University of Southern Indiana

Seven time-management tips for adult learners

May 2017
By Erin Hollinger, administrative associate, University of Southern Indiana and USI adult learner

Erin Hollinger
Erin Hollinger

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, as well. They often ask how I do it, or how I can possibly make time to do any of those things with any success at all.  All I have to offer is this simple response: time management.

It sounds silly or impossible to think that time management is the key, but it is. I am 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 (for everyone), but it can be done. Before you think you cannot 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. My older kids are nearly passing me up in the level of work. (They even help me sometimes.) When your kids sit down to study, you sit down and study with them. Not only does it hold them accountable to 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.
    Hollinger with her daughter

  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 practices. Keeping your books and materials in a “to-go” bag gives you a chance to grab and read any time you are sitting around waiting.

  3. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors.
    I have been amazed how understanding faculty are when it comes to personal challenges as an adult learner. I have had professors move assignments to adjust for everything from a work conference to a bout of the flu. I have found open communication can go a long way. While they will not 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 did not need guidance, but a D on a paper that was worth a third of my grade taught me otherwise. Had I went in and spoke with the professor in the early stages; I would have realized I was not doing it correctly. When help is available, take it. I have 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 have found that if I actually add study time as an event on my calendar, I will make time for studying. It is almost a necessity.

    Hollinger with two of her sons
  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 are taking this seriously, so they are there to support you. It also sets a great example for them down the road.

  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 is 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.

Contact Dr. Wes Durham


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