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Managing your time while you are in school is hard, especially if you are working or have a family. When you are taking online classes, time management is crucial to making sure you complete all of the work involved and turn in your assignments on time. While online classes do offer you the flexibility to complete the work on your own time, actually succeeding and staying organized is 100 percent up to you.

Organize and prepare for the entire semester right when you get the syllabus.

Organization is vital to keeping everything in order. When you get the syllabus, read it over a couple of times, highlight or write on a separate sheet of paper when your readings and assignments are due, and keep your syllabus in the same folder as the rest of your school work. You are going to have readings, assignments, quizzes, exams, and projects, and you don't want to miss them just because you forgot about it.

Day planners are helpful to keeping everything in order, and consider using an online calendar linked to your email as well. At the beginning of the semester, set calendar reminders for due dates and dates of your exams. It’ll only take 10 minutes to set all of this up, and it will help you out for the rest of the semester.

Whatever it takes, find the time to complete the work.

You obviously need to set aside time in your schedule to complete the work, but seriously, actually use that time to be productive. The deadlines professors set don’t care if you had to work late last night or you have family and friends in town from out of town. If you don’t complete the work, you’ll most likely get a zero, or at least one letter grade less than you would if you handed it in on time.

This means that even if you have a busy week with work or family or whatever it is, make sure that you find time somewhere in your schedule for your online classes. You’re friends and family will understand if you take an hour or two to read discussion posts and reply to your classmates. It is ok to show up a couple of hours late to the party to finish your paper that’s due tomorrow. Most things can wait, turning in your assignments can’t.  

Handle distractions in your own way.

To go along with this, you will need to learn how to handle distractions in your life. However you can, do it. Go to the coffee shop, put in your headphones, and zone out on your homework for a few hours if you have too much going on at home. Go to the park, sit next to a shady tree, and read the 60 pages of your book that is due next week. It never takes as long as you think it does, and you’ll be thanking yourself after you took the time to put in the work when it’s all completed.

If you’re one of those people who have a hard time managing distractions on your computer, go to a place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi if you can. Leave your phone at home when you go to the library to study. Also, look up online for tools to limit your distractions on your computer. There are plenty of free extensions and apps that prevent you from accessing social media and other time-sucking websites. 

Utilize online tools.

Again, look up online for things to help you be more efficient with your time. Programs like Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox will allow you to access your files anywhere at any time. Online and PDF annotation tools will help you keep your reading notes in one place whether you are reading on your computer or tablet in the library or on your phone while commuting to work. Students have had these problems before, which means there are plenty of tools out there created to help students like you.

Be mobile.

Being mobile is essential for busy students who have other obligations and have to find time here and there to succeed in an online class. Owning a good laptop is top on the list in order to be mobile. Invest in a good laptop so that you can take it anywhere you go and spend the 30 minutes of your day to finish an assignment or take a quiz.

To go along with this, being able to start and stop at any time is a skill you will need to develop if you are a busy, working student in online classes. All of the above advice plays into honing these skills, and remember that it is also ok if you get ahead. Many students won’t turn in an assignment unless it is the due date. Why? If you have a boring week and nothing going on, read ahead or finish the paper that isn’t due until midterms. It’s ok to be ahead, you’ll thank yourself later.