Chapter 5: Establishing a Formal Study Program and Balancing Your Time


This is the core chapter in this guide about conquering distractions and finishing at the top of the class in your online degree course. In reading it, you will learn how best to allocate your work ahead to the study plan determined in the previous chapter. What I will teach you is more like an hourly budget as opposed to an exact science. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for planning, no matter how primitive this may be.

You’re almost ready now to cast your study boat adrift and head out across the sea of knowledge. Before we start, have you got everything you need?

  • Is your chair comfortable?
  • Is your high speed internet connection working properly?
  • Do you have a pen and paper handy?
  • Then please turn off all your phones and your email too, and let’s get down to business.

As you proceed to analyse the study course that the online institution has sent you in terms of the time blocks that you have available, you will already be back into the learning process that began when you first looked at the content of the course to decide whether it was best for you. The human brain is better at remembering facts when it has folders into which to put them, and it is these folders that you will also be creating in your mind as you create your study plan. One of the killers in any course of study is leaving too much to the very end. At that stage panic usually sets in, and the consequence is almost always failure.

It is far better to break up any project into manageable chunks, and spread these equally over time. That way, you achieve the following benefits:

  • You remain calm because you are always in control, and know that you will have enough time left over to finish everything that you have to do.
  • You learn far better when you are relaxed, because you can concentrate on the task at hand..
  • You give your brain enough time to absorb and process information before you have to retrieve it for an examination or other test
  • You have a roadmap of where you are going to, and how you getting on.
  • Your studying remains enjoyable, helping ensure that you will complete the course.

Let’s assume for purposes of this chapter that you have forty weeks left before the year-end examination program begins for your online education degree program. That actually leaves thirty eight weeks, for these reasons:

  • Your brain needs time to file information away before it can efficiently and effectively retrieve it. Cramming at the last minute seldom actually helps, because you just confuse the data in the central processing unit that is your brain.
  • When you have completed studying for your online degree program at the end of week thirty eight, you will have enough knowledge (and time left over) to spot for better grades during the week that follows – more about this in a later chapter
  • Week forty is when you set your study materials aside, and rest your brain. Many successful students go away on holiday. The objective is to enter the examination environment unstressed, relaxed and confident, and ready to produce your very best.

At one hour a day, six days a week, this means you have 38 (*6) = approximately 228 hours per subject available, or around 684 hours to spend on studying this year. Let’s take a subject at random, for example maths or psychology, and try to break it up into equally sized chunks which you can spread like butter on the time that is your bread. If you get stuck during the process, or lack information, then why not call one of the online teachers responsible for that particular subject, and seek advice?

A good rule of thumb is dividing your time between study and project work. That’s because people learn best by applying knowledge, although you do need the background information first. From my own experience you should be spending around 33% of your study time on assignments for an academic course, and the balance working through your online education guide and other study material. In this regard, my advice to you is to do every single assignment, and plan to complete them at least a week ahead of time. Allocating study periods is an equally similar procedure – except, this time you use the time blocks not required to meet the assignment schedule. For now, assume that every study module is equivalent in effort, and just use the butter up again.

Now you have done this, you can begin your studies. A word of caution – If you find yourself ahead of program, don’t slacken off. Keep on working steadily at your task, for you never know what lies ahead.


Chapter 1: Using the Pleasure Principal to Your Advantage
Chapter 2: Thinking in Terms of Goals
Chapter 3: Staying in Touch with Family, Friends and Colleagues
Chapter 4: Creating a Special Place to Study and a Formal Study Plan
Chapter 5: Establishing a Formal Study Program and Balancing Your Time
Chapter 6: Expanding Your Capacity to Study
Chapter 7: The Final Hurdles – Spotting for Success and Examination Time