College x
online school

There’s nothing harder than staying focused in your own living room.

When I first started online school I thought that it would be extremely easy to keep myself motivated. After all, I’ve been doing homework and other tasks at home for years and never had a problem finishing them on time, but I quickly learned how different it is to keep yourself motivated when you do online school from home.

The hardest thing for me was that you are not only doing a few homework assignments that take a couple hours; your entire day is at home and you need to keep yourself on task. It can be easy for the first hour or two but after four to six hours of doing school while at home, your brain begins to wander and focus is thrown out the door. These are some things that I have found over the years that help keep me focused and get everything done on time.

Keep a Planner and Schedule for Yourself

This might sound like a given but specifically scheduling out what tasks you will finish and on what days can really help to keep your brain from putting something off for too long. By promising that you’ll get a task done that day you’re more inclined to hold yourself to that schedule. Before I was assigning tasks for specific days I would just work on anything when my brain felt up for it, which lead to some days working 12 hours straight and other days not working at all. Setting up this schedule really helped to hone in on what needed to be done and actually finish things without procrastinating for days on end.

Set Goals

There is never too small of a goal to set for yourself. If I’m having an extremely off day, even just logging on to school and looking over what work we have for the next week and planning out what/how I will finish everything can get my brain in gear and start getting things done.

Goals are what keep me in line more than anything else when it comes to getting things done. Unless, of course, my procrastination is extremely bad that day, I can usually accomplish everything that I need to. Separating online school into parts can also help break everything down. It is extremely daunting when you have to find time to teach yourself and do all the assignments. By setting goals I procrastinate less as my brain doesn’t have to face a mountain of work all at once. It also helps me understand that best place to get started, rather than staring at the work for hours and then starting on something unimportant.

Incorporate Breaks and Food

I’m not normally one to forget to eat, but when I first started online school, I forgot to eat a lot. The reason being that I would get so hyper-focused in finishing projects that I would work for so long that multiple meals were missed without even noticing, until my stomach starting screaming. Keep an eye on the time and make sure to incorporate not only specific times for breakfast/lunch/dinner (depending on what hours you normally work) but also put in times for snacks. By getting up to eat, you not only feed your stomach but you give your brain time to relax and reset, which will result in better work done.

Taking breaks throughout the day is also helpful in letting your brain process things. Especially if you feel stuck or unmotivated, taking a walk around the house or going outside for a bit can really help clear your mind. I schedule in specific breaks to eat meals and then take extra time when my dogs ask to go out. This gives me random moments throughout the day where I am forced to step away from school and clear my head.

Often when we do online school, we can get wrapped up in the work or feel like we have to study nonstop since we don’t have specific times to go to and from school. Taking these breaks is important for your brain to reset and have a minute to gather your thoughts before heading back to work the day away.

Reward Yourself

It’s hard to take notice of good work when you’re the only cheerleader, but be sure when you finish a hard task or an important assignment that you take a moment to notice a job well done. This can even be just leaning back and noticing that you did what you accomplished or checking it off from your work list of tasks. Just be sure to notice when you accomplish things as it can easily be forgotten when we have a laundry list of things to do that finishing one thing is an accomplishment.

Do Your Best Not to Procrastinate

Ok, even I laughed a little when typing out this headline. Procrastination is so easy when you work from home. There are days when I’ll wake up look at what needs to be done today and then spend the entire day cleaning, playing with my dog or basically anything that isn’t working on school. However, you just have to push through. Even if it feels like molasses is holding you down, try to finish anything on your list of goals for that day. When you finish one thing, you’ll probably feel motivated enough to work on something else.

Procrastination is hard no matter if you do school online or in-person, but just remember it’s all about starting with small tasks and working up to bigger ones. Try to push through if you can and if you’re really struggling, ask yourself if there’s something else you can do today that might be easier to face than what you had planned. Accomplish anything that you can and reward yourself for making it through.

Know What Hours a Day You’re Most Productive

Honestly, this was a game changer for me. I used to try and work in the morning and then come home and do online school in the evening but nothing ever got done. I would come home too exhausted to deal with school and would just crash on the couch and ignore my piling assignments.

I quickly realized that the only time I really feel productive or motivated enough to do school work is immediately after I wake up — catching my brain before it even has time to realize how much it doesn’t want to do an assignment. Pre-coffee means that some of the work at the beginning might not be the best but it still gets done before my brain wakes up to realize it would rather be watching TV.

Everyone is different; just find the time that works best for you whether that be noon or 3 in the morning. The beauty of online school is that you can do it whenever works for you, so use that to your advantage. 

Decide a Time / Goal to End On

It’s so easy to continue to work until you run out of steam and then crash. Working 8-10 hours straight on school was not uncommon before I made this rule for myself. Down time is just as important as work.

So decide on a time of day that you want to be done with school by, and try to only work until around that time, if not that time exactly. I personally struggle with leaving tasks incomplete so I try to give myself a basic time to end by, and then when I get to that point, allow myself to finish whatever task I’m working on before walking away. This makes it so that I feel more accomplished and that there is less to finish the next day. However, if you’re someone who has a very hard time stepping away at all, I definitely recommend sticking to ending at a specific time so that you can be sure not to spend all day working.

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