Online college has a number of benefits and appeals especially to students whose hectic schedules make traveling to a campus several times a week difficult. Online students enjoy the comfort of attending class from their home offices and a little more scheduling flexibility when it comes to studying and completing assignments. However, distance learning also comes with the need to motivate yourself to get schoolwork done and “attend” class, without the presence of a professor and classmates to ensure you stick to timetables and guidelines. Staying on top of your schoolwork can be difficult, but motivating yourself can be made a little easier with a few tricks.
1. Make a schedule you can stick to. Look at your syllabus at the beginning of a course and build yourself a timetable based on schoolwork, your job, your family, and whatever other obligations you have that demand your time. They key is to be realistic: do not stretch yourself too thin or plan your days down to the minute. It’s life – things happen that we don’t plan for and we can’t always be in complete control. Schedule school time based on things you can control. Say, Mondays after work you sit down for an hour and get started on the week’s assignments. Or maybe Tuesdays you skip the gym to spend time with your textbooks. Outline your days realistically, see where you can sacrifice some time, and pencil in your study sessions – but be sure to stick to them. And don’t forget to schedule “off” time. Make a rule like “no work after 9 PM” or designate Sunday as a family day. Having off-hours will help you make the most of the time you DO spend working and will give you time to decompress and recharge your batteries so you can do your best work and avoid exhaustion.
2. Break down your tasks into “bite-size” portions. Create checklists for each big assignment and divide up the work by steps. Say you have to read a book and write an essay on it. Write out a checklist with each task and check each one off one at a time: 1. Read book 2. Create outline 3. Write rough draft 4. Edit 5. Complete draft and submit. This method takes your big, giant task and creates more manageable steps, and checking off each one will give you a sense of accomplishment. Taking apart the pieces of a project keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and helps you find time to do smaller tasks in a much less intimidating way.
3. Keep your eye on the prize – literally. Many of us do well when presented with a physical reminder of what we’re working toward. Find a token that helps keep you going and keep it in your office or wherever you sit down for homework. Maybe you’re studying to be a nurse: keep a stethoscope on your desk, or an image related to nursing as your computer desktop. If you like motivational quotes, write one down on your desk calendar or to do list. Maybe your stint as a day-care center employee inspired you to be a teacher: remind yourself of that inspiration by keeping a drawing or card from one of your students on your desk or hung on the fridge. Find something to remind you of why you decided to go to school and keep it around so you never forget why you started this journey to begin with.
4. Reward yourself on a job done. And give yourself an extra reward on a job well done. You can develop a barter system with yourself for days and assignments that seem to drag: Finish the book you’re reading for class and you get an hour to catch up on the DVR. Get an A on your paper and pick up those shoes you’ve been eyeing. Of course the ultimate goal of your online education is your degree and, eventually, your dream career, but sometimes those goals get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day studying and assignments. Creating smaller, more accessible goals helps with that, and the tangible and immediate reward for a job well done goes a long way.