Upon returning to college, the mature student (any student over the age of 24) soon realizes that their ability to manage time effectively directly impacts their learning experience and their family life. Unlike traditional students, the mature student may have a spouse, children and a full-time job that is necessary for them to survive financially. Adults with families will readily agree that their family alone places serious demands on their time. When adding the responsibility of school, it becomes even more difficult to make time for family, work and personal time.

Enough time needs to be spent on these three major facets of life. Too much time spent in one area usually means to little time spent in another, which usually leads to stress. Time management professionals say that stress is usually the result of poor time management. Effective time management has to be the foundation of any successful and productive life. There are 1,440 minutes in a day. If one is employed full-time, then about nine hours (540 minutes) of the day is spent at the office and commuting. The time left in the evening for family and self is very limited.

Some companies allow their employees to telecommute, in which the company’s network is accessed from the employees’ home, usually via a high-speed or broadband connection. Telecommuting increases available time for family and self by eliminating the employee’s commute. Along with telecommuting, some companies offer Flex-Time. Flex-Time allows the work schedule to be configured differently from the typical Monday through Friday, 9am-to-5pm workweek. One will still work a total of 40 hours that week only one day may be shorter than the rest.

Flex-Time is basically a flexible work schedule. Flex-time and telecommuting are examples of Flexible Work Options (FWO). FWOs allow employees the opportunity to find time for their families and selves by introducing a time management element that “bends”. Along with the changing nature of office-hours via telecommuting and Flex-Time, there is a need for employees to be more efficient at work. Companies are implementing the “virtual office” which partly entails telecommuting but with the main focus being a more efficient, yet mobile workforce.

With the virtual office, traditional office setups such as permanent workspace and a personal telephone become a thing of the past. An employee can either telecommute from home or come to the office. Once at the office, they can check out a computer and a cordless phone and proceed to log into the company’s network from any number of places in the building. Employees can log in from the cafeteria, conference rooms or their favorite place in the building. Once they log in, a central computer routes phone calls to the cordless phone that was checked out at the beginning of the day.

Other companies are making the office more accessible by having satellite offices, wherein employees can work from any number of offices spread throughout their particular city or region. Literally, the employees can be anywhere and still perform their work duties. To the customers or clients they do business with, their location is seamless. Companies like IBM and Apple have reported increases in productivity and morale since they went to the virtual office format. Corporations are finding creative ways to yield more efficiency from their associates while giving them more time for family and personal life.

When adults with a family and a career decide to continue their education, the demands on their time and energy increase dramatically. Along with re-entering college come the requirements of attending class, studying, homework and team research projects. If one has to attend class for four hours a week, spend an additional 8 hours for homework and studying, and three hours on team research then he or she has to somehow find an additional 15 hours in a week to perform those duties. Since it is impossible to put more time into a week, one is left with only one option – devise a system of creative and thoughtful time management.

When embarking upon the implementation of a successful time-management system, one has to deal with the irony that it takes time to create an effective time management system. It is suggested by many time management professionals that one must first begin by making a list of priorities and keeping a daily log of his or her activities hour-by-hour for one week. Many people are not aware of how they are spending their time; therefore the idea behind keeping a daily log is to gain a clear idea of exactly how your time is being spent.

There are usually blocks of time revealed in a person’s day or week that are not being used optimally, i. e. , time that is not being used to address priorities. If one is spending time on activities that do not rank highly on his or her priority list then he or she should start replacing those activities with ones that do. If the time log only reveals eight hours that could be used differently during the week, then in effect one has gained eight hours for that week.

It may not seem like much time, but if looked at over a four-week period, then thirty-two hours have been gained for use on priorities. Other suggestions for better time management include keeping a journal, using a day-planner or breaking big projects into smaller projects so that the rewarding sense-of-accomplishment is felt more often. Take, for instance, Jane, a wife and working mother of two that decides to go to college at night in order to earn her degree and get ahead at the office. Let’s say her husband also works full-time and her children attend public school.

Before noon, her lunch hour at the office, she must accomplish the following: shower, get ready for work, get the kids up and dressed for school, do a load of clothes, get breakfast on the table, kids to school, meetings at 9 am and 11 am, check voicemail and email, get draft of proposal to boss, call restaurants for business luncheon that’s in two days. She has about three and a half hours at the office, but only about one and a half hours to get the proposal done, check voicemail and email and call the restaurants.

Managing her time correctly will keep this day from running away from her. Let’s see how she does it. She’s up at 6:30 am in order to shower and layout her and her children’s clothes and get dressed herself. She then wakes the kids at 7 and puts the clothes in the dryer while they’re getting dressed (her husband put the clothes in the wash before he left at 6). She then heads to the kitchen where she lays out bowls, spoons, cereal and milk, organizes the kids’ lunches and sits down with her cup of coffee (again, her husband made it before he left for work) while waiting for the kids.

The kids finish breakfast and rinse their bowls and spoons and within fifteen minutes of getting to the kitchen table, they’re all heading out the door. Kids are dropped off promptly at 8:15am and Jane arrives at work at 8:30 am. From 8:30 am until 8:50 am, Jane checks her voicemail and email and organizes her files for her 9 am meeting, then heads over to the conference room. She completes her proposal, calls the restaurants and grabs another cup of coffee on her way to her 11 am meeting. Meeting is overlunchtime, time to relaxthat’s what you think. Jane has a to-do list that’s going to take at least two hours to completeor will it?

She has to get these things done and back to the office in one hour: pick up cash for sitter tonight, pick up three birthday gifts, buy her daughter a notebook, pens and a new backpack for school tomorrow, eat, get oil changed and pick up son’s asthma prescription. Well, Super Jane is at it again, she headed to the grocery store/pharmacy and picked up her son’s prescription, three gift cards for various stores to be given as birthday gifts, a salad and enough money for the baby-sitter to take her daughter to the store tonight to get her pens, notebook and new backpack.

Now, off to Jiffy Lube where she will eat her salad while waiting for her oil to be changed. In summation, the benefits of time management can be life altering. As one finds ways to get more done with the time available to them, it can lead to an increase in overall self-confidence and a more positive outlook on life. Effective time management is also a very useful tool that can help to reduce stress in day-to-day life. If effective time management becomes a part of one’s life then he or she can find ways to juggle family, career, personal time and education. In essence, effective time management can lead to success.

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