The Importance of Time Management for the Adult Learner

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Time management is a critical skill that is needed in many different aspects of life. We need to manage our time while caring for our family at home, while at work and also for any other hobbies or interests, such as college. The typical college student is no longer the teenager who just graduated high school. A large majority of college students are considered adult learners. The adult learner is someone who enrolls in college later in life as an adult with more responsibilities. As an adult college student there are far more challenges than as a teenage college student.

The majority of adult students blame the reason why they struggle in school or delay going back to school is time restriction (Arthur & Tait, 2004, p. 2). Time management is the key to success for an adult enrolled in college. Time management, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries is, “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively; especially at work” (“Time Management,” 2013). It is not only crucial to use time effectively and productively in the workplace but also at home, in school and any other tasks that take up time in the day. C.

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Shields (1994) describes time management as, “The art of balancing your efforts, prioritizing what you could do as opposed to what you should do. It requires you to make choices and postpone short-term gratification for long-term gains. Managing your time means overcoming the bad habits that allow you to put off what needs to be done. It means controlling yourself” (p. 93). It is important to maximize available time and find a balance between home, work and school. The best way to maximize available time is to plan all that you can (Shields, 1994, p. 95).

Planning out your time in advance will help the adult student look ahead to what time is available for all of their responsibilities. The use of a monthly calendar and day to day planner are useful tools (Shields, 1994, p. 95). It is important to find a balance with all the responsibilities and activities an adult student may have. According to Ashby and Abbot in the article, Too Little Time to Learn “mature adult students often find it difficult to cope with the various personal and work related demands made on time available for study and professional development” (Ashby & Abbot, 1999, p. 3).

The fact is there are only twenty four hours in a day. One person can only do so much with their personal time (“Time Management for Adult Learners” 2005). Realistically a person needs approximately eight hours to rest, most working people spend approximately eight to nine hours at work, leaving eight hours for other daily demands (Tait & Arthur, 2004, p. 3). The last eight hours available are what need to be utilized for family, school and other interests. This can be done effectively if the adult learner is motivated. If an adult learner is not motivated to manage their time the likelihood of success is decreased.

Ineffective time management can cause many things to go incomplete or get turned in late, increase stress on the adult student, and overall may cause the student to give up. Effective time management can increase the student’s motivation and success, reduce their stress level, and increase their sense of fulfillment (Girard, 1999). Managing a family and working towards a degree of higher education can be very demanding. It is important to have the support of your spouse, children and loved ones while working towards a degree (Shields, 1994, p. 90).

Men and women play different roles in the household. According to Charles Shields, “the more the traditional roles and responsibilities within the family, the greater the guilt the woman experienced about her student role,” (Shields, 1994, p. 90). Generally, female students feel more pressure and strain then male students due to the society’s stereotypical idea of roles in a family (Shields, 1994, p. 90). The biggest adjustment may be that as a student you will not be as available as before due to the demands of school work. Family time will be affected but worth it in the end.

It can be difficult to find the support needed; therefore it is important to emphasize the benefits of a higher education to yourself first. If the student believes in himself or herself then it will be easier to convince the family to believe in him or her. In most cases, the family and children will benefit from a spouse and/or parent with a college education. It is important as the demands of school, work and family increase the adult learner reminds themselves of that (Shields, 1994, p. 92). Compromise is another important characteristic needed from all involved.

The student needs to make everyone aware that compromise is needed to succeed. Ideally the partner or spouse will need to take on the extra tasks and details that the adult learner will not have time for. Also explaining to the kids involved the mommy or daddy will not have as much available time as they use to and it will not last forever. It is important to share the end goal with the family that way everyone is aware of what the student is working towards and what the reward will be in the end. It can be difficult to study at home with a family there.

Planning ahead and preparing an ideal study spot can help make studying easier (“Time Management for Adult Learners” 2005). If studying needs to take place at home, getting up early before everyone is awake or staying up after everyone goes to bed can be helpful, that way distractions are limited. Also giving the adult student a time out from the family will help obtain some time for studying (“Time Management for Adult Learner” 2005). It is important to take every opportunity available to study even if it’s not the ideal situation because it is not always going to be easy to arrange time for it (Arthur & Tait, 2004, p.

7). Another time demand that can be a challenge for an adult learner is balancing work and school. In today’s career world more and more companies are looking to hire competent people with a college education. This leaves little choice for someone who wants to compete in the competitive job field without a higher level of education. Also many returning students go back to school for the purpose of career advancement. Completing your program of study is a step forward on your career path (Shields, 1994, p. 117). Finding the time to study for classes and work on assignments can be difficult with a part time or full time job.

The pressures and time consumption from a job compete heavily with the time available for learning (Arthur & Tait, 2004, p. 3). According to Sargant (2000), “Employment status plays a major role in learning opportunities. For many people, the workplace provides resources and opportunities to take up learning and often the motivation to learn” (p. 4). A suggestion to make the time constraint more manageable between school and a career is to inform your job of what your goals are and if they can better the company.

If your career is looking to hire the most qualified and educated employees, they may be willing to work on a different schedule. Planning ahead and looking into career advancement can motivate the adult learner when completing college classes. There are many tips and tools that an adult learner can use to help manage their time. The first step is to list all of the assignments and tasks that need to get done and prioritize the list (“Time Management for Adult Learner” 2005). Start with the most important task and proceed through the list to the least important.

It can also be helpful to start with the most time consuming task, ensuring it will be completed (Fry, 2012, p. 5). As an adult leaner it is important to know how long it will take to perform certain tasks or complete assignments. It will make estimating the appropriate amount of time needed easier and more accurate (Fry, 2012, p. 6). A to-do list can help prevent procrastination and keep a student on track (Fry, 2012, p. 6). Move forward unfinished tasks to the next day. This will create continuity between one day and the next (Shields, 1994, p. 94).

Once a to-do list is created, the next step is incorporate it into a day to day calendar and a monthly planner. An important aspect of time management is to plan ahead. Incorporating every assignment, appointment and activity that requires the student’s time is essential. This will allow the student to know what needs to be done and to budget time accordingly (Shields, 1994, p. 94). Once the planning stage has been completed it will be important for the student to stay on track with the plan. Keeping the end goal in mind will help the learner stay focused.

It is important to maintain realistic goals and to share the goals with others. Involving others in your efforts towards time management can help motivate them to help you succeed (Shields, 1994, p. 99). As the adult learner takes on more and more it will be important for the student to delegate (Chang, 2013, p. 28). One person cannot be expected to do it all, therefore ask for help and think about what you don’t need to do (Shields, 1994, p. 99). It is always ok to ask for help. According to Chang (2013), “it is better to say no, rather than yes and not be able to complete something.

” “Setting boundaries gives a solid foundation to focus on your priorities while minimizing distractions” (p. 28). Saying no to someone or something is all part of effective time management. The last tip in managing time as an adult learner is reward oneself. Setting and achieving small goals throughout the process of obtaining a college degree can be beneficial towards motivation and dedication. According to Shields (1994), “It is important to work when you are supposed to work and play when you deserve it or need it” (p. 100). In conclusion, an adult learner has more demands and responsibilities than the typical college student.

The adult college student has to find time for an education, career and family. It can be difficult to find a balance between all three, but with proper time management it can be done. There are many tools available to the adult student to stay motivated while properly managing time such as planning ahead, creating a to-do list and creating a calendar. Keeping your family and employer involved in your goals can help as well. All of the information in this paper will be beneficial to an adult enrolling in college. Once again, the key to success as an adult learner is proper time management.

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The Importance of Time Management for the Adult Learner. (2016, Jul 22). Retrieved from

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