Be a Clutter Free Distance Learner

From David W.Butler,
Your Guide to Distance Learning

Home-based workers lose up to a third of their workday ferreting out lost papers, searching for crucial information, and wading through documents, says Greg Vetter, president of Vetter Productivity Inc., an Atlanta-based organizational consultancy. Add the Internet, phone messages, faxes and e-mail, and you've created an environment in which data comes in faster than you can process and organize it.

Your virtual study hall faces the very same organizing challenges. Every term, a student taking four courses must keep track of notes from reading 6,000 pages of learning materials and from attending from 150 to 200 class sessions. Then even more notes are generated from Internet and library research done for term papers and weekly class assignments. But there's more. Distance learning courses rely heavily on electronic student-to-student and student-to-teacher communication. Collaborative assignments, where students must work together in online teams to complete class assignments, alone, will easily quadruple the number of notes, e-mails, phone messages, Web sites, that a student normally must read, comprehend, and organize.

Distance learners often find that the "haystack" of class information they are used to managing, becomes overwhelming. Not being organized inevitably results in poor scheduling, missed meetings, missed deadlines or poor quality work done.

It's no wonder that many educators feel that successful students are often not those with necessarily the highest I.Q, but those who are the most focused, and most organized.

Make your system fit your personality. Some people think alphabetically, others think in categories. Some like to keep all their work out of site until they need it, others need to keep current projects in their range of vision so they don't forget the things they need to do. Before you start to organize, figure out how you work, how you think, and what methods will facilitate your work life for you. Sit down and work out your thinking and working habits before you go and buy out the office supplies store. Once you figure out what method will work for you, make a list of the storage supplies you'll need and go out and buy them.

Always Be Ready to Change Your Organization Scheme.Experiment with different methods for filing (e.g. filing alphabetically or in categories, using cardboard storage boxes or metal file cabinets, etc.) until you find one that works well for you. Try out different styles of desks, different filing systems and containers, different storage techniques. Try anything you can to best manage your paper piles.

Functionality Not Looks Counts here.According to Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out (1), "Being organized has less to do with the way an environment looks than how effectively it functions." Of course, you want your place to look neat; but looks aren't everything. A neat desktop may not be the best system for quickly finding what you need.

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