College courses in and of themselves require a lot of discipline. No one wants to pull all-nighters studying to study for midterms, or pass up going out with friends in order to read two chapters of a textbook. At least when you’re on-campus, though, you’ve got professors to consistently remind you of deadlines and hold you accountable. When you’re attending a college online, you have to be your own source of motivation and discipline.
A lot of students think this is something that they can’t handle, and others don’t realize just how difficult it’s going to be until they’re falling behind. It’s true — not every student is cut out for online courses. However, self-discipline is a skill that can be built from the ground up, and once you manage to do so, it’ll work to your advantage in a lot of situations throughout the rest of your life.
Here are five must-try tips for building self-discipline when taking courses online.
Designate a Work Space
A lot of students get into work mode when they’re in a classroom setting. It’s hard to get into work mode when you’re in your bed. Therefore, you need to designate a learning environment to put yourself in the right mindset when you really need to get something done. It could be the coffee shop up the street, or it could be an in-home office, but make sure it’s a place that’s free of distractions.
Make a Strict Schedule
The flexible hours are both a pro and a con of online college courses. You can do the work on your own time, and therefore, more easily balance your work, school, and personal time. However, when you’re on your own time rather than someone else’s, it can be easy to fall behind.
You can’t just “wing it” when it comes to your education. You have to set aside designated hours to work on your schoolwork. If you get into the routine of doing homework from 5-8 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example, it’ll start to seem less like an option and more like a part of every day life. On a weekly basis, use deadlines to determine which days you’ll do what within those blocked-out hours to avoid late assignments.
Take Baby Steps
Big assignments are often the most difficult to get started on. In on-campus classes, your professor will be likely to ask the class how things are coming. With online college courses, you don’t have that advantage. The key to tackling a large assignment, like a ten-page paper, is to take baby steps. Break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks to be accomplished on different days rather than attempting to do it all in one sitting. This way, it’ll seem less daunting and you’ll be less likely to put it off.
With no professor around to offer pizza after an exam, you’ve got to reward yourself. We all need a little incentive to get things done every once in a while, and sometimes an A on a report card just isn’t enough. Instead, buy yourself a video game or a new clothing item when you get a good grade on a paper or when you pass a course.
Take a Break!
Most accredited online degree programs are just as demanding — if not more so — as on-campus courses. In order to keep your cool, be sure to take off from all the studying and hard work at least one day a week. Getting too stressed out and not having enough time to relax has actually proven to be detrimental to the quality of students’ work.