Online classes provide the flexibility that most of us need in our lives to complete school. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deadlines looming, doctor’s appointments to make, haircuts to get, and grocery shopping that is desperately needed. So you might be asking yourself: “How do I keep my due dates on the radar with everything else going on? Especially right now?”

As a typical Type-A personality, for me, it’s about strategy, planning, and accountability.

Here are some of my ways to keep track:

  • I download a basic blank calendar for each month of the semester. I type in most of the stuff that I add to it and then print it. Alternatively, an online calendar that syncs with each device works great too!
  • I assign each course a different color. I try to keep them in the primary and secondary colors so they are visibly different when I glance at my calendar.
  • I add all of the personal appointments and other things to keep track of for the semester. I try to schedule out the appointments I know I’ll need – doctor, dentist, hair, vet etc. during the break so I can easily fit it in. Waiting on hold to schedule an appointment during the semester just seemed like time I could use for other things!
  • As soon as I gained access to each class, I read through the syllabus. I then read each course schedule and list the entire semester’s due dates on the monthly calendars in the assigned colors. This lets me see the “big” picture of that class as well as the combined semester picture.
  • I then looked at the “big” semester-long assignments and add in incremental check-ins through the semester. So, if I have a final paper due, I schedule routine bi-weekly check-ins on how it’s going. Those check-ins could be thinking about the topic, a date to start research, a day to complete research, a day to complete a rough draft, or a date to complete the final draft a week before it is actually due to the professor. These check-ins keep me constantly working toward those big projects, and they help me figure out if I have questions along the way. This is the same process I used when I started grad school and had to figure out how to write a thesis in two years!
  • Once I have the semester calendar with all the due dates created, I set aside school time throughout each week. I block out time where I say “I’m in class” if someone asks what I have going on that day. Otherwise, it’s so easy to think “Oh, I’ll do school stuff tomorrow and do this now.”
  • Each day I log into my email and double check for anything that might be surprising to me (subscribing to forums can really help here!). For example, a due date may have been changed.
  • By the end of each week I review how I did with my schedule. Sometimes things come up that prevent me from being able to complete everything on my list, but by planning early I pad in a few times of “uh-oh!” without it destroying my grade.

This continues to be a way that I keep track of work and life “due dates” for things. It helped me earn a Summa Cum Laude distinction with my bachelor’s degree and eventually I published my thesis and graduated with a master’s degree. That old saying, “Prior planning prevents poor performance” really guided me, and it can guide you too!

~Fallon Hughes, Virtual Mentor