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Becoming a Learner - Page 10
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Page 10: A Matter of Timing

Now I am aware that we have mentioned timing already earlier, but in some cases timing WILL be of vital importance.
Part 2: The Adventure of Learning
When timing is not important

When you embark on self-learning you may not need to give any thought to timing. If you have set yourself the task of developing your knowledge of gardening, say, unless you embark on an Adult Learning Course on a particular theme to do with gardening, the only reason timing may have importance is to do with the seasons and watching and learning what takes place in different seasons. Possibly some of the pages on our own “Growing Stuff” pages might act as an introduction
If you have either bought yourself a language CD, or you’ve found an on-line language learning course, you do not need to worry about timing. The only thing you’ll want to be concerned with in this respect is that you make progress and keep going. (How many of us have cassettes or CDs sitting on a shelf or in a drawer only partly used?)

If you choose a correspondence course you may find they give you time targets and so that will become a time-sensitive issue in your learning.
Areas where time should be considered

1. At the outset when considering a Course

If you are doing something more than a short self-help project, something that is going on for a set period of time, realism asks, “Have you actually got the time in your life to do this?”

This is a very real question because it is probable that your course will entail more than simply turning up for lessons or tutorials (which is why we emphasised previously the importance of understanding the structure and requirements of the course) and may require you to give time to do work at home. If you have a family they need to buy into your commitment and give you space and time.  If you have other commitments in life, is this sort of course feasible at this time of your life. Maybe you are being too adventurous and should opt for short, one-evening courses that don’t put heavy demands on you.
-  Check the realistic course demands on you
-  Check your own existing commitments
-  Check your own flexibility.
2. Making Progress

This one we’ve also mentioned fairly fully, but it does bear repeating.  We assume now you have decided that yes, you can embark on this course and so the question that now follows is, will you be sufficiently self-disciplined to do the things required of you on this course.

If you are asked to read a chapter of a book, will you actually make the time to do it and, more importantly if you really want to get the most out of the course, will you read the chapter intelligently, make notes, and take it in, and not merely do a skimpy rush through it?
Suppose you took up with a group focusing on short-story writing and it is agreed that over the next month, you will all do a short story around a particular theme. It is being unfair to the group and to yourself, if you make excuses and don’t make yourself have the time to do that. Creative writing is particularly difficult, because creativity normally requires an absence of stress and if you have a full life already, there is a danger you will feel annoyed (and frustrated) that you have got yourself into this position where you have GOT to do this. That isn’t good for creativity. Creativity requires that you will adjust your priorities and be able to completely relax into your project where nothing else and no one is going to impinge on you.

Time management of your life is a very real issue when you take on learning projects that are formal and structured and run by others. For students going to university for three years, it is often suggested that the first year is more about enjoying the experience and settling in rather than doing serious work (that may vary with Uni and with course), but if you are settling in to any other form of adult learning course, you do not have that laxness; you are going to have to put in everything you can all the way through, and that involves time management.

3. Getting Work in on Time

Nowhere does time management impinge more strongly that on the matter of getting particular projects or particular homework pieces done by a specified time.

Now there are a lot of differing ideas about this but I want to suggest there are two opposite and extreme ‘schools’ of experience followed by two minority groups and then there are the rest, the bigger majority who are not so specific. The two extremes are as follows:
i) The “must do it immediately” group

This group think: “This is just going to be one of a number of things coming in the immediate future; I need to get on with it immediately so I don’t get into an impossible situation later on,” and so they get under way and work purposefully to complete it as soon as possible. They then have  peace of mind for the next week/month and they also have the time to review their work before handing it in and, with the opportunity of looking at it some time after they wrote it, they can revise bits and improve it.
iii)  The “I must give some thought to this sometime” group.

This group simply tends to be ill-disciplined and therefore they are not carefully planning when they will do it, they don’t do it on logical grounds, and they often get themselves into a tight situation where they have to rush and, unlike the previous group, they don’t work at their best and so turn in rushy, messy, unthought-out work.

If you are going to give it your best you really do need to think about it and then allocate specific times for work and get your partner/children etc. to agree to you having it.
And so....

Possibly the key question to ask, that reveals the truth about your time management, (if you can be honest) is, “Am I in control of my learning?”

Don’t kid yourself! You are not in control of you don’t give thought to your approach and you have to squeeze work in when you have the odd moment. That is not being in control; that is coping and you may not be doing that well!

The purpose of this page is to say, enjoy your learning experience, get the most out of it while you can, and therefore don’t let time run away with you, but instead manage it!