How to Manage Your Time as a Working, Adult Student

One of the most invaluable skills you can possess professionally and during your education is one of time management. It’s a buzzword, to be sure. And in the world of a working adult returning back to school, excelling in the art of time management is crucial.

The bottom line is: college is different. As a non-traditional student, you’re used to toeing the line. College professors will support you, but they won’t hold your hand throughout the semester like a high school teacher might. If you’re enrolled in multiple classes in one semester, the syllabi won’t be written in a way that prevents projects, papers and tests from overlapping. Then add in a dash of existing work and familial responsibilities to the mix.

1 . Have an accurate sense of self-awareness.

Knowing who you are and what you’re capable of will take you a long way in time management. As a non-traditional student you have the added benefit of maturity and having an understanding of how you best operate. You have to recognize your strengths and play into them to best manage your time. If you know you’re an early riser, plan your classes and homework time around that.

There isn’t a cure-all pill for maneuvering your coursework. No two people are the same or work the same. Establish what feels right and works for you. And of course, be flexible.

2 . Prioritize your work and focus on the now.

This point is a no-brainer. But there’s more than just figuring out which tasks and assignments are most important. You have to also take into consideration how quickly an assignment can get done and if it’s prudent to spread a task over multiple days or homework sessions. Certainly due dates matter, but should you break up your assignment strictly by task or by allotted work time? That’s for you to determine based on your work preferences and strengths.

Don’t get caught up in prioritizing as you go. Begin your process at the start of the course and adjust as needed. Be sure to prioritize your everyday responsibilities and down time as well.

3 . Practice stress management.

Allowing your stress to run wild and distract you from the task at hand will ultimately bog you down and decrease the quality of work your producing. Keep your head clear and remain calm and steady.

The season you spend juggling work, school and various adult responsibilities is temporary. While you’re in the weeds, it will seem like the journey is long and arduous. But it truly ends in a flash. Maintain an even keel and don’t allow stress to detract from the experience.

4 . Avoid multitasking.

It’s pretty common knowledge that multitasking yields poor results across the board. So don’t do it. Keep work time separate from school time. Don’t overlap family time with homework time. Focus on one assignment for one class at a time. Switching gears and train of thought won’t get you that A. 

5 . Master the art of delegation.

Being a non-traditional student doesn’t mean you have to juggle everything by yourself. All the outside responsibility cannot fall to you; rely on friends, family and possibly even coworkers for support. You’re not running away from responsibilities. You’re building an environment to succeed by not undertaking too much and focusing on doing the best you can.

6 . Take breaks.

Breaking your back to get everything done won’t do you any favors in the long run. Have time built into your schedule to do something for yourself. And keep  mini breaks in mind while you’re working, too. Just stopping for 10 minutes will help you refocus your thoughts. Maintaining your mental health is imperative to your overall success

Adjusting to college life and staying on top of your school responsibilities will be different for you as a non-traditional student. But it is an adjustment. Don’t overlook the changes taking place in your life, and don’t discount the importance of solid time management skills. You can succeed, and you will succeed.

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