Toddler vs. Deadline, Round 1: The Importance of Time Management

The following is an account of a recent ‘challenge’ to completing my coursework, narrated by myself as if in the moment. It is given to illustrate a very real challenge that some of us may face in completing a course online. For me, time management has been the most significant challenge…and unfortunately, it isn’t always in my hands…

father-toddlerReal Life

It is Thursday. 9pm. I have completed half of the weekly class assignment earlier in the week, and am anxious to continue. I still need to read some material and complete the second half of the assignment. Deadline? Friday night. About 24 hours away…Ordinarily, I would be working through the second half of the problem set as we speak, finalizing my discussion forum response, and feeling pretty good about it all. I would soon be one-click away from assignment submission and a feeling of achievement, followed by relief, followed by motivation for next week’s assignment. Ordinarily…but not today.

Today, my son has decided that ‘bedtime’ is an arbitrary concept. Usually sound asleep at 8:30 pm, today he is running around like a crazy little man pushing 9:15 pm. Ordinarily this would be fine, but today it is posing a challenge. On many days, the two-hour sweet spot between 8.30 pm (after my son’s bedtime) and 10:30 pm (nearing my bedtime) is often the key time for me to focus on my coursework. It is my ‘sweet spot’. If I miss my sweet spot today, I’ll be in a real crunch tomorrow. And all indications at present are that it is going to be missed. Time slowly ticks away, and my son isn’t giving any opportunity for ‘Papa’ to sneak away to get started. If only my financial accounting textbook grabbed me around the leg as hard as he does, perhaps things would be different…

But then, out of nowhere, while feeding some imaginary chocolate to a row of stoic stuffed animals, my son points upstairs. It hits me; his eyes are growing tired, his resistance is waning. I seize the moment and, at the top of the stairs, hand him off to Mommy. She then rushes him away into the darkness and towards a good night’s sleep…Finally, I am able to delve into my textbook. My son can never wrap his head around why daddy needs to spend time reading a boring book while he wants to play. In his eyes it’s not even a good book…no thick pages, no pictures, no sounds or moving parts. Yikes! That does not sound fun…But with him fast asleep, I now turn to the book with a mix of eagerness and earnestness.

The Importance of Time Management

This story brings me to managing classroom responsibilities. Online courses are a wonderful opportunity to learn on your own terms, around your own schedule. For people like me they can’t be beat. But before you take one, you must know what you are getting into. A flexible schedule still means a real schedule, and you need to be prepared to make sacrifices to learn and be successful. You have to put in the time and effort as if it were an in-person, live course. In another post, I noted my surprise that the quality and breadth of my Financial Accounting course was the same as one that my brother took in pursuit of his MBA. That meant that in order to get the same out of the course as he did of his, I had to put in roughly the same amount of time.

Never think that just because a course is online, its ‘easy’. On the contrary, the great benefit is that such courses can be difficult – which is a good thing. You need to put in the time to make of it what you want. If the course were easy, there would be no reason to take it.

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