One of the great things about learning online is that helps you develop the ability to stay focused and motivated without a teacher in the room. But, let’s face it, we all feel unmotivated sometimes, and it can be particularly easy to lose focus when you’re in front of a computer with Netflix, YouTube, and social media just one click away.
Learning how to stay focused on the task at hand is a skill that you need to actively work on. To get you started, here are ten tried-and-tested strategies to help you to find your focus when you’re studying online.
- Block time-stealing websites
The easiest way to avoid online temptations (like watching that video of a duck hitching a ride on a Labrador’s back just one more time) is to remove them completely. We love the free Google Chrome extension StayFocusd, which allows you to limit the time you spend on time-stealing websites – and temporarily block them if you’ve spent too much time scrolling. For a different approach, try Pause. This free extension displays a calming green screen whenever you open a distracting website, giving you an opportunity to pause and reflect on whether visiting that website is a good use of your time. These tools will help you become more intentional about how you spend your time online, a skill that will set you up for success in the workforce.
- Create a distraction-free zone
We’d all love a separate home office, but not all of us have this luxury. Even if you’re studying in your bedroom or the garage, there are certain things you can do to help you stay focused. Firstly, make sure that the temperature is comfortable, but not too comfortable. Trying to focus when you’re cold is difficult, while working in a hot room will make you sluggish and tired. While listening to loud music with lyrics can make learning more difficult, a little background noise can actually improve focus and concentration. If your house gets a little loud, try tuning in to myNoise and fill your study space with the sound of a crackling fireplace, rain hitting a tin roof, or an ambient soundscape. Make sure that your workspace is tidy and uncluttered – this will help you keep your eyes on your work.
- Map out a daily plan
Write a ‘To-Do’ list at the start of each study session. It will feel great ticking off each item, and this will motivate you to focus on the tasks at hand. Try the ABC system to prioritise each item on your list:
A Must do today
B Should do today
C Could do today
- Set mini deadlines
It’s so easy to lose focus and give up when we’re feeling overwhelmed. To avoid this, break tasks into manageable ‘chunks’ before you begin and set mini-deadlines – this will help you to stay on task.
- Choose the right time to study
Some people focus best in the morning, while others work more productively later in the day or evening. Find what works for you and stick to it.
- Make your goal visible
Do you want a new job? A promotion at work? To start your own business? Think about why you’ve decided to study and set yourself a major goal. Write this goal and place it somewhere visible – on your desktop background, on your fridge, or on the wall over your study space. If you’re feeling unfocused, read your goal and reflect on why you have decided to study.
- Rally your crew
Share your study plans with your whānau so they know when you need some time to focus. Place your plan somewhere visible to your whole household and let them know when you begin studying.
You’re not always going to feel motivated to work towards your goals. We all have ‘off days’, and life sometimes throws us curve balls. The most important thing is to persevere.
If you’ve had a distracted morning, aim for a focused afternoon. If you can’t motivate yourself today, resolve to try again tomorrow.
- Reward Yourself
You can increase your personal motivation by rewarding yourself when you complete a task. For example, you might reward yourself with a ten-minute break once you’ve finished a reading, a TV show once you’ve finished studying for the day, and a celebratory meal with whānau when you’ve completed your course. You can build these rewards into your daily schedule or ‘To-Do’ list.
- Take a Break
If you’ve tried the strategies on this list and still can’t find your focus, take a break, close the laptop, and get some fresh air. Giving yourself a mental break and a chance to recuperate makes it more likely that you’ll return to your study, refreshed and motivated, quickly.