Studying online offers a lot of advantages over studying in a classroom. For example, it’s cheaper and you can study wherever and whenever you want. But there are also some challenges to studying online—and the biggest is staying motivated. The following are a few top tips for staying self-motivated when studying online.
Studying online offers you flexibility, but flexibility doesn’t mean studying whenever you feel like it. Sure, nobody’s going to stop you studying at 2 in the afternoon one day and 2 in the morning the next day. But if you’re like most people, you won’t be able to keep up those habits. Routine helps us stick to tasks. Decide on a time of day or a time of the week that’s convenient for you (that’s where the flexibility is) and commit to it. Enter the time in your calendar, set a reminder, get someone else to remind you— whatever makes you stick to the schedule. Eventually, you won’t even have to think about it; your study time will become a part of your routine, like breakfast, yoga, or your weekly poker game.
Just because you study at a fixed time doesn’t mean you need to study in a fixed place. Some people are good at studying from home, but if you find it’s causing you issues try somewhere else. Think about all the places you’ve visited in the past month and you’ll find there are many good places to study. You could try a quiet neighborhood café, a park bench, even a subway station or airport if you find the background noise actually helps you concentrate. Of course, your location needs to be suited to your mode of study. If you’re studying one-on-one with an online tutor, then you’ll need somewhere really quiet. But if you’re studying with video on-demand, then all you need is a mobile device and a WiFi connection (and you could even give the WiFi a miss if your online course provider enables downloads).
Humans are a goal-oriented species, hence why gamification has become a presence in every aspect of our lives. Gamification is the application of game principles such as keeping score and winning prizes in non-game contexts, such as work and study. Many online learning platforms have caught on to the power of gamification, awarding points for things like studying for consecutive days or acing mock tests. You can gamify your learning experience for yourself by awarding yourself points or rewards for successful studying. Gamification could involve something as simple as rewarding yourself with a piece of chocolate cake or a movie with friends after finishing your daily lesson.
If you’re struggling to stay motivated on your own, you’re not the only one. One of the advantages to learning in a physical classroom is being surrounded by your peers. You can solve that problem by studying with or at the same time as a friend. Whatever your age and whatever your area of study—a high school admissions test like the SAT, a grad school admissions test like the GMAT, or a professional certification like the CPA— chances are you know someone else who’s studying for it. If so, checking up on each other, motivating each other, tracking each other’s progress, celebrating your mutual successes, and commiserating over your mutual setbacks can be very helpful.
One of the reasons we procrastinate so much is there are too many distractions. Studying online is particularly challenging because it requires you to sit opposite your computer or on your mobile device— which is where most of the distractions are! YouTube, Whatsapp, Facebook, Fortnite, Amazon: they’re all just a click away from your online course, and even the world’s most motivated person is going to succumb to the temptation once in a while. If you’re finding the online distractions too much to handle, one solution is a website blocker. Type “free website blocker” into Google and you’ll find many good apps and browser extensions that block out any website of your choice. Most of these apps let you toggle on when you start studying and off again when you finish.
This might be obvious to some readers, but it’s still worth mentioning: music can be great for your motivation and concentration. One word of warning: choose music that’s conducive to studying. Of course, we all concentrate better when we listen to a genre or artist we like. But avoid things like Radio, YouTube, or the free version of Spotify – all of which constantly disrupt the music with dialog or ads.
Many successful people – from entrepreneurs to sports people to artists – harness the power of visualization techniques to achieve their desired outcomes. Visualization has grown in popularity in recent years, although it has been known about since at least as far back as Napoleon Hill’s 1937 best-seller Think and Grow Rich. There are many types of visualization techniques, and we don’t have the space to discuss it here. When it comes to online studying, visualization could be as simple as starting your study session by reminding yourself why you’re studying and visualizing yourself completing your studies and attaining your career goals.