When I started the MPW program, I knew I would have to adjust to the demands of an online class structure, but I really had no idea what I was in for, especially four years removed from my undergrad degree and traditional classes. Being exceedingly Type B with a dash of ADHD thrown in didn’t help matters, but I finally found what works for me, and hopefully these tips and tricks help you!
Get a Planner
A good planner. One with lots of room to write on, preferably one that shows an entire week at once. I’m partial to the Moleskine weekly planners. 2015 is the first year in over 10 years that I haven’t used one, only because I waited too long and everywhere was sold out by the first of the year! Tough times, I know. This year I’m using a Quo Vadis “Scholar” weekly planner, and I’m shocked to say I like it more than my Moleskines. Any planner will do in a pinch, though! My personal plan of attack is to sit down every Sunday night and write in my upcoming due dates in all of my classes for the week. Then I like to write everything down on a note card (or on my white board during assignment-heavy weeks) so I can cross assignments off as I go along. I know. It’s weird. Why write assignments in two places? I have no idea, but it works for me.
For the more Type A among us, I’ve had many friends in undergrad who swore by making a Google calendar scheduling out basically every hour of the week. If you can stick to that, more power to you! It absolutely works for some people. Personally, I find myself spending more time picking out colors for my various calendars than I do actually following the schedule. Since Chatham’s email is based in Outlook, you could also use Outlook’s calendar system for the same thing and just keep all of your school-related stuff in the same place.
The Pomodoro Technique has saved my life. Basically, set a timer for 25 minutes and just work. Don’t look at Facebook. Don’t watch “The Walking Dead.” Just work. When your timer goes off, take a short break (five minutes or so. Sometimes I do 10!) and then do another chunk of 25. After four sets of 25, take a longer break. Say, 30 minutes or so. You can adjust the times as you need to, of course, but I’ve found that 20/10 usually works for me. There are several apps and websites that will provide a countdown for you, but you can just as easily set your countdown clock on your smartphone for the time you need. Personally, I’m easily distracted, and knowing I’ll get a break if I work for a short period of time is the only way I can get things done sometimes. (For example: This blog post!)
“I don’t need no stinkin’ time management!”
No, you do. Really. Listen to me. My first term was a mess because I was under the impression I could just skate through like I did in my traditional undergrad classes. Wrong-o. Without a system to keep your assignments on track, you’re going to end up completely behind and rushing to do everything on Saturday night. And don’t get me wrong. I still do that from time to time even though I know better, and it’s always a result of not adequately planning out my week.
Taking online classes may seem a bit daunting to those of us who are laid-back and so very not Type-A people, but we can do it! What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for getting stuff done?