Time Management for Graduate Communication Students


Debra Davenport, Faculty

One of the most common concerns I hear from students is lack of time. I often get several requests each week from students who need extra time to complete their discussion posts and assignments. However, the high standards of a Purdue graduate program don’t typically permit late submissions, which means students must take proper steps to maximize and manage their time.

With that in mind, here are some tips and recommendations that I hope are beneficial for you:

  1. Use time management software. As we all know, online learning requires many hours at the computer and it’s very easy to get distracted by emails, apps, games, and social media. There are many types of time management software to help you stay on track of virtually any task or project. Built-in prioritization and deadline tools provide to-do lists, reminders, and specialized “block” features for social media junkies. RescueTime and MyLifeOrganized are two other popular apps. If you’re interested in researching additional time management tools, you might want to visit this article from TechRadar.com.
  2. Try some study planning software. Similar to time management software, study planning software is specifically designed to help students manage their classes, assignments, exams, discussion posts, and any other course-related work. Some popular apps include iStudiezPro, Google Drive, Todoist,and XMind. And, if you prefer talking over typing, you might want to try capturing your ideas for papers and discussion posts using voice-recognition software, such as Dragon Dictation.
  3. Use a wall calendar. This might sound a bit “old-school,” but a large wall calendar provides a quick and easy way to see what’s on your agenda – by the day, week, and month. For visual people, this is particularly helpful because it provides a continual reminder of projects, assignments, and deadlines (no clicking or keystrokes needed).
  4. Treat yourself like you do your doctor. You wouldn’t likely miss appointments with your doctor, so why not consider making appointments with yourself? I have found this to be one of the most powerful and productive tactics for taking control of my own time. When I have important projects due (or when I need to schedule time for some much-needed R&R), I book appointment times with “me.” These times are blocked out in my calendar and they do not get changed. By honoring these appointments, I also honor myself which, in turn, helps me to be more productive and effective.
  5. Think like a project manager. As a graduate Strategic Communication student, you are probably juggling work, family, school – and all of the myriad tasks and projects associated with each. The use of various project management tools, such as Gantt charts and Kanban boards can be quite helpful, particularly when managing complex projects that have multiple layers and deadlines, such as student group projects.
  6. Learn to say “no.” Taking on too much can create stress, anxiety, insomnia, and even illness. Knowing your limits and saying “no” – even if you fear you might hurt someone’s feelings – are essential skills. After all, you certainly can’t be productive or helpful to others if you’re exhausted and over-committed. As one of my Strategic Communication students recently shared with me, "I'm trying to remind myself that, even when clients seem demanding, my studies are as much for them as they are for me. Completing my coursework will leave me a better professional, and better able to serve them. They can wait a few moments for me to invest in both our futures." Very wise words.

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Debra Davenport Ph.D. is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.