and how they can be achieved.
Think about when you are most productive: in the morning, afternoon, or evening? If you can, plan your "large chunks" during the time you are most productive. Set aside definite study times that you will keep to. Create a pattern of expectation of study at those times, so your family and friends know it's "study time".
Procrastination is, in a nutshell, putting off things you know you should be doing. Students are particularly prone because learning is often self-scheduled and performed alone to exacting standards. These are all factors that enhance people's tendency to put things off.
Adopt a five-fold strategy for overcoming procrastination:
Perfectionism is not the search for excellence, it is the search for the unobtainable. Perfectionism refers to a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviours aimed at reaching excessively high and unrealistic goals. One definition states a perfectionist is "a person having a disposition which regards anything short of perfect as being unacceptable." For example, a perfectionist student may hand in a course a week late, or not at all, rather than hand it in on time with imperfect structure.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Set realistic goals. Focus on the important things and aim for small rewards. Say "no" to perfectionism, and enjoy the journey.
To succeed at almost anything, you often need some self-discipline. Try this:
This is called the Pomodoro Technique after a tomato-shaped timer.
Taking regular breaks when you are learning material enhances recall. Study small portions of material, take a break, then study some more. We retain a great deal more if we learn in small, managable portions instead of attempting to learn a great deal of information at once.
Make these breaks mandatory even if you are enjoying your reading or studying. Breaks not only aid recall, they also prevent fatigue and loss of concentration so you can study longer.
Start by writing down everything you've got to do. This list will not be entirely academic tasks; include work, home, and study tasks.
Break big tasks up into smaller, more manageable things to do. For example, instead of writing "do assignment", write "complete referencing" or "complete three paragraphs of writing".
Prioritise tasks that are important and must be done above those you would like to get done or those that can wait indefinitely. A good method of prioritising is by sorting tasks using this matrix:
A: Important and Urgent
B. Important and Non-Urgent
C: Non-important and Urgent
D: Non-important and Non-Urgent
Procrastinators will spend time on tasks in C and D. Try to avoid falling into this trap. Prioritise your goals for the day and, as much as possible, do the most important ones (those ranked A or B) first.
You don't have to complete one thing on your list before moving on to another. Stick to a pollcy of doing something now rather than later, and always think of how you can best use the present time. Cross tasks off as they are accomplished, and do your best to make every day count. At the end of each day, work out what you have to do the next day.
Here's the world's shortest guide to catching up on studies—because if you're behind, you don't have the time for long explanations!
For further help with planning your own timetable for the semester, right down to the daily to-do list, check out our timetabling resources.
Visit the OWLL web pages to get further information and helpful tips on managing procrastination, perfectionism, and other study tips.
Some material adapted with permission from Ormond Simpson, "Supporting Students in Online Open and Distance Learning"
Page authorised by Director, Student Administration
Last updated on Tuesday 20 December 2016