University of Southern Indiana

Time management tips for adult learners

Time management tips for adult learners

5/30/2017 | University Communications
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These tips come from Erin Hollinger, administrative associate in Outreach and Engagement. She is currently double majoring in criminal justice and sociology.

I often talk to people about my quest to earn a degree as an adult, and the workload involved. I have heard things like, “You’re crazy!” and “How do you even have time to sleep?” People really freak out when I add that I work full time and have four kids. They often ask how I do it, or how I can possibly make time to do any of those things successfully. My simple response: time management.

It may sound silly to think that time management is the key, but it is. I’m not a superhero, not even close. Anyone can accomplish their educational goals if they have the drive and organizational skills to manage time. It takes some adjustment, but it can be done. Before you think you can’t possibly manage, here are a few things I have learned to help manage my time and school work. You might be surprised how well things mesh once you get up and running!

  1. Study with your kids.
    My children are now 17, 15, 13 and 11. They have homework on a regular basis. When your kids sit down to study, sit down and study with them. Not only does it hold them accountable for their work, it holds you accountable as well. At first, it can seem a little weird, but in the end, they start to enjoy that time together.
  2. Take your books with you.
    As a mom who is on the go more often than not, I spend a ton of time waiting at sport practices. Keeping your books and materials in a “to-go” bag gives you a chance to grab it and read any time you are sitting around waiting.

  3. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors.
    I’ve been amazed how understanding faculty are when it comes to personal challenges as an adult learner. I’ve had professors move assignments to adjust for everything from a work conference to a bout of the flu. I’ve found open communication can go a long way. While they won’t always bend, it certainly helps to keep them in the loop regarding your shortcomings.

  4. When a professor suggests you set up a time to discuss a paper, project or progress, do it.
    I learned the hard way that not doing this can hurt. I came in with an attitude that I didn’t need guidance, but a D on a paper that was worth a third of my grade taught me otherwise. Had I spoken with the professor in the early stages, I would’ve realized I wasn’t doing it correctly. When help is available, take it. I’ve learned it is even more critical when you are a busy person.

  5. Schedule your study time.
    My calendar can look like I am the busiest person on earth nearly every day, so the thought of “fitting it in” is often laughable. However, I’ve found that if I actually add study time as an event on my calendar, I’ll make time for studying. It’s almost a necessity.

  6. Keep your family involved. 
    My son helped me recently with an at-home lab project and he seemed to enjoy the time spent with me one-on-one. Make sure your spouse and children know your progress and see that you are excited about learning (even when you may not be). They see that you’re taking it seriously, so they’re there to support you. It also sets a great example.

  7. When you commit to becoming an adult learner, realize this should be a priority and realize there will be struggles.
    There will be days you think you really are crazy for taking on this challenge and weeks that you want to toss it all in the air and say forget it. Remember, you are doing this to enhance your life, whether that be for personal or professional reasons. It’s hard work and it does require a huge amount of time management, especially if you are at a point in life where you feel like you may not have the time.

Take a deep breath, it will be okay. You can do it.

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Erin Hollinger with son

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