When I asked on Instagram a few weeks ago if you still wanted to see back to school content this year, the most common request I received was ideas for getting motivated for online school. I was worried y’all would ask for that because I was not particularly motivated last semester, myself! But alas, I made it through, and for lots of students, online learning will be continuing this fall. While I’m not an expert in the subject area, I did spend a lot of time scouring the internet for tips on learning online, getting motivated to study, and working from home so that I could compile a useful and somewhat-comprehensive list of tips for you to help tackle the upcoming semester.
But first, some background. Last quarter (my school is on the quarter system), the majority of my classes were taught asynchronously, meaning I could watch the lectures and do the work whenever I wanted (as opposed to showing up to Zoom meetings at specified times). While a lot of colleges are doing fully online again this fall, I’ll actually be heading back to school, with most of my classes fully in-person and only a few hybrid. I’m generally a good student and am a motivated person overall, but the hardest part of online classes for me was not saving all of the work ‘til the night before! (Remember when I wrote that blog post about not procrastinating? The irony.) The tips below are a mix of things I already do, top work-from-home strategies, and a few random ideas I thought of while browsing the web. I hope they’re helpful!
- Set an alarm. When classes are online or at your leisure, it’s easy to want to sleep in and work later in the day. Don’t do it! I really recommend setting an alarm, for 8 if you’re ambitious or 9 if you’re a normal college student, so that you can start your day in a productive state of mind. It’s so much easier to be lazy and unmotivated if your day doesn’t even begin until 11 o’clock! I wake up at 8 on summer weekdays and usually 6:30 or 7:00 on school days.
- Take a morning shower. I’m a nighttime shower-er all the way, but I do know that taking a cool shower in the morning can help me wake up. If that’s the same for you, then consider showering right when you get up so that you’re more alert and ready for a day of online learning.
- Complete an early workout. I usually work out after school is done—you know, so I can let out all the day’s frustration—but if classes are online, you likely have more time to get your exercise out of the way early. I always feel SO energetic and accomplished when I exercise in the morning, which makes it way easier to keep that focus and momentum as I sit down for some online schoolwork.
- Get dressed! I don’t need to explain why it’s important to get dressed… but in case you need a reminder, check out 10 Reasons to Get Dressed for Online Classes. My style has definitely gotten more casual during quarantine and shifted to jeans-and-tee combos, like the one in today’s post.
- Work during specified class times. Even if your classes are taught asynchronously like mine were, I really recommend still doing the work in the 1-2 hour time period the class was originally supposed to be taught. I only did this a few times last quarter, but when I did, I was so much more productive! Not to mention, you can get a surprising amount of work done in that timeframe (keeping you on track instead of procrastinating, like me), and it helps differentiate your online school from your free time. If my classes go all remote again, doing this is my number one priority!
- Don’t. Work. On Your. Bed! I am sooo bad about this one but I know how important it is for both being productive and having a good night’s rest. I’m finally going to take this seriously when I get back to school in a few weeks—hold me accountable! And this tip goes hand in hand with…
- Decorate a cute workspace. Doing homework is way more fun when you have a cute desk space and stylish school supplies. Ideally, your workspace should not be in your bedroom, but as college students, this is not feasible for most of us. Instead, decorate your workspace with cute tassels, photos of friends, or postcards from places you’ve been. Check out my dorm room Pinterest board for more inspo! You could even have a (socially distanced) night of crafting decorations with your girlfriends. Oh, and make sure your workspace is near an outlet for easy charging!
- Take handwritten notes. I’m a huge advocate for taking handwritten notes on a normal day, but now that most everything is online, taking notes with a good ol’ fashioned notebook and pen can be one thing to keep you from typing and viewing your screen all the time. Plus, who doesn’t love a cute notebook and gel pens?
- Try working outside. I usually have a hard time working outside—mostly because my laptop dies really quickly—but I do love going outside to read my textbooks (the books featured in today’s photos are Cheap on Crime and Traction). It’s important for productivity and mental health to get out and change your scenery, so even if it’s just half an hour of studying in the quad on a picnic blanket, the sunshine and chirping birds can help brighten your day and boost motivation.
- Take breaks. Similar to the previous tip, make sure you take breaks where you STAND UP and walk around. Get that blood flowing. Maybe have a snack. I don’t recommend “watching one episode of Netflix” as your break because we all know that quickly becomes a whole season.
