No sooner do you enroll in classes than you realize you have to actually find time to do the work. Many nontraditional and distance education students face the challenge of balancing study time with daily responsibilities. Let’s face it: We all have very full lives and sometimes carving out time for studies can seem impossible.
For me, making a study schedule as soon as I receive the class materials is essential to maintaining my workload. In my distance education program, we go to the campus every semester, get our materials and syllabi and then have the whole semester to finish the work. Some instructors like to plot out the assignments from the beginning, and others prefer to let each student decide what works best for them.
I like to create an outline of what I will accomplish up front. On Sunday nights, I list the assignments in my planner, with brief notes detailing any special requirements (e.g., a lot of research that may need to be done in advance). Once I know the scope of the work, I can look at my week and plan the necessary steps.
Many days are so full that I squeeze in my studies while sitting in waiting rooms or in brief 15-minute snatches between appointments. I’ve learned to carry my coursework with me when I’m on the road. When I was working full time, I often studied on my lunch hour and on breaks. I have also learned that I can get a lot of work done just by getting up 30 minutes earlier.
Sometimes I have books on the kitchen table while I’m preparing dinner, to study while the meal is simmering. Other times, I take my books to the laundry room and work between loads.
Occasionally, I need to schedule time for schoolwork without interruption or distraction. During these times, I have to let my friends and family know they can’t count on me unless it’s a real emergency. I have a quiet desk in one corner of my room for just such circumstances.
Then there are days when I feel as though I cannot read another assignment or write another essay. When I have hit a brick wall and can’t go on, I cut myself some slack and give myself credit for the things I have accomplished. Sometimes taking a brief break allows you to come back to the work with a fresh perspective the next day.
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