One rule that you learn in business is that it always takes longer and costs more than you plan on. This has held true in my experience not just in the market place, but in just about everything. Each time we begin a new task that we’ve never done before and often times in tasks that we have done before we are poor at estimating how long it will take us to accomplish the task. Taking into consideration all the elements needed to accomplish a task can help you understand your true time commitment for your online classes.

A good habit to get into when estimating the amount of time it will take you to accomplish any given task is to ask yourself, “What is the process I will go through to complete this task?” One task that students often overlook is just the initial time you will spend reading what the assignment is, thinking about how it can be accomplished and asking any clarifying questions to help you understand correctly the assignment. “Measure twice, cut once” says the carpenter and it applies here to us. Also include the time you will be spending setting up the assignment, such as going to the library, finding the right books, traveling home and in researching.

At each step of the way there is a risk of distractions, misunderstandings, redos and unexpected emergencies arising to push back the time it’s going to take you to complete whatever you set out to do. In addition to planning for the things that you CAN account for, plan a little time for things you CAN’T. While it can get ridiculous to triple whatever estimate you have, I find that adding an additional 30 minutes for most tasks gives me a little bit of a buffer. Be careful too. You may find yourself filling that time just because you’ve planned it that way. Strive to get the work down in the shortest amount of time without cutting corners. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that you have time left over to do other things.

Be reasonable in your time estimation. While you may know that you can type at 80 WPM, you may not be that fast when you’re coming up with ideas from scratch or having to develop well thought out responses to a professor’s question. It’s good to have goals and to push yourself, but don’t make it so tight that you end up cutting corners or get frustrated when you don’t finish when you wanted to. Over time you can improve your speed and skills, but start out setting goals that you can actually achieve and increase their difficulty over time as you see you are reaching them.

Lastly, think ahead in your mind about all possibilities. You may need to spend some time learning how to work with a certain technology or software. You will need time to have someone look at papers and time to edit them yourself. You may need to budget in some time for asking questions to your teacher or other students.

Time marches on and without a good picture of everything your online college classes & assignments entail you may feel like you’re getting behind quickly. If you know what to expect you can plan for it and keep up. Good luck in understanding & estimating the time you will spend in your online classes.

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