Time Management for Working Students

time management for busy students - CHA Learning

Whether you’re looking to advance your existing career or to change your path altogether, managing time in your academic and professional life is never easy. And when you factor in a thousand other responsibilities on your plate (raising a family, maintaining a household, exercise, maybe even a social life!), finding the right balance between it all can sometimes feel impossible.

A recent survey shows that 84% of our CHA Learning students are working full-time while enrolled in their programs. We also know that 60% of our students choose our programs because of the flexibility of their design. All our programs and courses are delivered entirely online which gives students the chance to manage their work and personal schedules while still working towards their certificates. As most of our programs are designed to be self-paced, learners can complete their studies in an overall duration that best suits them.

But this flexibility and design also brings unique challenges to the online environment. Unlike the traditional brick and mortar classroom, our faculty aren’t standing in front of students directing learning every day. Instead, for most of our programs and courses, learners are given a timeframe to complete their certification; how and when they meet the requirements is up to them. While our instructors and staff at CHA Learning are always available to provide direction and guidance, ultimately the student is responsible for their own success.

When it comes to time management, the good news is that it’s not about finding more hours in the day, it’s about making the most of the hours you already have. Building study time into an already busy lifestyle requires careful strategy and planning, but it can be done successfully. Here are a few quick tips for managing your time for academic and professional success.

Plan Ahead

It’s easy to think and live only in the “now” and lose sight of what’s ahead.  After all, today is in your face and screaming for your attention. And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow hasn’t come yet. Unfortunately, this mentality is also an easy way to fall behind. Planning ahead is about knowing what you will need to do and when you will need to do it to achieve your goals – in this case, academic and professional success.

Start with some self-reflection. Ask yourself the following questions (it might help to write your answers down!):

  1. What do I want (or need) to achieve? What is my goal?
  2. When do I need to achieve my goal? What is the deadline? How much time do I have?
  3. What tools and resources do I need to achieve my goal?
  4. What is the complete list of activities I need to do to achieve my goal? What is the logical order of these activities?
  5. What is the first thing I need to do, and when do I need to start it?

How you answer these questions will help you to determine what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, what resources/tools you will need and how best to put your plan into action.

Using a calendar or planner might help you to map out your goals. Start at a high-level, like a monthly calendar, and then break it down into weekly and daily increments. This brings us to our next point…

Make it Feel Manageable

Susan Van Seggelen, your Professional Programs Coordinator at CHA Learning, has the following quote posted in her office:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” -Mark Twain

We asked what this quote means to her:

“This quote motivates me when my to-do list is so long that I don’t even know where to start. I often hear this same sentiment from our students who are struggling to balance work, school and family obligations. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to procrastination or even makes you want give up entirely. Instead, the best thing you can do is to get started. Sometimes, this is half the battle. A great place to start is to make a list of every single thing that you need to do, break this list into manageable tasks (be specific and realistic!), and then start prioritizing these items. This simple action will make you feel like you have more control over your workload and your feelings. When you look at your priority list, you may realize that the tasks are achievable after all. Or, you may recognize that the workload is too much, and in that case, you may need to rethink your priorities, or consider asking for help.”

Ask for Help

It can be hard to admit that you’ve taken on more than you can handle. But not asking for help when you really need it can actually be a larger time suck than you think. Whether it’s asking your partner to handle dinner so you can study, reaching out to your organization for further coaching, contacting your instructor for assistance understanding a topic, or contacting your learning provider for an extension, asking for help can add valuable time back into your day.

Be Adaptable

Some people think of time management as completely rigid, inflexible, and unwavering. For them, to-do lists might as well be etched in stone. But when was the last time your day went exactly as you had planned it?

Life happens.

Your fridge leaks. A deadline at work gets moved up. Your computer won’t start. These are things you probably didn’t write down in your daily planner but can happen at any time. Allowing for flexibility in your time management strategies keep you productive when they do. When planning ahead, try to work in contingency time for these unexpected life moments. Think about it like having a “time-savings” account that you can borrow from when you need it. But just like bank savings accounts, if you don’t plan and don’t ever deposit, there is nothing for that emergency or that special vacation.

Find the Balance

Think about the last time you had too much to do but not enough time to do it. What was the first thing you considered forfeiting to make room for that lengthy to-do list?

If you answered sleep, you’re not alone.

For many, sleep is the first thing that’s sacrificed during a busy or stressful time. While it may seem logical (less sleep = awake longer = more time to get things done), forgoing sleep may actually make you less productive. And even if you do manage to cross a few extra tasks off your list during the time you spent not sleeping, the quality of that work – and your health and well-being – will suffer.

Time management is all about balance. And that doesn’t just mean balancing work and school – it means making time for activities that too often get pushed aside or dropped altogether. Activities like sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and leisure time (vacation, movie night, reading a book, etc.) can help you manage your stress, which in turn makes you better at managing the rest of your time.

A Success Story

Janice Hewitt is a recent graduate of our Health Information Management Program who was also one of our award recipients in 2016 for her academic achievement. Not only did she enjoy our online program and the life balance it provided her, but she also now has an exciting new job at London Health Science Centre. Janice has some helpful advice for other students challenging themselves to grow in their professional lives.

“My advice to busy professionals trying to balance life, work and education is to first and foremost [focus on] organization and time-management [skills]. Using a daily planner is an excellent organizational tool, which can be used to note important due dates, exam dates, and practicum dates, in addition to your weekly plan to complete readings and course work. Creating your own personalized schedule is a foundation of success, and can help keep you on track with your work, education, and life. I don’t think we can minimize the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, minimizing stress, providing balance to help us with completing important tasks on time!”

Want to develop your time management skills in the workplace?

CHA Learning has just released Time Management, the latest course in our Leadership Express series. Learn more here.   

Resources

Our partners at Algonquin College developed some great time management resources to help you learn to manage your time more effectively. Check them out here.

Tell us…

What are some of your time management strategies? Send us an email, connect with us on Facebook, or tell us about it on Twitter @CHA_Learning. You might see your idea in a future post!

Sources

7 Reasons Your Time Management Must Be Flexible. (2016, February 29). Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://timemanagementninja.com/2016/02/7-reasons-your-time-management-must-be-flexible/

Alton, L. (2016, September 08). How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Day At The Office. Retrieved January 28, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryalton/2016/09/07/heres-how-sleep-affects-your-day-at-the-office/

Eat healthy, exercise, sleep enough to manage stress. (2018, March 28). Retrieved January 28, 2019, from https://newsarchive.heart.org/eat-healthy-exercise-sleep-enough-to-manage-stress/

Time Management Skills: Planning Ahead – Time Management Training Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://corporatecoachgroup.com/blog/time-management-skills-planning-ahead