I want to reiterate that my situation is unique as yours will be. These are some actions that I have found that fit into my life and have served me in making me a more diligent and successful student. Also keep in mind that not all of us will have as much time to focus on school because of overriding obligations such as family or work.
So let’s fast forward a little bit. As I am nearing the end of my sixth week of school, I wanted to share more about the things that I do to make it through the school week. As we know time management and organization are two vital components of being successful upon returning to school. I am going to detail more about time management and organization skills I use to stay on top of school. Likely you will find as I have that managing school allows for less stress in your non-school life. But I will talk more about that down the road.
Although we all know that time management is hugely important, I invest a lot in staying organized. It’s mind boggling to me at times just how unorganized my fellow students seem to be. I personally believe that self organization with school is fundamental number one. If you are forgetful and have poor organization skills you may want to ensure you enroll with a manageable course load or seek help through the many resources available for returning adult learners. If you are changing careers and spent the last several years in the Corporate World you will probably do well. Again everyone’s organization skills will be different but they ultimately do benefit one beyond school.
I talked before about how I use four different colored folders for each of my classes and one could go even farther and label them front and side for easier identification. I also keep each subject separate from the other. I don’t stack all my things in a pile. I keep everything where I can see them. I also pack my pack back at night with the right notebooks and books for the next days classes. Saves time in the morning that I can use for relaxing, breakfast or catching the news, traffic and weather. When I get home each day I unload my pack of any unneeded materials and replace it with materials I need for that days homework if that’s on my plan for the day.
The next organization and time management technique I use is keeping a current “Day Planner”. No, I didn’t go out an buy one I simply use a notebook I got with my school supplies. For each day I note the date and class, then add check boxes with tasks I need to complete for the coming days or even weeks. When I complete a task I check the box and cross it from the list. When I am still working on something but the day has passed, I leave the box unchecked and cross it off from the list and move it to the current day where I can see that it still requires completion. This I find allows me to keep everything in front me. My motto with my professional work was always, “Everything in front of me, nothing behind me.” So I use that mantra with school. You may find that you want to buy a preset Day Planner with calendar pages so that you can also add other important dates you know of ahead of time. I prefer writing each each date in so I in fact have to know what day it is. I add tasks as they are presented in class and when I have easy access to the syllabus. It’s not always easy to look up the syllabus if its in a folder or online, but this way I’m not having to. Speaking of the syllabus, it should be a priority for everyone.
Each instructor provides a syllabus at the start of the quarter. I am surprised that so many of my fellow classmates act like they never got one or do not know where to find one. If you are a new adult learner and have never attended college or come from a more ‘Blue Collar’ profession which kept you in the field, you definitely need to familiarize yourself with Canvas and a computer. Many of the retraining careers require computer fundamentals and most classes require interaction with Canvas. Plus all of your grades, assignments and discussion threads will be found there. I cannot stress enough how you need to be prepared for this. As an adult learner if you are not well versed in these types of skills I implore you to seek help. EdCC has many Computer Services and FAQ Tutorials for assistance with this. As I came from the Tech Industry this wasn’t a huge challenge for me once I got my log in information after enrolling. In fact the integration of technology into education is a refreshing and welcome change for me.
In order to do well in school you are obviously going to have to study and find the time for reading and completing assignments. If at all possible set up consistent blocks of time for your homework. You will have lots of it. Look at your schedule and start formulating an idea of prioritizing available time for studying. Before School started I knew that I would be treating school like a fill time job. So in addition to going to classes during the early part of the day, I would basically have weekday afternoons and evenings, all day Friday and parts of the weekend, if necessary, as blocks of time to study. I would also have two hours of free time at school, two days a week, before one of my classes and be able to utilize that time if needed. I have been extremely diligent and stick to my blocks of time for studying. For example, Monday afternoon allows me to work on school work for Tuesday’s classes. Additionally Tuesday afternoon allows time for Wednesdays class and so forth. I can work on anything during those times but mostly stick to what I have written down in my Day Planner tasks lists. Some days I’ll need to focus on one class exclusively, or work on assignments for two different classes, regardless I know I have the block of time to do so. Just having these blocks of time to study allows me complete flexibility in choosing what I need to work on.
Even though I do study a lot, I do try and set a time goal within each block, whether its the full block of time or only a portion of hours within that block. I adjust according to how much work I need to get done. I find however that by staying on top of my workload I rarely have any surprises. I also think once you get into a set pattern you find a rhythm and it becomes easier to manage and know your studying time. You will know how much time you need to devote to each class based on the workload. I find that by knowing I am going to have a set time I can focus more closely on the task at hand and get done what I need to in that block of time. Also as we all know life happens. Setting a set time time allows you to focus on other things when you need to. For example, my spouse arrives home usually about 4:30 pm each day. So I usually study and do school work in that block of time up to about 4 pm. I can then focus solely on the interaction with my family and not have it interfere with my studies. I usually then return to studying for that evening but again setting a time so I can also give my mind a rest for the night.
Friday is a day I use to get the majority of any school work done. I usually try and start about normal class time which can be anywhere from 7:30 am to 10:00 am. I may even start later but never fail to set a time goal. I’ve studied anywhere from 8-9 hours to being able to take the Friday off after being caught up. You will just have to map your own study blocks based on your schedule and situation. But if you do take the time and stick to your plan I have no doubt that you will also be as successful as I have been. This also helps with forming a routine for the entire duration of your attendance at school. If you have Friday off as most students do this may be the perfect time for you to get in the majority of your studies.
I do usually take Thursday afternoons and evenings off from studying, as being diligent at school all week does earn me a mental break for an afternoon and evening. This weekly break from studying goes a long way in keeping me focused and on top of my studies overall.
I also definitely use time blocks on the weekends, because its the weekend and who doesn’t like to enjoy them? Even during school. I am usually up early and use that time so I am free in the afternoon or evening as need be. We all know that we have many obligations on the weekends but it is still possible to find time to study and not lose any time that you can likely benefit from overall.
That being said, be flexible when life issues arise. Sometimes you may not feel like studying or prefer to do something that comes up. This is okay. I find that if I am preoccupied with some thing else while studying there is almost no point in doing so. And remember it’s okay to put your family time in front of studying and may just provide a nice break and allow you to focus more later on. But if you have taken the time to set up study blocks and stick to that plan, you will likely find anyways that you can easily incorporate school into your already busy daily life and succeed in both.