Taking online courses requires a certain amount of discipline. Especially if you are fitting your course load in around other commitments like work and family. How do you make the most of your time? By taking charge of your schedule and learning how to maximize your focus.
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Set weekly goals. Set aside time to jot down what you want to get accomplished over the next 7 days. Some like to do this on Monday morning as they lay out their schedule. I prefer to do this exercise on Sunday, so that I go to sleep that night knowing that my calendar and to-do list are set. Start with a master list of everything that will need your attention in the upcoming week. Prioritize your list from items that are “must do’s” on down. Let’s be honest, we don’t ever have the time to do EVERYTHING on our list. The act of prioritizing our tasks will ensure that we spend the time we do have on the most important items first. Break your list into daily tasks and set reasonable goals for each day. Keep this to-do list accessible by using a day timer, journal, wall calendar, or app on your phone.
- Take care of the most important tasks first. For me? I think about which item on my list is the most time sensitive, or that is causing me the most anxiety. That’s the one I tackle first. (And let me tell you, it feels GREAT to get that one checked off my to-do list!) If you’ve completed the “must do’s” on your list and have a few extra moments – feel free to tackle the secondary tasks on your list. Crossing those off feels equally as good!
- Find your optimum brain time. Pay attention to the times when you are most productive and use those natural rhythms to your advantage. I’m a morning person, so I get up a few hours earlier than normal when I have an assignment or special task I need to focus on. This time is dedicated to the work at hand. If you’re an evening person, the hours after the kids go to bed might be a better time for you to do your work.
- Set boundaries. When you have a family or roommates, going back to school really is a group effort. Members in your household will need to respect your study time and adjust accordingly. Enlisting their help in minimizing interruptions will help you to stay focused and allow you to complete your assignments faster.
- Remember - one task at a time. By now I’m sure that you’ve read that multi-tasking can be an inefficient use of your time. Focus on one task at a time; reading for your class, conducting research for an assignment, studying and reviewing material, or taking an online quiz. By giving that one task your total attention, you will be able to complete the work more efficiently and retain the information better!
- Take breaks. Set a timer at the beginning of your session. Knowing that we will get a break after a specific amount of time can help us stay super focused. When the timer buzzes, get up, stretch, walk around. Or, if you are really in the zone – reset it for another designated amount of time and keep working.
- Make your device work for you. Smart phones and open website browsers are a drain on our daily focus. Frequent interruptions or the desire to check social media during a study session can decrease productivity and learning. Common advice is to put the cell phone out of reach, log out of social media and websites on your laptop, and turn off all notifications to ensure that the sounds of incoming messages won’t distract you from the work at hand.
However, there are a few websites and apps that might be beneficial when trying to focus on your work. Here are just a few:
- Noise Generator – If background noises are an issue, download an app such as myNoise or Noisli and select a soothing background noise to work to. Or, do as I do, and simply Google “music for meditation”. The soothing music and sounds of nature relax me and put me in a Zen state of mind, which allows me to focus more clearly on what I am working on.
- Website and App Blocker - Social media plays a large part in my work life, so I am always logged into multiple accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. The urge to frequently scroll through those sites is pretty strong, and I have found myself pausing my work to mindlessly do just that. Website and app blockers such as Freedom allow you to block select sites so that you can avoid those distractions during hours that you set.
- Timers - If you want something a little more structured than simply using the timer on your phone, apps such as The Pomodoro Technique will help split your time up into manageable 25-minute chunks of time. The Pomodoro method breaks work down into 25-minute chunks of time ("pomodoros"), for which you set a timer. After each 25-minute chunk, a three to five-minute break is taken, followed by another pomodoro. After the fourth pomodoro, a 15-30-minute break is taken.
If you are currently an online student, or are considering taking college courses online, there are ways to set yourself up for success in the online classroom. Ed4Credit’s students are in various life stages – including home school or high school students looking to earn college credits, more traditional students earning their Gen Ed courses online, and adult students who are going back to school. We have structured our courses in such a way as to make the process easier for the student, no matter what stage of life they are in.
Ed4Credit prides themselves with exceptional student support and our college credit courses come with these added benefits:
- Enrollment Counselor – need help deciding on a class? Click on the live chat on our website or call us at (727) 824-7800 ext. 4
- Technical Support – submit a support ticket should you have an IT issue
- Registrar – message the registrar if there is a question about the class
- Career Coach – the Online Student Center & Career Coach is included with your course and a great additional resource
Contact us to explore online learning opportunties through Ed4Credit today!