*Pdfs are at the end of the blog.
I once had a student who would come to me for advising. I was always amazed and impressed with how organized she was; she taught me how to get better organized. This student always had her weekly schedule plastered to the front of her school binder. Many people who saw her assumed that she was a student who had a lot of time on her hands; actually, she had very little time. She worked full-time, was a caregiver, attended school year-round (2-3 classes per semester in fall, spring, summer, and winter), and had no car. She walked everywhere! I noticed that her schedule started around 4:30 am and did not end until 11 pm at night. She factored in any and everything about her life so that she could stay on track. While she was often tired (who wouldn’t be?), she also met every goal she set for herself, and then some. With careful planning, she even managed to study abroad for a few weeks over the summer and scored a paid internship! Thinking about this student made me rethink how a 168-hour weekly calendar could look for nontraditional students with too many responsibilities to name.
Why a Nontraditional Student Calendar?
If you do a simple Google search of “168-hour calendar”, you’ll stumble upon two main types: 1) a calendar for traditional-age students that begin around 7 am and end at 10 pm, or 2) a calendar for professionals that where the time typically ends around 5 pm or 6 pm (the stereotypical end to a work day). Categories for the one for students include things like sports practice, clubs/organization, time for ‘deluxe’ grooming, etc. For professionals, the hours for the day are too short, and there’s an assumption that work only happens between 8 am and 5 pm. Neither one fits the life of a non-traditional student; therefore, this worksheet focuses on categories that are more common for nontraditional students. Below are categories to consider when doing your own calendar, along with a description of some of them and their importance. At the end of the blog, you may download your own Nontraditional Student 168-hour worksheet.
Categories x 7 days = Total Hours
Sleep x 7 days _____
Meal Prep/Eat x 7 days _____
Get up/Groom x 7 days _____
Travel x 7 days _____
Work x 7 days _____
Class Time x 7 days _____
Study/Assignments x 7 days _____
Children Activities x 7 days _____
Community Obligations x 7 days _____
Caregiving Obligations x 7 days _____
Grocery shopping x 7 days _____
Document Review x 7 days _____
Email Check x 7 days _____
Miscellaneous x 7 days _____
Total Hours _____
*Disclaimer: Don’t multiply your hours by 7 if you don’t need it. For example, document review for me may only be 1 hour per week. Adjust your hours as needed.
Meal Prep/Eat: Most students, especially those with families, are on a limited budget. Taking care of a family, plus financing one’s own education means that there’s not a lot of eating out. For this, it’s not only important to document the hours to eat, you need to document meal prep time. *Crockpots and Instant pots will be your best friends!
Email check: most people have absolutely no idea how much time they spend on email. If you’re like many adult students, you have family email, personal email, work email, and school email. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting 20+ hours on email (trust me, it happens). Set aside time every day to check and respond to email to better control your hours.
Document Review: Many non-traditional students handle important documents, so it’s important to put aside time each week (or as often as necessary) to review and update those documents such as deceased family member’s estate records; family budget; wills, insurance, health records, and other life documents; school loans; and others.
Class Time: If you’ve enrolled in an online class, class time is still different from study time. Class time consists of watching videos, reading documents, communicating with classmates, and communicating with your professor. If you normally spend 6 hours per week sitting in a traditional class, then set aside 6 hours per week for the online class. If you get class assignments completed in those 6 hours, then that’s a time bonus for you!
Caregiving Obligations: Whether it’s children, elderly parents, or other family members, many students have additional caregiving responsibilities. This may be visiting elderly parents in the middle of the week, attending parent-teacher conferences, taking children to the doctor, etc. The number of hours may change weekly, but be sure to approximate how much time this takes. *Build it in even if it’s not every week. That way, you have free time during some weeks that only you know about.
Children(s) Activities: A former student of mine had great advice for not feeling the guilt of returning to school and how it impacted her children: each child got to participate in one extra-curricular activity per semester. This way, her children got to indulge in their interests and she didn’t feel bad for saying “no” to any additional things they wanted. For parents, be sure that you schedule time for your child’s activities.
Miscellaneous: Because everyone’s life is different, the miscellaneous category is that category specific to you and no one else. If you don’t have such as category, label it “me time.” We always forget to give ourselves time to just “be.” This could be time to engage in a hobby or even time to nap. Let’s face it, life can be tiring, so take a nap if you need it.
At the end of all of this, your hours should total exactly or below 168 hours. If they are less than 168, that’s wonderful! That’s your free time to do whatever you want or need. If the hours total more than 168, review your duties and make adjustments as needed (I’ve been there). What’s most important is to have a realistic schedule that mirrors your life and to get a better handle on your time.
Keep moving forward and be safe,