Studying online offers a special kind of flexibility. A kind of flexibility that traditional education can’t offer. You can study where you want and when you want. To make the most of this lifestyle, it helps if you have some really effective time management techniques to rely on.

Here are the top 3 tips from our student services team:

1. Plan out your time around existing commitments

When you have full control over your study times, it can be tempting to just wing it and study when you feel like it. But let’s not forget the famous proverb “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

The best way to plan your timetable is to start by documenting your existing commitments. Are you working at the moment? If so, which days of the week do you work? What time do you leave home in the morning and return home at night?

Once you have documented work commitments, have a think about your family commitments. Do you have children who need to be picked up for school? Do you cook dinner every night? Do you have a spouse who can take on a few of the responsibilities for you?

Finally, pen in any other commitments you may have, such as extra-curricular activities. After all that you will be almost ready to plan out your study timetable… almost… but first you need to know how to…

2. Leverage the power of habit

Some students like to dedicate one or two days per week to study, which is fine if that is all your commitments will permit. But if time permits, the most effective strategy is to do a little bit of study every day.

In fact, doing 1 hour of study, 7 times a week is far more effective than 7 hours of study once per week. This is because it helps memory retention. Did you know that in just one week you can forget 90% of what you learned in your last study session? This only happens if you don’t review your learning though. If you review your studies daily you will not only retain the information better – you will also strengthen the memories you have already acquired. But there is another, even more important reason why daily study is so effective.

Do you remember when you were a child and your parents had to force you to brush your teeth? Well at some point it stopped being an effort, and it just became a habit. Habit is a really powerful phenomenon – one that we usually underestimate. It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit (but can take longer – about 2 months on average depending on the person and the habit). Forming a new habit takes daily effort in the beginning, but gets easier each day, eventually becoming automatic. At that point all of the hard work is done and you can start reaping the rewards! Your new habit becomes an automatic part of your life just like brushing your teeth.

So if possible, schedule some study time every single day – it will improve your memory retention and will give you the endurance to complete your course on time.

With that knowledge you are almost ready to complete your timetable… almost… but there is just one more thing you should know first. You need to know how to…

3. Overcome decision fatigue

Just like your body gets tired from heavy activity, your ability to make decisions also gets fatigued from heavy use. Our ability to make decisions is best early in the day, and after we have had something nourishing to eat. Taking a break from making decisions can also help you recover.

Unlike physical or mental tiredness, you can’t really feel decision fatigue. It doesn’t come with that same sensation of tiredness that you experience with physical or mental fatigue. But its effects are very real. As you make decisions throughout the day, you deplete your resources until eventually you run out of energy. That’s why we often get home from work and we can’t bring ourselves to eat that healthy meal we wanted to cook, or do that exercise we want to do… or study that Diploma we want to study.

So when you plan your study timetable you should take decision making fatigue into account, ideally planning your study time early in the day. That’s not an option for everyone, especially if they work fulltime, so the alternative is to plan to have your study sessions after a healthy, energy rich meal!

That’s it! You’re now ready to start planning your time and get to work on your first assignment!