Online classes might seem like a blessing when you’re strapped for time and want something you can do at home in your pajamas. However, it presents its own challenges in the form of self-discipline and time-management to juggle everything in between home and personal life. Here are a few tips to get you through your online classes:
1. Write All Your Deadlines In A Planner
You can purchase a pocket planner at pretty much any retail store for a few bucks or you can take note of everything in your phone calendar. However you do it, make sure you write all of your deadlines for each online class somewhere you’ll be sure to check often.
Even if you have a good memory, don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll save if you know exactly when each assignment is due and how to plan accordingly. Otherwise, keeping everything in your head will become overwhelming.
2. Prioritize Those Deadlines
Now that you have all your due dates written down, you’ll want to take your assignments one step at a time and focus only on what is due next. Don’t worry about finals or that massive end-of-the-semester project right at the get-go. Yes, you’ll need to work on bigger projects ahead of time, but you’ll be doing it in small chunks between the assignments that are due much earlier.
My go-to method for prioritizing: start any weekly assignments at the beginning of the week and finish them as soon as you’re able. Then and only then will you focus on chipping away at the bigger projects with the time you have left. After weeks of doing this, those projects will be whittled away to nothing by the due date.
3. Sneak Schoolwork Into Work (If You Can)
I know this isn’t doable for everyone, but it’s such a time-saver for those who can that I had to add it. Even if you think your job isn’t set up for this, consider any downtime or breaks that you get. Can you do an assignment on your phone or bring a tablet to your lunch break? Are there times when you have nothing to do at work and can look productive by sneaking in schoolwork?
It sounds unappealing doing work on your breaks, I know, but consider what’s more important: that thirty-minute-to-one-hour lunch break or your downtime at home?
4. Email Any Questions Immediately
It’s easy to take for granted how simple it is to pop by a professor’s desk or office and ask for any clarifications you need on an assignment. There’s something more intrusive, it seems, to sending an email, something oddly tentative. It’s so tempting to put that email off, because what if you figure out the answer on your own and you can prevent the whole process?
Send the email. If you’ve already read the directions and syllabus over two or three times and you’re still confused, do yourself a favor and send the email. Professors are there to clarify any assignments ahead of time so you can put forth your best effort possible. Take advantage of that so you don’t lose time contemplating what they’re asking.
5. Back Every Assignment Up
If you’re taking online classes, chances are you’re doing all your work on a computer (unless you have an owl that carries your homework back to Hogwarts, you lucky witch). I cannot stress enough the importance of having your work saved to the computer and backed up in at least one other location. Don’t expect your computer to magically store everything you’ve worked on in the event of a computer crash, virus, or any other misfortune that can befall technology.
Back it up right now. Save it to a disk, a USB drive, a cloud, or all of the above. Don’t put it off, because if the computer peaces out on you for any reason, there’s no guarantee of getting all that work back.
6. Work Ahead Of Deadlines
I mentioned this briefly in regards to that one big-boy project every class has, but it’s also not bad practice to apply this to your other assignments. Work ahead on weekly discussions, on readings, on small projects you don’t think will take much time. Just because it won’t take long doesn’t mean those little assignments can’t add up and amount to something that resembles that huge project.
As someone who takes multiple online classes every semester, trust me on this. It’s much better in the long run to finish assignments early and enjoy the downtime rather than take your downtime now and still have all those little assignments nagging at you.
7. Structure Your Downtime
While this may seem counter-intuitive to the last point, it actually works in tandem with how you structure your schoolwork time. It’s important to stay on top of assignments and work ahead, but it’s equally important to realize when a project is so far away that it’s okay to take a break.
In online classes, every assignment between now and the end of the semester is listed and able to be submitted. For certain workaholic types, it’s extremely tempting to knock all of that work out in the first month or two. However, you get three to five months in a semester for a reason: you’re not expected to do all that work in one go. Take a break, get your breath, and come back to the rest later.
8. Get Rid Of Distractions
I get it: you’re home, you’re cozy, all of the things you enjoy are calling out to you, and it’s so easy to open another tab and browse Pinterest while working on an assignment. It’s for motivation, right?
Here’s some news: you will get your work done much faster if you treat your schoolwork time like actual class time. That means no phones, no watching YouTube, no connecting to the internet at all unless absolutely necessary. If you must, make yourself wear “real clothes” until you finish that assignment. There’s nothing like the motivation of comfy clothes to make you knock out that assignment.
9. Set Up A Workspace
Some people aren’t cut out for doing schoolwork at home. Some of us need to feel like we’re “at work” before we can get into a working mindset. That said, you can simulate a work or class environment at home with a few simple adjustments:
1) Find a stable surface that is not your bed or couch. Find a desk, a table—any hard surface that isn’t cozy. 2) Remove yourself from any area full of distraction. If you have an office, great, but you may need to lock yourself in your room and beg anyone you live with for an hour of silence. 3) Fill your desk or chosen surface with “school” things, i.e. pens, notebooks, textbooks, or anything else that makes your workspace feel like a classroom.
10. Put College First (Or At Least Second)
If you opted for online classes over in-person classes, you’re probably trying to save time because you’re busy. Work, family obligations, housework—you’ll get to your assignments when all that’s done.
The reality of it all is that some areas of your life will take a backseat no matter what kind of college you’re doing. If you’re going to college, you’re investing in an opportunity, and that opportunity will take large chunks of your time. Figure out which parts of your life you can slack on for a little while as you get through college: will your loved ones understand if you can’t go out for a while? Can you do the housework later or trust someone to help you out?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or understanding from others. Chances are, they really respect you for trying to do this for yourself.
Did any of these tips help you get through online classes? What do you find useful during an online semester? Tell us about it in the comments!