By Laura Tenney

In this time of COVID-19, we’ve all had to adapt to a new normal and make adjustments, big and small, to our everyday lives. Many of us are working remotely or taking online classes for the first time, and have needed to find new ways to succeed in this new environment.

As a student in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, I’m taking online classes like so many and have had to establish a new routine. I thrive on structure so having a schedule, even if it is self-implemented, is very important to me.

Here are some time management strategies I’ve implemented to help keep me organized and motivated:

Start the week with a plan. At the beginning of each week, I write down every assignment for that week for each class. This helps me visualize what needs to be done. I like to include a time estimate on each activity or a page count so I know what items can be completed quickly and what will require a bigger chunk of time. I also include larger project due dates that are a few weeks away, so they do not slip my mind.

Create a to-do list for each day. Once I know what needs to be done for each class throughout the week, I assign items to specific days. You can do this by sticking to the original class schedule before classes were moved online. For example, study Economics on Monday, Management on Tuesday, etc. Or you can do bits of each class each day to vary the content and remain engaged.

Set aside blocks of time for schoolwork. Whether it’s working for an hour or three hours straight, create designated blocks of time throughout the day for schoolwork. I usually try to work for an hour in the mornings then take a 20-minute break. I find these shorter periods of time work best for my attention span and tend to minimize burnout.

Create a schedule that works for you. Some people are morning people and others are night owls. Find what works best for you. I work best in the morning from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. so I make sure I dedicate this time to schoolwork. If you are more of an afternoon person and enjoy taking your mornings slow, set aside time after lunch to focus on what needs to be done for that day.

Make time for breaks. While some of us would love to finish our work as soon as possible during the day to move on to our down time, breaks are important for rejuvenating the mind and making sure you’re fully understanding the material you’re studying. Schedule breaks into your day, something as simple as a 15-minute break for coffee or a short scroll through Instagram. Or a longer break like going for a walk or cooking a meal. Set a timer for your break so that you stay on track and get back to schoolwork in a timely manner.

Have a cutoff time. With home life and school life blending together, it’s important to try to keep some sort of normalcy in our day-to-day lives. I aim to complete all my work by 5 p.m. so that I can enjoy my evening and spend time with my family and pets. Having a predictable cutoff time can help you manage your productivity and stress levels. Here is a sample schedule:

8 a.m. Wake up and coffee

9 a.m. Watch a lecture

10 a.m. More coffee

10:30 a.m. Reading/lecture

11:30 a.m. 15-minute break

11:45 Reading/lecture

1 p.m. Go for a walk/ exercise

2:30 p.m. Reading/lecture

4 p.m. Done for the day! Check off what you’ve accomplished and mentally plan for the next day

In the end, you know what works best for you, so structure your time accordingly. Plan your schoolwork around your most productive hours of the day, make sure to schedule in breaks, and try as much as you can to include physical activity into your week to stay healthy and relaxed in body and mind.

Laura Tenney is an MBA student, specializing in accounting, at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. She also works as a graduate assistant at the School of Hospitality Leadership in the Driehaus College of Business. Laura earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas State University.