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Posts from the ‘Time Management Tips’ Category

5 Tips from Academic Advisors on Achieving Academic Success

At Northcentral University, the role of our Academic Advisors is not just administrative. Our advisors strive to be supportive and encouraging of our students, advocating for their success.  NCU’s Academic Advisors direct students to academic resources and especially in the online environment, act as consistent point of contact to help students navigate the University’s policies, procedures and various departments.

After many years of being privy to how students learn best, what works, and what holds them back, our Academic Advisors now present the Top 5 Tips that successful students use to complete their programs successfully:

Time Management: Students often report their biggest struggle is making time for school work. Balancing academic obligations with family, work and professional obligations can be difficult. If adequate time is not set aside for assignment completion, students can fall behind quickly. Managing time effectively is one way to show your commitment to the program and honor your professional goals.

Utilization of Resources: Many of our most successful students understand the importance of seeking a variety of diverse perspectives. Taking advantage of tutoring, peer and instructor feedback, and APA and library resources will ensure students are up-to-date on requirements, and ultimately make them more confident about their work. For doctoral students this is especially important because of the nature of the dissertation phase where there is much more back and forth between editing and revision.  The ability to incorporate feedback and synthesize information and insight from a wide variety of sources is something that successful students take the time to learn and do well.

Proactive Communication: Successful students communicate proactively and seek assistance as early as possible when experiencing difficulty with the academic process.  They do not wait very long for a response before reaching out in another way or seeking confirmation that an initial communication has been received. Academic Advisors and your instructors should be informed if extenuating circumstances are preventing you from submitting assignments in a timely manner. In this way, successful students work to resolve problems while they are manageable and before problems begin to snowball.

Professional Application:  Successful students often have a professional context in which to apply their learning that works to their advantage. Students who are passionate about their subject and who concentrate on networking and building a professional name for themselves while still in school will feel even more confident when approaching graduation and professional application.  At the same time, professional networking and experience in the real world application of a course of study facilitates a student’s ability to complete high quality coursework.  Successful students look early and often toward their ultimate professional goals and how the topics they research or the concepts they study will enhance their understanding and assist them in their professional life.

Confidence: Advocating for oneself can portray a student in a positive and confident way.  Our most successful students are able to communicate succinctly and considerately when defending their theories, coursework and desire to fully understand feedback or policy.  It is not uncommon for advisors to hear a student express concern that being assertive to self-advocate might lead to negative repercussions.  In fact, the result is just the opposite when critique and questioning of rationale is articulated respectfully and with a confidence to acknowledge any misunderstanding.

4 Tips on Dealing with Holiday Stress

Remember being a kid and looking forward to the holiday season each year? There was nothing more exciting than getting time off school, spending time with family, listening to cheerful songs on the radio, eating great food and opening presents, lots of presents. Ah, the good old days! Now you’re all grown up, and the holidays represent something completely different. Sure, all of the excitement is still in the air, but there’s something about having to plan, cook and host it all that makes the season just a little more stressful.

Don’t let the thought of everything you need to do to prepare for the holiday season become overwhelming! You can get back to enjoying the final days of 2013 by properly preparing for the stress the season brings. Take a few moments to sit down, breathe and take in these suggestions for making your life just a tad easier.

Plan Your Time

If you’re anything like the rest of us, your holiday to-do list is a few miles long. From shopping to baking and family time, the last few weeks of each year are packed full of preparation for can’t-miss gatherings. Planning for the chaos is your best defense against obligation overload, so use this opportunity to start a positive time management habit – calendar blocking. Then, make a commitment to stick to your plan.

Set a Strict Budget

The holidays emphasize the spirit of generosity and it feels good to share your holiday spirit with others. If you’re stressed about fitting all of the gifts, food and charity contributions in to your budget this year, you’re not alone. Holiday spending (and the stress that goes with it) can get out of control fast, so take the time to set a strict budget. Not sure where to start? Check out this how to article complete with budget worksheets and tips on tracking, tweaking and limiting your spending.

Make a Holiday Playlist

When you’re out fighting crowds and standing in the checkout line for hours, it’s easy to forget that the holiday season is really about family, friends and being thankful for togetherness. If you find yourself standing at the edge of a holiday breakdown, try listening to a few holiday songs that can bring you back from the brink. In fact, it might be a good idea to be proactive and craft a holiday playlist ready for blasting through your headphones at a moment’s notice. If you’re in need of a few suggestions, try browsing Billboard’s list of hot holiday songs.

Spread the Holiday Spirit

There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from giving back to your community. Volunteering for a local food drive, food bank or church not only helps your community, it helps you to become more grateful for the gifts you have in your life. If you’re having trouble finding a volunteer opportunity to feel passionate about, try VolunteerMatch.org. With a database full of opportunities to give back across the country, you’re sure to find something close to home.

