How to Personalise and Perfect Your Online Study Plan
When you choose to study a degree online, you’ll have the flexibility to tailor your study routine so that it fits with your work, family time and social life. However, with great power comes great responsibility.
The onus is on you as an online learner to find the time for study sessions, to keep up with the pace of your subjects, and to meet your important assessment dates. Your self-discipline and motivation will drive you to succeed, and your study plan will be your most important tool on the journey.
At the outset, it may take some time to find the right study routine for you and keep to it. There will likely be challenges along the way: from the daily distractions of life to sick children requiring care and unexpected late nights at work. But a study routine tailored to your lifestyle with leniency for when life happens will help to keep you on track.
So, what are the most important factors to be aware of as you plan, test and refine your online learning study plan? First, choose an online or hard copy calendar or scheduler – whatever works best for you. Then, consider the following points.
1. Plan around your non-negotiables
Work, sleep, date night, exercise, quality time with the kids – these are common examples of non-negotiables. They’ll differ for each student, as will what can be compromised and what can’t. First and foremost, block out time for these activities in your schedule. Then, once you know the time investment required for your online degree, factor in your study sessions. For example, we recommend that AIB MBA students spend approximately 20 hours per week studying and reflecting on their learning.
Consistency within your study schedule will help to create positive study habits. Whether you like to do a bit of coursework each night after work, or you prefer to spend a block of time on weekends to complete your assignments – the key to success is finding a pattern of study that suits your individual needs. Once you identify your ideal study pattern, factor this routine into your study planner.
Does your workplace offer study leave? Around busy periods such as exam time, consider taking some leave to study. This can help to take the pressure off!
2. Pair your daily tasks with learning
When studying an online degree, you’ll be able to fit in a study session wherever it works for you. For example, you can listen to an audio file as you drive or walk the dog, watch short subject videos on your train ride to work, or learn a new topic on your lunch break.
When studying with AIB, all of your digital study resources are housed online in our Student Learning Portal. You can access it on any device and even download topics, files and interactive learning aids for when you’re offline (think on a flight or in the countryside).
3. Don’t forget factors like your body clock and productivity levels
For your study routine to really serve you throughout your degree, you’ll want to take into consideration when you are most alert, productive and ready to learn. Keep this in mind as you plan and test out your new routine.
Are you a morning person, bright and bushy-tailed, or are you at your sharpest after the sun’s gone down? Depending on the answer, you might be better off setting your alarm for an hour earlier every morning or blocking out time in the evenings instead.
To get even more from your time, divide your study tasks into the ones that require the most concentration, and the ones that you can do when you’re not quite as bright.
For example, if you have an assignment to write, create a rough plan for it when you’re not at the top of your game. Then write a draft when you’re feeling much more productive and creative before you apply that final polish.
Remember, your study plan should serve you; you shouldn’t be a slave to it.
4. Create a distraction-free study zone
Online learners can study anywhere they choose to, and for most, the bulk of their study will be completed from their home. Although convenient, distractions at home can really throw you off your path. Instead of being surrounded by focused people like when you’re at work, at home you’re surrounded by your family, the television, pets, loads of dirty dishes, gardening tasks and much more.
To support your study efficiency, create a distraction-free zone in your home to study. Make sure that your family understands its purpose and block off times in which they can’t interrupt. Keep the space clean and quiet, so you’re not tempted mid-session to tidy it. Treat your study time exactly as you would if you were on campus, and don’t give in to the temptation to do a quick load of washing, or four. If you will study quite a bit at work, apply these rules to your study space there.
It can be hard to set boundaries when you’re sharing space with people who, naturally, want to spend time with you. But doing so will help set good habits for all of you, and make it easier to stick to your schedule.
Read more: How to Combat Study Procrastination
5. Separate online learning from online distractions
It’s not just the real world that can offer distractions from your online study – it’s also the vast playground of the internet itself. Most of us have found ourselves mindlessly scrolling through social media when we should be working, and it’s even harder to stop when you’re at home with nobody watching.
However, there are several apps that can help you both monitor and limit your internet usage. Many allow you to block sites that you already know to be time-wasters (Netflix, Facebook, YouTube etc.) or block you from the internet altogether for set periods of time. Used in conjunction with the Pomodoro technique, where you set a stopwatch and work in short uninterrupted bursts, it can be an effective way of getting your productivity levels up.
6. Don’t forget what’s most important
Your health and happiness. Don’t sacrifice too much sleep, don’t skip your gym sessions if they help the rest of your life run smoother, and don’t miss out on quality family time. Family, friends, relationships, nutrition, sleep and exercise – they all contribute to a happier, healthier and more productive you. Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle should be number one on your list, as it is most important to your present and future. Your brain will perform at its best and you’ll be better equipped to manage stress.
By making a conscious effort to spend quality time with those important to you, you will also feel more supported throughout your journey. Anything is possible when there is a balance, so don’t forget to look after yourself and continue to live your life while studying.
Read more: Why Good Health is Essential for MBA Success