AMU Editor's Pick Military Original

Organization Is a Key Military Skill for Online Students to Possess

Get started on your Homeland Security Degree at American Military University.

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

This article was originally published on Online Learning Tips.

Organization is essential to be a successful online student. Being organized facilitates time management, reduces stress and helps online learners to remain focused on educational goals.

I completed my bachelor’s degree while on active duty in the Coast Guard. I completed my master’s degree at American Military University in the Coast Guard Reserve.

At the same time, I worked full-time as a municipal police officer. I completed my doctorate as a Coast Guard Reservist, drilling and working full-time as an online professor.

Balancing these responsibilities throughout my education taught me the importance of organization. Organizational skills can be honed through the use of several strategies, such as prioritizing tasks, avoiding time-wasting activities and reducing distractions.

Prioritizing Your Tasks

Probably one of the biggest barriers to effective organizational skills is an inability to prioritize tasks. If you don’t prioritize your responsibilities, you may veer off course when a new email or phone call comes in or when you are given added responsibilities.

To manage my full-time employment, Reserve responsibilities and a full-time college curriculum, I needed to prioritize my tasks every day. Each morning, I created a list of what I needed to get done that day. I wrote down my family, school and employment responsibilities in the order of their importance.

I used a coding system to assist with the organization. For example, I listed my most important responsibility as A1, the task that needed to be completed first. Then I labeled my other tasks in descending order of importance: A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, C1, C2 and so forth.

If I had so many responsibilities that I needed to list tasks in a C or D column, I would gauge my progress at lunchtime to determine where I was on my list. If I was running behind and needed to adjust my time for these responsibilities, I might skip lunch or work later that day.

Avoiding Time Wasters

It’s important to identify activities that do not contribute to educational goals, especially for new online students. Online students, perhaps even more so than traditional classroom students, should create an hourly log of their day.

A good way to learn how to create such a list is to write down everything you did yesterday in the order you did them. That will show you how best to keep track your upcoming activities. I found that creating an hourly log was insightful because it showed me how much time I had spent on activities that hindered completion of my work and education responsibilities.

Once you see activities that don’t contribute toward your goals – such as time on social media, talking on the phone or watching television – you can then prioritize your time.

Reducing Your Distractions

To reduce distractions, find a place to study where you won’t be disturbed. In addition, communicate the importance of your educational goals to your family and friends, so they can support your study time without distracting you.

If you are on active duty, tell your commander about your classes. He or she may be willing to give you time off when major assignments or exams are due and limit distractions when you are off duty studying.

Organization Keeps You On Track to Earn Your Degree and Be a More Successful Employee

Earning a college education is a major accomplishment. It shows prospective employers that you have the knowledge and competency associated with your degree.

As a job candidate, your degree also underscores your organizational skills to reach goals. Completing tasks in a timely manner is an essential job skill required by many employers.

About the Author 

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been a member of the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has received commendations from the Coast Guard. Currently, Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.

Wes O'Donnell

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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