Getting into the right mindset to go back to school for an online nursing degree depends on getting into the right space – temporally and physically. Here are some practical ideas that can ensure your experience going back to school is successful.
What are your optimal learning times?
Often, students schedule their days based on what they believe is an acceptable time to study. However, there is no right or wrong time to study, and what may work for some people may not work for you. Rather than create a schedule that simply looks good on paper, it is essential that you create a time management plan that makes sense for you (this goes not only for studying, but for exercising, eating well, and connecting with others). Being a student is more than completing course tasks — it’s having the strength and “mental space” to capably think through ideas.
Breaking this question down a bit more, when are you most alert and able to focus during your waking hours? Do you like to stay up as the proverbial night owl? Or do you like to start fresh after a 5 a.m. jog? Maybe all cylinders only start firing after that first cup of coffee when the sun fills your kitchen with light. They key to success is knowing when you can be your best, then create a time management plan that dedicates these time slots to study. Set priorities for yourself so you can balance the responsibilities of your new academic journey with your work and family obligations.
How to start building your plan
Begin creation of your time management program by identifying the elements in your life that are mandatory or top priorities. For example, mandatory inclusions in your schedule may be picking up carpool, attending your children’s recitals or practices, family dinners, church, or other regular commitments. Schedule those events first. Most people are surprised to see how much time is dedicated to those events during a given week!
The lesson here is to be as realistic as you can with your schedule. By doing so, you will be less likely to set yourself up for disappointment and more likely to succeed.
By finding a little time every day – a window of time that’s feasible – to devote to school, you will feel relieved knowing that you won’t get behind. Additionally, you will feel as if you have accomplished something important at the end of each day (which you have!).
Three tips for success
- Find a dedicated place to study in. The goal is to create an area in your home that enables you to minimize or eliminate distractions and outside influences. Be sure to discuss with your family and loved ones the importance of undisturbed study time. They want you to succeed, so it is important to help them understand what you need from them to make that happen. The earlier you do this in your going-back-to-school process, the more you will get out of your studies.
- Use a visual scheduling system. Use a whiteboard or large paper calendar that describes, in varying colors, your reading assignments, due dates for discussion contributions, and due dates for papers. Doing so will help keep your weekly assignments at the forefront of your attention. Alternatively, if you prefer to have your schedule on-the-go on your mobile device, you should incorporate your school assignments and due dates into your digital calendar and set up reminders to ensure that you are consistently aware of what lies ahead. The goal is to stay organized and to stay aware of your obligations, both related to school and otherwise.
- Print out vital material. Studies have shown that we spend an inordinate amount of time searching for files on our computers, either because we have forgotten where we have put them (or named them) or we thought we’d recall our filing logic later. To ensure that you always know what lies ahead in your course schedule, print the course syllabus and insert it in a folder that stays on your desk. Put the syllabus with your reading assignments so you can access them together, quickly, easily and often. The goal is to not lose sight of your assignments.
Consider carrying a portable, printed version of your schedule with you so you can review it on the fly when you’re out and about, or including the information in your digital calendar so you can access it from your mobile device. Accessing your schedule on-the-go gives you repeated exposure, visually, to what needs to be done and when.
Whether you are enrolling in an RN to BSN, RN to MSN, or doctorate in nursing, having a time management plan and a dedicated work space in place can increase your chances for success – and personal reward.
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