Mentor Advice: Scheduling time for study

By Mary Alice Kothe
WGU Program Mentor, College of Health Professions

Alice Kothel

At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course instructor, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of mentors not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU mentors in colleges throughout the university.

When I first agreed to write something about scheduling, I immediately thought of asking my nursing students, who have a different work schedule every week, about how they organize and monitor their time in order to stay on track with their studies. I got many responses from my students, who are ever-willing to help.

Most responses centered around record-keeping and the many tools available today to manage a busy lifestyle with multiple responsibilities. Students keep track of their appointments using their cell phones, iPads, day planners, and calendars. One student recommended a white board calendar on which he recorded both work and school plans and appointments.

However, there was one student who really went to the heart of the matter. "Nothing worked until I decided school had to be high on my list of priorities," she said. She had tried making lists and using her phone for reminders but always found other things needed to be done first. Understandably, work responsibilities had to be high on the list, but finally it dawned on her that almost everything managed to outrank study time. It was then that she realized she put almost anyone and anything ahead of her own goals.

Sometimes we must take care of the needs of others; it may be the right thing to do, or even the only option. However, as that nurse did, you may need to look closely at your priorities and ask yourself to honestly evaluate where school falls on your list. She also wisely pointed out that the list should not consist of activities. In other words, your daily or weekly "to do" list should reflect your priorities, not the other way around. Once you have determined the order of importance, you may find you are spending the bulk of your time on activities that contribute little or not at all to your major goals or priorities.

In that case, you may find procrastination is just another word for avoidance. When you find it difficult to fit your schoolwork into your schedule, ask yourself why and be honest with yourself. Are you avoiding a task because you don't like the subject? Afraid you might fail? Feel unprepared? Don't understand something about it? Remember, WGU offers many resources, and your student and course mentors are eager to help you. However, only you can put your education high on your list of priorities, and that is where the trip to success begins. It was Henry David Thoreau who wrote, "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?" Scheduling your time will be easier when you know what you should be busy doing.

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