You don't consider yourself a procrastinator. Not really. In fact, you're generally pretty organized.

It's just that things happen.

Your aging golden retriever gets sick during the night, and it's all over your living room carpet.

Now you have to work a trip to the vet into a day already packed with meetings, your mother-in-law's birthday dinner, and several discussion posts to write for your online psychology course.

Last week you reached into the fridge (the day after you went grocery shopping) to find it suspiciously warm.

You ended up spending the day keeping coolers of perishable food filled with ice and discussing the merits of Energy Star-certified refrigerators with appliance salespeople. So much for finishing your case studies for your criminal law class.

3 keys to getting things done.

Call it procrastination or a delay, the end result is the same. Something important didn't get done because something urgent took its place.

And before you know it, all of those small individual delays add up.

The primary reason why you chose an online degree program was because it afforded you the flexibility you needed to be able to complete your college degree.

But life happens. Kids get sick. Elderly parents need care. Work schedules change.

How do you keep your good intentions to complete your online degree program from getting side tracked? How do you keep your momentum and your focus when the unexpected keeps cropping up?

You prepare, plan, and prioritize.

#1: Prepare

  • Clarify your goals: What do you want to accomplish academically and professionally? Where do you want to go? The more specific and clear your objectives are for completing your degree, the stronger your motivation will be to finish.

  • Know your passion: It's going to be a lot easier to stay motivated and focused on completing your degree if you're passionate about your vision for your life. It means there is meaning and purpose to your hard work, sacrifice, and commitment.

#2: Plan

  • Divide and conquer: Rome wasn't built in a day. Divide up large expectations and projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. Develop intermediate deadlines for yourself.

  • Develop a series of steps to achieve each goal: Create daily to-do lists that you write down. If you keep lists in your head, then as soon as the unexpected comes along, (the car battery dies, or your son goes up the slide at school and splits his lip) your list evaporates.

#3 Prioritize

  • Think about how you spend your time: Recognize the things in your day that may appear productive but really just eat up your time. Take purposeful action by completing tasks that lead to larger goals.

  • Distinguish between actions that are important and urgent: This is the premise behind the time management matrix in Stephen Covey's "Put First Things First" habit. You want to focus more on what's important (your education) even though it may not appear urgent.

  • Eat your frog first: Brian Tracy's classic business book advises that you make the most difficult task on your to-do list the day your first priority. Doing so gives you momentum and energy for the rest of the day.

Focus on the 20 percent.

If you're a business major, you may be familiar with Pareto's Principle. Originally a mathematical formula developed by an Italian economist, it has also become known as the 80-20 rule. The premise is that 80 percent of the effects in any situation stem from 20 percent of the causes.

For you, as a busy working adult and online student, Pareto's Principle means that out of everything that you have to do in a given day only 20 percent of it really matters. So identify and focus on those things.

As Stephen Covey also says, "The key is not to prioritize what's on the schedule, but to schedule your priorities."

How do you get more done? Share your tips!

Image Credit: V La

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

Snooze You Lose? Maybe Not

9 Ways To Simplify Your Day

Keeping Life In Balance