More and more adults are returning to school to improve on their education, to either take advantage of better career opportunities or improve themselves in what they are already doing. Most of these adults have found Distance Learning (DL) as the most appropriate form of educating themselves. Among other benefits, DL allows students to combine work and study and ensures the security of employment, while upgrading oneself.
However, one biggest challenge facing DL Students is finding enough time to study as they are practically combining full time work with study. It is worth noting that, your success as a DL student, among other things, largely depend on how you use your time outside of classroom, whether preparing for a normal class or for examination. The following are tips and suggestions that are intended to provide help for DL students on how to balance their education with work and social life.
1. Identify Your Priorities and Set Goals
As a professional/worker going back to school, you need to set simple but clear goals for yourself. It is not enough just to put down, “I Need More Time to Study”, it is better if you list all the major tasks, assignments and activities that you engage in on a daily basis in the office and the entire day, and then select the crucial ones that you need to undertake to make your day a success. It is important that you select your priorities for each day and then set goals for the day; especially the “must do” tasks and assignments.
2. Monitor Your Daily Routines
The Bible says “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Eccl. 3:1. This is the time that you as an individual, has decided to upgrade yourself through DL. Time is therefore one of the most precious resource for the next two years or more, depending on your programme of study. Therefore, monitor your daily activities/routines by keeping a simple notebook; call it a log book, to some of you, a diary.
Take it along with you to work and consciously write all the major things you do in a typical day. You can monitor what you do every 3 hours, and at the end of the day before you sleep, review how your day was spent. How much time did you spend on entertainment, social media, chatting with friends, performing official tasks, etc, some companies call this “time sheets”, and now add how many hours do you intend to sleep. At this stage, you’re not questioning the usefulness or otherwise of any of these; you're simply on a fact-finding mission, as you try to appreciate and understand how you spend a typical day. It is better that you keep this data for at least three (3) days before you analyse.
3. Now, Analyse Your Daily Routines
As much as possible, categorise all your daily routines, into categories such as Official Work, Entertainment (watching television/movies/social outings), Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), Friends, Family, Church & Church Programmes, Sleeping time, etc. Add the amount of time you spend on each of the category outlined. When time is grouped like this, you will begin to understand how much time you spend on each category. At this stage, it is important to reflect on your energy level during the course of the day, that is, at what time of the day are you so active, and alert? Then, put your important tasks at this stage.
4. Eliminate Unnecessary Task and Time Wasters
It is now time to consciously eliminate and remove all unnecessary tasks, routines and activities. Remember, you are in school, and there is time for everything. For the next 2 to 3 years, per the duration of your course, your time is no longer exclusively yours, so you will need to use your time wisely. For a start, reduce the amount of time you spend on these unnecessary routines; as you gradually reduce the amount of time spent on these things, you would be able to reduce it to the barest minimum, and eventually eliminate them all together.
5. Start Changing the way your Day is Spent
Remember your motive is to gain more time to spend on your books and its related things and excel in your academics. Thus, start spending more time on important things and put more emphasis on your academic work. Remember it is just for a season and a time. Cultivate the habit of writing a “To Do List” and discipline yourself to keep it and remember to add NOT TO DO LIST. This could guide you to stay focus on your daily time and thus, save time for importance issues.
6. Remember – Flexibility is Key!
Routines are very useful; it supports, guides and disciplines you when you stick to them. However, don’t view your routines as set in a stone, which cannot be changed. Subject your routines under test to see what works and what does not work, and make the necessary adjustment if need be.
In conclusion, the above tips may not work for everybody, but I believe that with diligence and discipline, a lot of us should benefit from one or two tips mentioned above. The key point is to be mindful of your priorities, carefully taking time to appreciate how your day is spent and what it is spent on, and taking conscious steps to improve on gaps and anomalies identified. Prioritising your academics will support you stay on top of your programme and help improve on your academic performance.
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