- Put away your phone. When it’s time for you to sit down and crank out that online school, make sure you silence your phone and shove it under a pillow. I’m really bad at this one, usually because I like staying open to the many impromptu hang-outs that go with living on a college campus. But this year? I can’t imagine social events will be that abundant, so set your FOMO (and phone) aside—you’ll be surprised how much more you get done without the distraction! I know I always am.
- Work at the same time as your roommates. I’ve never really done this, but it’s worth trying allotting certain times to do homework/online schoolwork with your roommates. Obviously this doesn’t have to mean “with” if you aren’t in the same major, but just focusing and studying at the same time as your roomie can help you stay accountable to your schoolwork. Of course, this tip only works if you don’t end up distracting each other!
- Set an hour timer. Being the competitive person that I am, I sometimes like to set a timer for an hour and see just how much work I can get done in that amount of time. For whatever reason, the self-competition of the time limit motivates me to work really hard!
- Make a to-do list the night before. Before you go to bed, make a to-do list of all the school-related (and other) items you need to accomplish the next day. Doing this the night before helps you mentally prepare for the next day’s tasks and allows you to hit the ground running as soon as you wake up. And when you’re making your to-do list, be sure to break down all the larger items/assignments/projects into smaller, super manageable tasks. This makes your work less daunting and helps you feel accomplished as you chip away at your projects.
- Do homework the second day it’s available. Okay, this is just something I learned from experience spring quarter from all my asynchronous classes. You’d think doing the classwork right when it becomes available online is the best option, right? Wrong! Most of my classes would release a week’s worth of materials on Monday mornings, and then everything would be due Sunday night. Well, I quickly learned that almost always there would be mistakes in the online module. Whether the teacher posted the wrong reading, or there was a typo, or whatever, the first couple of students would always spot the issues, then the professor would send out an email saying it’s been fixed. You don’t want to do the work one way only to have to re-do it later because there was a mistake. That’s why I recommend waiting to do the homework until the second day it’s available! That way all the errors will (hopefully) be resolved, but you’re still ahead of the curve by not waiting last minute to get the work done.
- Go to virtual office hours, even though it’s awkward. I went to several virtual office hours during spring semester and it was just as bad as you can imagine (Professor: “Are you there? Why isn’t your mic working? Can you see me?”). Because so much of school is virtual now, you have to make even more of an effort to show your professors you care about class and are taking online school seriously. The easiest way to do that is by showing up to virtual office hours, no matter how uncomfortable it feels seeing your professor’s home in the background of Zoom. Some people think making friends with your professors is brown-nosing. And maybe it is. But I do know from experience that a professor is going to be a lot more lenient when you forget to turn in an online assignment if you’ve been showing up to virtual office hours and he/she knows your face. Just sayin’.
- Try blue-light glasses. Aren’t my tortoise glasses cute? They don’t photograph well because of the blue lens, but I think they’re super stylish. If your eyes are strained from staring at a screen all day or if you suffer from migraines, it’s worth trying a pair of blue-light glasses (mine were $16 from Amazon). I’m not in a good enough habit of wearing mine to say whether or not they work well (plus, my screen’s brightness is always on the lowest setting anyways), but I’ve seen several of my favorite fashion bloggers wear my exact pair, and they rave about the benefits! Also, no matter how dumb it is, putting on a pair of fake glasses makes me feel smart and puts me in the mood to be productive.
- Reward yourself. Lastly, reward yourself for getting through online school. It sucks, and you deserve to eat that Ben and Jerry’s. Just maybe not the whole pint…
PHEW! I knew this post was going to be a long one, but I wanted to be sure to include every tip I could think of in case just one is helpful to you. There’s a lot of stuff to try here, and it really will be trial and error until you find something/a routine that works for you during online school. And just remember that some days, even if you follow every single one of these tips, you still might feel absolutely no motivation to do online class. In that case, just shrug, call it a day, and try again tomorrow.
Let me know which of these tips you’ll be trying, and tell me when you’re heading back to school! Feeling excited? Anxious? Dreading it? I kind of feel all of those emotions right now. It’ll be an interesting year for sure. And lastly, leave a comment below saying how YOU get motivated for online class. Can’t wait to hear all your tips.
Miles of smiles,
Black Floral Tee: JCPenney, $18, last worn here // Tuxedo Stripe Jeans: Bohme Boutique, $40, last worn here // Blush Sneakers: Steve Madden via DSW, $60, last worn here // Blue-Light Glasses: Amazon, $16, last worn here