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Staying organised and focused while learning online
Learning online can present challenges in terms of time management and motivation.
Here are some recommendations for how you can stay organised and motivated while learning online:
- Add everything to a central calendar, including your timetabled classes, your assignment deadlines, your social activities, work shifts and appointments. Try using a calendar app that you can sync across your devices, so you can always keep on top of your schedule.
- Schedule time in your calendar for self-directed learning too, so that you dedicate time to your reading, writing, group work, pre-class tasks, or revision.
- Have a to-do list with tasks for every day. Slot your tasks in around taught sessions and estimate how long each task might take you.
- Schedule a regular time to check and update your to-do list– perhaps first thing every morning or just before you stop studying for the day.
- Set goals for how much of your academic work you want to do each day and each week. Be realistic about these goals and how much time you will be able to spend studying each day.
- If possible, aim to establish a routine for your studying. For example, you could try always working on one module on a Monday afternoon, or always doing your reading on a Wednesday morning. Routines can help give structure to your day and allow you to focus on set tasks, rather than spending too much time deciding what to study each day.
- Explore ways to study more effectively. For example, use the Pomodoro technique to work in short, focused bursts, rather than trying to work for hours without taking breaks.
- Think about scheduling set times to do your “admin” such as checking emails and catching up on Minerva announcements. Dedicating set times to these tasks mean you will be less tempted to use them to procrastinate.
- Consider whether you are scheduling your studying to match your most effective times (if that’s possible for you). Do you focus best in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
- Be prepared to adjust your schedule. Sometimes caring commitments, your job or other events will mean you can’t get all the studying done that you had planned for a day. This could mean you need to rearrange your plans for other days, to catch up on reading or other university tasks.
- Ask a friend to be a “study buddy”. You could share daily or weekly study goals with each other and check in regularly to share your progress. By allowing your friends to hold you accountable in this way, you might find yourself more motivated to get on with your work.
You could also check our tips on time management.
Planning your learning
You may find that not much of your time is spent in live sessions. Instead, you’ll be expected to do a lot of self-directed learning, planning and completing set tasks. Make sure you have allocated time in your schedule for a range of different activities.
Identify the activities that are most important each day or each week. Do you need to have read a text or watched a video in preparation for a live session? Do you need to do some research before you can start structuring an essay? Ensure these tasks take priority in your schedule, so you can make sure you complete them on time.
Set tasks and self-directed activities are designed to help you get the most from attending the live session, so that the live sessions can be more interactive and discussion-based. They also allow your lecturers to see how your understanding of key concepts progresses throughout the module. You should aim to complete as many of the pre-session tasks as you’re able to each week.
You don’t have to read everything on your reading list from beginning to end. Skim-read texts quickly first to help you decide which ones you want to spend time reading in more depth.
If you are set the task of watching videos, you can learn at your own pace. You can pause, speed up or slow down most videos in Minerva, which could help you digest the information more effectively rather than having to watch the video several times. Videos should also have subtitles or a transcript to help you follow what is being said.
If you know you have an assignment deadline coming up, spread out the work so that you are starting it well in advance of the deadline. Although it can be tempting to put things off until just a few days before a deadline, this can lead to a lot of stress. Aim to leave yourself enough time to revise, edit and proofread your assignments before submitting them.
Learning doesn’t only happen when you schedule it in. Allow yourself some thinking time while doing something different, for example during exercise, travelling, household chores, cooking, hobbies or crafts. This is an important part of learning, as it allows you to make connections and deepen your understanding of complex topics. Allow your brain some time to wander, and you might suddenly find you’ve solved a tricky problem or come up with a bright new idea.