I’m studying online and I keep getting distracted! Please help!
When I talk to people about studying online, I often get asked how I don’t end up just watching Netflix or surfing YouTube. They also ask how I don’t get frustrated and end up looking like this guy.
After completing over 4 years of online graduate study I feel like I learned the hard way a range of important tools and rules that could help you to make your online study a success. Now I want to share them with you.
It’s important to say I was not the perfect student or that I didn’t always love studying online. It can be hard at times and requires a huge level of self-discipline, but there are some serious perks. You can study anywhere, at any time and you can have the flexibility to build your routine in a way that is not possible with face-to-face study.
So if you’re embarking on some online study what are some of the tools and rules that will set you up for success?
Know the study hours that work for you
We all work better at different times of day. Make sure you tailor your week to make use of your most effective hours. If you like studying in the morning, make sure that you treasure those hours and set them aside specifically for study. If you don’t have this luxury because of other commitments make sure you find the next best thing. Don’t settle for studying with you’re tired and can’t think. This is a sure way to burn out and make studying online impossible.
It’s a marathon, but it’s also a sprint
Like any study, completing qualifications online takes a big sustained effort. You need to set yourself up for a marathon effort. This means creating a rhythm and flow that can be sustained over 2-4 years depending on your course. Spending time experimenting with what works for you and what doesn’t. Trust and treasure your response to the different experiments, as you need to find what uniquely works for you, not how you think you should structure your week.
Interestingly, it is also a sprint. Each time you sit down to learn give yourself a clear time frame or sprint session in order to focus your learning. Popular time frames include 50 minutes of studying followed by 10 minutes of relaxing and switching off. There are plenty of apps that can help you to automate your study time like “Time Out”. These short bursts can help to increase your productivity, avoid injury from extended periods of sitting, and refresh your thinking.
Know your distractions and limit them
We all have daily distractions. It could be the temptation to scroll your Facebook feed, the thought that an important event is happening somewhere right now or that there is something at home you need to do. Write down all of your major distractions and create some rules and tools for minimising their cost on your study.
Get prepared right at the start of Term
Take advantage of the first couple of weeks of Term and to get ultra prepared. Put all of the important dates in your diary and prepare a study and assignment schedule. Putting in that little bit of extra effort over the first few weeks can help to save hours of heartache and deadline stress later on in the Term.
Find your own ‘office’
One of the benefits of studying online is that you can study anywhere. Find the environment that most inspires you to work. Whether it is a local library, cafe or even a park, finding a space where you feel energised to switch on and study has the potential to drastically increase your productivity. It can also help to put a healthy boundary between study and other aspects of life which become blurred when you’re studying at home.
Connect with your online teacher and community
It is easy to be an anonymous student online who doesn’t interact with other students or teachers. The flexibility of it makes it easy to simply study alone and it can become pretty isolating. Email your teachers and engage with the online communities they set up for each subject (or create one). We learn better together than alone and the more you connect with others in the course the more engaged you’ll be with the content.
Create a meetup
If you have people studying your course who live close by create your own meetup. You never know when they will be able to explain a difficult concept or if you will create friends that will be a part of your personal and professional life for years to come.
Try to find a job or out of hours hobbies that apply your knowledge to the real world
One of the most difficult parts of studying something new is getting the chance to put your new knowledge into practice. Can you find a job, hobby or internship opportunity in your relevant area. The more you use your new subjects, the quicker and more deeply you will be able to understand the content.
Create switch on and off routines
One of the most difficult things about studying by distance is that any routine that helps to prime you to concentrate disappears. You have no commute or outfit to put on that get you ready to sit down and concentrate. What activities can you create that help to put you in the right headspace for studying? It might be travelling to a local workspace, walking around the block or wearing a certain outfit that helps to cue your brain that it is time to work.
Online learning gives you huge flexibility to design your life. It certainly takes some time to discover how it works best for you and I encourage you to keep experimenting as it’s worth it. Try new things and always keep an eye out for more effective ways to connect with the content you’re studying and your online student community.
If you’re interested in exploring courses and beginning your online study journey, here is a great place to start. Click here to explore courses.