First of all, congratulations on your dedication to furthering your learning and pursuing a new path! Lately, most people have been stuck at home more than usual, and spending a lot more time on the internet. It can feel hard to focus on your readings and assignments, especially if you’ve got kids at home as well. Here are some tips to help you become an efficient and less-stressed studier:
This is a big one, now more than ever. Most of us are at home more than before, so we can feel like all those different components of our lives: work, parenthood, housework, schoolwork, are all happening together and balancing it all feels extra hard. Even in normal times, it can feel hard to squeeze in studying without feeling interrupted by other parts of your life. It’s important to create a separation as much as you can. By separation, I mean creating space for your study sessions– ideally physical space. Pick a space in your home, or outside your home if possible, to be your dedicated studying place. If it’s in your home, it’s best if you can close a door. If you’re studying at your kitchen table, you may get distracted by dishes that need to be washed or by looking for snacks. Wherever you are, get yourself situated and eliminate distractions as much as possible.
It’s easy to put off your studies if your plan is to do your work “at some point today”. This definitely became the case when we were all stuck at home this past spring. It felt like we had endless time to get things done, but ended up accomplishing much less than we anticipated (for most people). It’s important to set clear hours that you will be spending on your studies to make sure they actually get done. Set reminders in your phone or post a schedule on your fridge so you and those who live with you know when your study times are so you won’t get interrupted.
So many of us get so distracted because we use our laptops to learn and study, and keep opening up other tabs of distractions like social media. I highly suggest logging your time so you can keep track of how much of your study time is actually being used to study. This will help you be super efficient! You can write down what you spend your time doing by hand, or use a free app like Toggl. Any time you switch tasks, or open up instagram for a little study break, log it. It will encourage you to stay on task and you will get your work done much quicker.
Do you take lots of breaks, or do you try to power through hours at a time? It seems like many people are at one of those extremes. Science says that we can only hold our focus for a maximum of 45 minutes at a time, after that, we are much less efficient and our work ends up taking us a longer period of time. Set an alarm to go off every 45 minutes of studying for a 15 minute break. You’ll be surprised that you end up getting more work done when you take regular breaks, than when you push through for hours at a time. Make sure you actually get up from where you are sitting and move around to get a change of environment.
Create a ritual around your study sessions to help you get in the zone. This could include anything that helps you feel calm and focused like essential oils, deep breathing, meditation, journaling, stretching, sipping tea or coffee, etc. You can also decorate your study space with things that make you feel calm and happy like crystals, artwork, photos, pillows, etc. Make your study sessions special.
Your studies can feel lonely if you are enrolled in a distance education program, but they don’t have to be! Join the community on facebook and don’t be shy about sending your instructor an email. You might end up feeling discouraged and become less dedicated to your work if you feel like you don’t understand what you are learning. Keep your momentum high by getting help when you need it.
Contributed by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N.