Learning efficiently: 6 steps to success in your online graduate education
You’re a working professional, and odds are, you’ve worked from home before. Here in New England it snows quite a bit, and fortunately for us, working from home is an available and very attractive alternative to driving on slippery roads and adding to the hectic traffic the day after a snow storm.
So when a snow day pops up, you make your coffee, crack open your laptop, and start in on emails. Peaceful, quiet, excellent. You’re cranking through your inbox, working toward the holy grail of Inbox Zero, when the cat decides you’re here to play, and jumps on the desk for attention. You clear off the cat, but now that you’re off pace, you figure you’ll just sort the mail from the last week off the desk and into your file folders for a couple of minutes before you dig into work again, to make a little more room on the desk. And then, you notice your files are looking overstuffed, and so you rifle through to thin the herd into the recycling bin. And then, and then, and then…
Studying at home, just like working from home, is wonderful, convenient, and comfortable. It’s also easy to get off track.
6 strategies for success in online graduate classes
1. Turn off the distractions
It’s tempting to play music or have a television on as background noise, and for some people it can help set a relaxing environment, but the minute you find yourself distracted by it – turn it off. It may also help to visually pare down your study environment. I also came across some distraction-free writing tools that were highly recommended.
2. Establish a study zone
If you can, dedicate a specific room of your house to become a “study zone.” Try to use this space only for working and studying, and as much as you can, avoid studying elsewhere in your house. This will help it feel like a miniature office, and will motivate you to focus on studying when you’re there. Check out these 13 clever home offices. I just adore the chair in #1, even though it really doesn’t look that practical.
3. Resist the temptation to be continuously connected
Studying at home is a good chance to focus with limited outside distractions. But if you find your willpower waning, and you find yourself veering over to your Twitter feed or quickly checking your chat, there are tools to help. This is a fantastic article, showcasing ten tools to use for better focus. One that stood out to me is called “Self-Control” – which blocks out distracting websites for a set amount of time. This will also help with the next point…
4. Keep a consistent schedule
Try to start and stop studying around the same time each day. This will help you get in a “study time” mentality.
5. Have regular touch points
Set specific times to catch up on communication, whether that means logging in into Blackboard or a chat program or simply checking your email. Most online courses have a built in interaction schedule, so it may be good to enter these times into your calendar so you get a reminder prompt when it’s time to log back in to your class and respond to posts on your discussion board. More about an example of online class flow at UNE Online here, if you’re interested: http://vision.une.edu/take-public-health-class-online-une.
6. Draw a line
Asynchronous classes, such as online graduate education courses, can put you in a constant state of feeling “on duty.” Make sure, at the end of the day, you disconnect from “study mode” however you can. Close the door of your home office. Shut down your email. Schedule fun time. All work and no play… well, you know how it goes!
Making a habit of good habits
All of these strategies, used together or taken separately, will help you work toward forming good study habits. And habits are the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.
If you’re looking for a good business book read/listen, Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, studies and analyzes the influence of habits in our lives. The narrative goes into how habits are essential to determining an overall corporate culture, but also discusses habits on a more human level, for example, how the author personally beat a 3:00 cookie habit.
Optimize your habits and watch your productivity skyrocket
Got any more study tips and tricks you’d like to share? Share your secrets in the comments below!