Time Management Exercise: Calendar Blocking

So, what exactly is calendar blocking? Put simply, it’s reserving blocks of time on your calendar for specific tasks. This exercise can help you save time, get well-organized and become a more productive version of your current self.

If this sounds like something you might benefit from, you’re right! Set aside some time to follow the steps below and get the process started for yourself, you’ll reap the benefits faster than you think.

Getting Started

First, select your calendar tool. Using Microsoft Outlook is ideal, but a simple day planner or desk calendar can work, too! When choosing your calendar tool, keep in mind that a weekly view is best. You’ll need ample room for writing in as many details about your day as possible!

Next, make a list of commitments you have in the coming weeks. A few things that may appear on your list are:

  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Study Time
  • Family Gatherings
  • Date Night
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Doctor Appointments
  • Birthdays, Holidays and Important Occasions
  • Carpool Reminders
  • Car Care Appointments (oil changes, break checks, etc.)
  • Cleaning & Laundry

Take the time to prioritize the commitments you have on your list. For example, work and study time would be high priorities, while extracurricular activities might fall on the lower end. This exercise will help in in the next step – building your calendar.

Building Your Calendar

Once you’ve brainstormed and prioritized your list, it’s time to put it all on your calendar. Start with the most important commitments such as work, doctor appointments and study time. Then, make your way down the list of priorities.

Remember that it’s important to know the difference between a flexible commitment and a mandatory commitment when you’re glancing at your time management tool in the future. To help with this, Outlook users can assign a specific color to each prioritization, while day planner users might grab a box of highlighters in assorted colors.

Here’s a look at what an effective blocked Outlook calendar might resemble.

Calendar Blocking

Making it Work

Anyone can color in areas of a daily calendar to make it look pretty and efficient, but making your calendar blocks effective is more difficult. Here’s how you can make it work.

“I’m having trouble sticking to the allotted time in my blocks!”

If you have a watch, use it! Or, try using the stopwatch on your phone to ensure you move on to your next task on time. In order for calendar blocking to be effective, you must hold yourself to these time limits.

“I blocked this time and I don’t remember why!”

Are you having trouble remembering what you’re supposed to be doing during your “Work” block today? Next time, include as many details as possible for each block. If you have a list or summary of items to complete, you’re more likely to stay on task.

“I gave myself too much time!”

If you find yourself completing tasks before the allotted time has expired, adjust your calendar! You may not realize how efficient you are at cleaning the bathroom or completing your reading assignment. The good news is now you have extra free time!

Sidestepping Time Traps: A Time Management Tip for Making the Most of Your Time

It can be tough to avoid a trap…especially when you don’t see it coming. That’s pretty much why they call it a trap, huh?

At Northcentral University, we are committed to providing our students with the tools and support they need to successfully complete their degree program, accomplish their educational goals, and help them avoid the trap of not finishing what they’ve started.

For example, we utilize a One-to-One teaching model that partners our students with highly credentialed faculty who provide personal feedback and support. There are no physical residency requirements, meaning students don’t have to relocate or otherwise uproot their lives to earn their degree. We also incorporate an applied experiential learning approach to help students successfully develop and incorporate their skills into their professional lives after and even during their programs. We even offer a foundational course where students can learn how to manage their time and personal and professional responsibilities while in school.

Not to mention the fact that Northcentral has sought and obtained the most respected form of U.S. higher education accreditation –regional accreditation—from the Higher Learning Commission to help ensure the quality of our degree programs.

With that in mind, we feel like it is our responsibility to tell you about a little trap that you may be falling into over and over again without even knowing it.

We’re talking about time traps. Mark Woods of Attack Your Day! Before It Attacks You! defines time traps as, “patterns of using time that provide no positive return.”

Think you don’t have any time traps? Think again. Have you ever watched the news for more than half an hour? Do you really think you need to hear about banning Big Gulps, a bad car accident, and the robbery at the gas station across town, three times in one night?  How about reading through the hundreds and hundreds of subject lines in your junk email to see if there is anything funny, interesting or just plain ridiculous? Do you really think that is a good use of your time?

Those are just a couple of examples, and while they may be a tad farfetched for many of you, there are plenty of other time traps that tempt us on a regular basis. Woods suggests conducting a little self-observation in order to determine which, if any, time traps you regularly fall into. Once you’ve discovered and acknowledged your time traps, then you can prepare to avoid them.

Check out the video from Mark Woods below to learn how you can avoid getting caught in time traps so you can Attack Your Day! and make the most of your time.

Control Your Time Debt: Time Management Tools for Online Students

Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.      –Harvey Mackay, business author

Merriam-Webster defines debt as, “something owed.” Debt is most commonly associated with money. We’ve got national debt, international debt, student loan debt, credit card debt; the list goes on and on. But the thing that’s owed doesn’t have to be money. It can be anything. It can even be time.

