Taking courses online is undoubtedly a different experience from taking them in a traditional classroom setting. Aside from the medium itself, a huge difference is simply the location. Being able to study, independently, from the comfort of your own home is a significant change from what we’re used to. That is, the bell-driven 8am-3pm rotation of 30+ kids from room to room. For most of us, this is the model we have learned to learn by. Adjusting to anything else represents a big change, particularly when the new model would have you work from the space you currently associate with kicking back and relaxing.
At OVS, we recognize that bringing schoolwork into the home domain presents a particular set of challenges for productivity. For those new to learning from home, or those who have never quite mastered it (procrastinators – we’re looking at you!), we’ve got some tips and tricks to help keep you focused and productive while studying from home.
1. Create a Schedule
Having a schedule is the first key to success: if you don’t make time for your studies, it’s safe to say you won’t find time to study. If routine is important for you, keep your e-learning schedule the same as if you were learning in a traditional day school. In many ways, they are the same: you’re still responsible for showing up, listening to lessons, and completing the work assigned. If you had trouble focusing early in the morning in day school, switch up your schedule to hours that work for you. If you don’t work well with back-to-back classes, schedule breaks in between! The flexible schedule is one of the best parts about e-learning, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of your newfound freedom!
With that said, it is still best to designate significant chunks of time (at least 3-4 hours per day) when you can ‘go to school’ uninterrupted, and it’s best to keep these hours consistent day-to-day. Integrating schoolwork into your daily routine ensures that you are spending an appropriate amount of time prioritizing your studies. For more tips on creating a study schedule as a full-time online student, check out our blog!
2. Choose Your Workspace Carefully
Find a quiet space in your home where you can work without distractions. Ideally, try to create a workspace somewhere that can be solely associated with school from now on. In the same way you associate your kitchen with eating, your bedroom with sleeping, and your living room with, well, living, creating a space dedicated to schoolwork will help you focus on tasks at hand while you’re in that zone. It should also help ease the temptation to engage in the distractions that exist in many others areas of the home.
When designating your workspace, it’s important to pay attention to what helps you be productive. Do you prefer the white noise of your family’s conversations or do you need complete silence to study? Do you like being able to look out a window, or does it distract you? What kind of lighting do you work best in? What kind of chair is the most comfortable, without being so comfortable that you want to fall asleep? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself, as all these things can factor into how efficient you are with your studies.
3. Take Breaks
Being able to self-motivate and self-discipline are valuable traits when taking courses online, but knowing when to step away is just as important. When creating a schedule for yourself, be sure to schedule in designated times for mental breaks. Taking breaks is beneficial for your overall productivity. We’re not wired to concentrate for hours on end, and attempting to do so will only be detrimental to your focus.
Instead, experts suggest take a 10-15-minute break every hour or two. When done right, these short breaks will improve your decision-making, creativity, focus, and ability to retain information. So how do you take breaks the ‘right’ way? By doing something that gives your brain, and your eyes, the opportunity to relax! While it may feel nice to navigate away from work and check your social media, that isn’t the kind of ‘break’ that will benefit you in the long-run. Instead, try a run to the kitchen for a healthy snack or a glass of water. You can even try a 15-minute power nap if you’re feeling particularly sluggish. Remember: something is better than nothing. Set a timer for five minutes, and give yourself time to refocus.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Taking courses online presents several distractions you wouldn’t typically encounter in a classroom environment. From pets, parents or siblings intruding, to social media and the tools of your hobbies – distractions abound in the home. To eliminate them, first and foremost you have to identify them! What is it that causes you to lose focus? If working in a messy room doesn’t bother you, then it’s not the cause of your distraction and cleaning it is just a distraction in and of itself (although it would make your mom happy, so maybe not a bad idea?). Whatever you identify as distracting, it’s in your best interest to eliminate it from your workspace to keep yourself as productive as possible. Pay attention to what is, and isn’t, working for you, and make changes as you see fit.
Can’t seem to find the willpower to stay off of social media? Your phone can help with that! Set time limits or blackout periods on specific apps by going to your device’s settings menu. For iPhone users, look for ‘Screen Time’; for Android users, look for ‘Digital Wellbeing’.
5. Set Attainable Goals
Looking at a list of things that need to be done can be intimidating, even stressful. More often than not, when you don’t know where to start, you simply don’t start at all! For obvious reasons, this is disastrous for our productivity and is to be avoided at all costs. Instead, try setting yourself a series of attainable goals to help you manage the stress of balancing multiple courses. By chunking and scheduling your tasks, you can make a long list seem more manageable and improve your overall productivity.
A good place to start would be looking at what you need to get done by the end of the week, and what you should do on a daily basis until then to get it done. You can also look ahead to future due dates. What do you need to have done on a weekly basis to ensure that you are on schedule for that big essay due next month? Spreading out work over multiple days or weeks can drastically improve your stress levels and will make you feel more productive each day, as you check steps off your long-term list. Organizing your goals in a to-do list format allows you to easily see how far you’ve come, and what still needs to be done. Use the satisfaction of completing one step or task to motivate you to complete the next – you’ll be done your work before you know it!