NATURE NOTES – Fall or something like it. – What does the transition from summer to winter really symbolize? Zoe Dalton digs for the true meaning of autumn, and it’s got nothing to do with turkey!
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER BESIDES YOUR EDUCATION – Is a university degree enough? Shannon Maguire talks about ways in which you can fill the gaps in your degree learning, and present an irresistible package to future employers.
A SAFE HIDING PLACE: Leaving the safe haven of university – As difficult as DE study can be, university is still a safe and rewarding haven compared to the uncertainties of the world of work. One day you’ll have to finish your degree and move back into the fast lane. Are you prepared?
Making time for Study
Why does it always seem as though study time gets the lowest priority among life’s many events? Is it just me, or do most DE students find that time and again, despite best intentions, course work is put off because there is just too much else to do, or because you are waiting for a lull in the endless stream of tasks that seem to keep piling up in life’s inbox.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that our educations, which represent for many of us one of the greatest financial expenditures of our lives, as well as one of the most significant ways in which we can improve our potential for high earnings and job satisfaction, is nevertheless often left at the bottom of the pile, while less important tasks continue to dominate our waking hours.
I think the reason for this has something to do with the level of urgency attached to many responsibilities. Human beings seems to be genetically programmed to focus on tasks which are the most time sensitive, as well as those which most loudly demand our attention. This is why all human babies are equipped with the ability to produce some of the most jarring and distressing sounds to ever disturb the tympanic membrane. The urgency of the infant squall ensures that baby’s needs are met before all others, and it is incredibly effective.
Of course most of the tasks we attend to in a day don’t come attached to a blaring siren, but nevertheless, tasks do take on a sense of urgency in many ways. First, there is the time frame in which we know any given task must be completed. People have a tendency to put things off until the deadline is near, because we want to attend first to things that have a more pressing completion date. This is not always reasonable, since we may put off complex and important tasks which require a great deal of time so that we can take our time working on all the smaller but less important things that we feel should be done right now!
Let’s face it, humans procrastinate. Often the question is asked as though it’s some sort of an anomaly to put things off: do you procrastinate? Hell yeah! Don’t you? And if you don’t, isn’t it a constant struggle to keep on top of things – to continually remind yourself to make the decision to work on something well before it needs to be done?
I think it’s time we stop feeling like we’re somehow deficient if we chronically procrastinate, and recognize that almost all of us have this tendency. If we figure out why we do this, however, we have a real shot at beating the last-minute blues.
I really think that a sign of maturity is the ability to manage time effectively. I’m going out on a limb saying this, because I know that I could be far more organized than I currently am, but I also know that I’m far more organized than I was ten years ago. Learning to fit everything you want to do into the limited life-time you have available is a difficult and ongoing process that takes years to learn and a lifetime to master. But what could be more vital? How many things do you wish you could fit into your life right now? How many hours would it take to do some of these things? Ok, now be honest. How many hours a week do you waste?
In terms of distance education, I think that everyone will have the tendency to put the work off because there is no specific schedule for how you must proceed on most courses, and your course work will never cry for attention or otherwise remind you of its need for attention. Despite our best intentions (yes, I know, you always plan to start early, get ahead, and finish in record time. Me too.) and the truly inspired pace that you establish in the first week or two of study, before you know it, you haven’t looked at your books in weeks and you are feeling so guilty about it you can’t bring yourself to look at them again. It goes on like this right up until the last few weeks, when you realize how deep a hole you are in, and then you work like a demon to get those papers in on time (I wonder how many papers tutors get at five-to-midnight on the last day of the month), knowing all the while that the work you are completing is far below your potential.
We have to learn to prioritize tasks based on merit, not time significance. Ask yourself how much time you spend panicking because you are trying to cram four months of reading into a single week, or because you have to run a dozen errands in a single day that you failed to do them when you had plenty of time. Also ask, why is it that I put off tasks day after day because I have no time, and yet find that when the last two weeks arrive, I somehow make the time? The answer is, if you try hard enough, you can always make the time. And when you are not running on empty from playing catch-up all the time, you will probably have a lot more energy too. Last minute work is really stressful!
I think that is the key, not only to a successful experience with distance education, but also to success in life. Once you realize that you can make time and buckle down when you have to, it becomes easier to figure out how to make time before things get out of hand, and you may even get so good at it that you can start doing some of the things you always wished you had time for.
Whenever you think of prioritizing something more ‘urgent’ over your study time, think about how much you have invested in your education, and ask why you are devaluing one of the most important tasks of your life simply because you aren’t on a schedule, or because other tasks [or people] are simply making more noise.
In the changing world of home offices, distance learning, and second jobs, it is time we start to assess our duties based on their importance to our lives, not on their chronological urgency.
Tamra Ross Low
Editor in Chief