There are plenty of benefits behind opting to take online college classes rather than attending college in person, one of the most obvious being the ability to laze around at home while learning a thing or two. It’s every college student’s ideal morning: wake up late, eat four bowls of cereal, eventually meander through pages of Reddit rage comics and Youtube clips before landing on some educational reading for your online class. But by that time, it’s 4PM and what little motivation you’ve had has already been squandered on trolling Facebook or smoking pot. Herein lies the dark side to online college, better known as ‘trying not to be a lazy POS, but whatever.’ The responsibility of creating (and more importantly, sticking to) a schedule that entails working in the same area where you also sleep and party can be difficult. Here are some for the online college student which can help him or her stay motivated and on track.
Make a Schedule and Keep it
It sounds so incredibly simple that you may be scoffing at its very appearance on this list, but creating a schedule that works is the first step to staying organized and on track to completing your online college classes successfully and with minimum stress along the way. Many people think they can plan a schedule in their minds, thinking about the day ahead of them and loosely budgeting their time. This often doesn’t work, as it becomes easy to forget certain tasks when focusing on other ones.
Trying to remember a long list of to-do items can also be stressful. Buying a small calendar or using one on your computer can help you stick to deadlines, remember important events, and organize a multitude of tasks without feeling swamped. A calendar can be especially helpful when working on a large project; referring to the calendar will tell you how much time you have left, so the inner debate of whether or not to take a lazy day off may become a much easier decision. Once you get into the routine you’ve established for yourself, it will increase your focus and productivity. Deciding to complete random tasks can become confusing and derail your concentration, especially if you’re taking breaks or constantly re-prioritizing.
Long, sit-in college classes have short breaks, and so should the student taking online college classes. Concentration dwindles after four long hours of staring at a screen, and it’s important to break that time up with short, scheduled breaks to refresh the mind. Being effective is way more important than trying to cram as much activity as possible into one sitting, which will only burn the student out. This is also part of effective scheduling; breaks should be set in intervals. This way, the student will have something to look forward to; at work, it helps many employees to know that lunch is around the corner.
Work becomes a little easier when there’s an end in sight. Scheduling breaks can also minimize distraction because the breaks aren’t randomly disrupting work, and breaking concentration to goof around can make getting back to work unnecessarily difficult. There are also a few signs of decreased productivity that the student should look out for: when the student begins to get distracted or bored, it may be time for a short impromptu break to shake out the extra energy before returning to the task at hand. It’s important to accept obstacles like boredom or distraction, rather than fight them; taking a break in these cases will end up being more beneficial than forcing oneself to sluggishly work through it. Trying to force it will decrease the quality of work and also the student’s morale. It’s also important to take a break when stress is high — the brain learns and works better in relaxed, stress-free environments. Frustrated? Walk away and come back in 15 minutes — the computer will still be there!
Staying Clean and Comfortable
Working from a messy, sloppy room can be distracting and frustrating. External clutter can easily lead to internal clutter, which in turn will negatively effect the work being done. When sitting for prolonged amounts of time on the computer, it’s imperative that you are comfortable in your seat. An uncomfortable chair which cramps the back muscles can be discouraging, even if the student doesn’t immediately realize that their uncomfortable positioning is the problem. Better work is done when the student is comfortable, at ease, and not having to worry about constantly craning their neck or having to stretch aching muscles.
Venture Into the World
When taking online college classes, the student may slip into the treacherous depths of hermitry. When you don’t have to go anywhere, why bother going anywhere? Time consuming events like getting dressed and traveling become unnecessary and even totally unwanted. Students attending online colleges, and even people working from home, often become too comfortable in their environments and fall into the unproductive habit of constantly being in the same space.
Leaving the house to work in a cafe or library can be motivation in itself — not only is the environment new, but most of the people sitting in cafes and libraries are already doing some type of work. Being surrounded by quietly working people is a motivating situation; the energy creates an office environment which encourages productivity. Being in new situations also keeps the mind refreshed.
This should be a routine everyone keeps, but is especially important for the student taking online college classes. It’s important to reward yourself! Whether it’s with an large ice cream sundae, a new pair of pants or simply an hour playing video games, rewards can provide a lot of extra motivation. It works the same with children: ask a kid to do something he or she doesn’t want to, and they may become enthusiastic about the task at hand when encouraged with the offer of a reward after it’s done.
Besides helping to motivate the studious mind, the prospect of a reward is just a way to be nice to yourself. Being nice to yourself is important; think about how other people act when you aren’t nice to them. How can you expect yourself to be a good worker if you are your own boss and aren’t treating yourself exceptionally well? Studying and working all day deserves at least a small treat at the end of it all, and giving small gifts to yourself can boost morale significantly.