Earning your degree online means you have the freedom to manage your own schedule. This is liberating for many students — especially those balancing a career or new to college — but it can also be overwhelming if you’re not prepared. However, with a little planning and prioritization, building an effective organizational system is easier than you might think. Check out these tips for staying organized that can help set you up for success in an online program.
1. Start with the right study space.
Find a dedicated spot to call your home base, preferably with a desk or other surface to spread out your materials. By working in the same place each time, you’ll get into a routine, keep your mind clear and organized and set boundaries that will help you maintain work-life balance. Wherever you choose to study, make sure your space is quiet, well lit and clear from distractions.
“I add plants, coffee or tea, water and a small snack to personalize mine,” said Lauren Dohr, a working mother, and military spouse living in Homestead, Florida, who’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and a minor in history through ASU Online.
Remove clutter but keep your most commonly used supplies — such as headphones, pens, highlighters and notebooks — quickly accessible so you don’t waste time searching for them. This can also apply to your digital study space, where you should have a systemized folder structure to store class documents and assignments.
2. Make a plan and stick to it.
Setting goals can help give you a sense of direction. As a student, you’ll balance multiple responsibilities between life and learning, which makes creating a framework for the week a key to setting yourself up for success. It can be beneficial to organize daily and weekly goals to help you break up the tasks into a sustainable workflow. Cicily Boone, who lives in Austin, Texas, went through several planners while earning her bachelor’s in business communication with ASU Online. On Sundays, she’d pull up her course syllabi and make a plan for the upcoming week to keep her organized and on task.
“I write all of my assignments in my planner, and I write everything that is due in bright red so it really stands out on the page for me. I love having it all laid out for me to look at. The more I write it down, the easier and the better I’m going to remember it,” Boone said.
A planner enables you to visualize your week and can help you stay accountable. Since Boone was also working and running a YouTube channel, she used an additional layer of color coding to distinguish her professional deadlines from her academic ones. You can incorporate list-making tools like highlighting, check boxes, and hourly time blocks to help you prioritize your obligations and stay on track.