7 Time Management Tips from Online Graduate Students

Sonya Raiker is pursuing her Master of Public Health degree online at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. She has many projects, papers and classes to fit into her day-to-day schedule — not to mention keeping up with family and friends.

Raiker isn’t alone in this balancing act. Many students need to juggle competing priorities during graduate school. Between schoolwork and personal obligations, time management can be a challenge for many graduate students. Fortunately, a variety of practical strategies can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here’s a look at time management tips shared by Raiker and several other online graduate students with U.S. News and World Report.

Be honest with your professors

When you are working full time, dealing with family and friends and trying to excel in school, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed at times. It’s important to keep your professors in the loop when you encounter roadblocks. After all, professors are human beings too, and they want to see you succeed. Explain what the problem is and ask if you can have an extension or make up an exam at a later date. Be proactive about it, and you might be surprised by how much professors can help you with time management.

Don’t feel guilty about saying “no

”You are busy. You have a long to-do list. Don’t feel guilty about bowing out of certain events because you simply can’t keep up with everything. Explain that you need to focus on schoolwork or catch up on projects at your job. But, try not to say no to every social engagement. Taking a break from studying might actually help you clear your mind.

Make a plan

When you’re juggling different responsibilities, it’s important to plan out how you’re spending your time. Keep in mind that some projects will take longer than anticipated, and occasionally you need to give your brain a break. Make a schedule — particularly if you are feeling overwhelmed — but don’t be so rigid that you end up stressing yourself out even more.

Turn off your phone

Set aside blocks of time when you won’t be distracted by phone notifications, Facebook or e-mail. Even just checking a quick text can throw off your concentration, and it takes time to refocus. You can use programs such as Leech Block or StayFocused to block distracting sites.

Stop procrastinating

It’s easy to tell yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” but when the next day arrives, you still haven’t started. If you have trouble getting motivated to begin a task, try a reward system. Work on your research paper today and then go to the beach tomorrow. That way you will actually enjoy the trip and not stress because you have work waiting for you at home. You can also try physically placing your work between you and the distraction. Leave your assignment open on the kitchen table to serve as a reminder that you need to start working.

Get a study buddy

The idea may sound a little juvenile to some, but being held accountable for your work could actually be the incentive you need to stay on course. A fellow graduate student will understand the stress you are dealing with and maybe even share a few tips to help you with a particular project or professor.

Do your best and then let go

Don’t get caught up in the need to make every assignment perfect. When you start to realize you’re nitpicking or obsessing, take a minute and think, “Is this the best that I can do?” If you’re satisfied that it is, then move on to another task.

Graduate school is challenging. It can be time consuming and stressful, but you’re not alone in the struggle. All graduate students deal with how to get everything done and still maintain a happy work-life balance. Following a few of these simple tips could help you stay organized while earning a Master of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.