So what is time debt? Time management expert Mark Woods of Attack Your Day! Before it Attacks You, explains time debt as future time that one promises to another person or activity.

We all take on time debt every week. When you look at your calendar, you see the little bits of time that are marked for people and activities. A Starbucks meeting here, your nephew’s birthday party there, the neighborhood block party next week, and your friend’s daughter’s baby shower at the end of the month. Each time you promise someone else a chunk of your time, you are entering into time debt.

Of course, spending time with family and friends is an important part of life. The key is prioritizing your time.

You’ve probably found yourself in situations where you had to choose between doing something that you wanted to do, and doing something that you knew you had to do. Being an online graduate student is a major time commitment, especially when you have work and family obligations too. Part of that commitment is being careful not to promise away too much of your time so when you look at the week ahead, you don’t feel stressed and overwhelmed. And while you might face more of these types of situations while you’re in school, the temporary sacrifices you make as a student are going to help make it possible for you to achieve your educational and professional goals.

If you commonly find yourself with an overbooked schedule, feel stressed when you think about everything you have to do, or tend to overcommit when it comes to activities and events that often keep you from more important things, it’s time to learn how to Attack Your Day and avoid the time debt collectors who always seem to come calling at the most inconvenient times.

Check out the video below to learn more about avoiding Time Debt from Mark Woods of Attack Your Day!

Priority Paper Piling: A Time Management Tip for Busy Professionals

Do you regularly sit down at your desk with the goal of completing some important task for work or school, only to find yourself completely overwhelmed by the papers strewn about your desk?

You don’t know what half of them are for, and you don’t want to know, but every single time they manage to drag your attention away from the thing you sat down to do. Just the sight of them in front of you immediately makes you feel stressed. Where do you begin?

Whether your workspace is a kitchen table, a desk, or a chair at the nearest Starbucks, consider it a mirror into your mind. Having a cluttered, distracted mind is not going to help you do your best work. The same goes for your workspace.

I’m not saying you have to turn into the organizer bunny overnight (the Energizer Bunny’s second cousin!). It’s an acquired skill that takes plenty of practice. However, if you are serious about getting things done, a clean and uncluttered workspace is a great first step.

Time management expert Mark Woods of Attack Your Day! Before it Attacks You has formulated a few simple steps that can help you take your desk from cluttered to controlled. All you need is an hour of your time to dedicate to a little priority paper piling. Once you’re finished, those countless hours that were lost trying to study or work while distracted by the clutter will hopefully be a thing of the past.

Check out the video below for more information about this time management tip that could be the difference between getting things done or being controlled by overpowering piles of paper!

Attack Your Day! Time Management Tips for Working Professionals and Students

Welcome to the first post of our new blog series devoted to Attack Your Day! Before it Attacks You. We are very proud to partner with Attack Your Day to help provide important time and activity management tips to our busy Northcentral University students. If you find yourself struggling to meet deadlines, are easily distracted, or easily overwhelmed when you have a lot to do, we encourage you to take a few minutes to read these posts, watch the videos,  and discover how developing time management skills can help you become a more efficient worker and/or student.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every time you were supposed to be doing something important, such as working on your dissertation for your NCU doctoral program, but found yourself getting distracted by social media browsing or answering and sending emails, texts and phone calls,  that an alarm would go off reminding you to stay on task?

Imagine that alarm is actually a police siren warning you that if you don’t stop now, you might find yourself in Email Jail!

Time management expert Mark Woods of Attack Your Day describes Email Jail as a person’s habitual tendency to sit in front of a computer pretending to be engaged in work when he or she is really “chit-chatting” over email and wasting time.

While it’s no secret that we are a social society and thrive on interaction and communication, a condition exacerbated by the development of smartphones (Those pint-sized personal computers always seem to be conveniently sitting within arm’s reach, don’t they!?), the truth is our tendency to get distracted can take time away from more important things.

Let’s look at of some recent statistics concerning social distractions:

  • A May 2011 study in the Personal and Ubiquitous Computing  (Pers Ubiquit Comput) journal reports that on average, people check their smartphones 34 times a day.
  • A 2011 survey by email management expert Dr. Monica Seeley found that 25 percent of us expect a reply to our emails within an hour.
  • In December 2011, ComScore reported that nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is on a social network. In addition, for every 4 minutes spent on a social networking site, 3 of those minutes are spent on Facebook.
  • A 2011 infographic by Search Engine Journal reports that 1 in 4 Americans watches a YouTube video online every day.

Does that sounds like a distracted society to you? So how can you avoid the Email Jail threat and tone down the social distractions that can keep you from getting things done and meeting your deadlines? Check out the video below for some helpful tips.

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