BlogThursday 02 Jul 2015

Ten tips on remaining disciplined while studying long distance

Studying long distance offers many benefits: zero commute time, the peace and quiet of your own study space and the flexibility to undertake course work when it suits you.

But without a plan, study time can easily be consumed by family and work commitments and the demands of everyday life.  Before you know it, another week has raced by and your study time has been frittered away.

These simple tips can help you stay on track with your distance study program and get the most out of your course.

Tip 1 – Make a study schedule

When faced with the challenge of managing a family or holding down a job, finding time to study can be daunting.

That’s why it’s important to designate set times when you can focus on your course content.

If you’re a parent studying from home, you may have regular childcare which allows you to study on a particular day each week. If you’re holding down a job, it might be possible to fit in study time before or after work on certain days or perhaps even restructure work hours to fit in blocks of course work. 

Once you’ve drawn up a study schedule, let family, friends and colleagues know that these are your non-negotiable study hours so that you won’t be interrupted or expected to do other things when you need to study.      

Tip 2 – Set weekly goals

When you’ve worked out your overall course structure, break down the course work into weekly manageable tasks so that you have a plan of attack.

It’s a good idea to follow the recommended order of study outlined by your course coordinator.

Set yourself 2 - 3 manageable goals each week. For example, read chapters that have been assigned, diarise due dates and any work placement, or plan an essay that’s part of assessment.  It’s amazing how ticking off small tasks can bring you closer to a much bigger goal.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said,

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Tip 3 – Make a study space

Setting up a designated study zone can really help keep you focussed on study goals. 

You might like to study at your local library, or if at home, find a room or corner of the house that allows you to work peacefully and productively.

Pin up motivational quotes in your study space to keep you going and encourage good study habits.

Tip 4 – Utilise student support

TAFE teachers and course coordinators want to help you achieve your goals so don’t think you have to struggle with a problem on your own.  

North Coast TAFE provides technical and content support 50 weeks of the year. 

So if you need help with any aspect of your course, contact the Customer Help Team for support Student Services or phone or email your unit facilitator or course coordinator. They’ll aim to respond within 24 hours.

Plus, North Coast TAFE has partnered with YourTutor, an after hours tutoring service available online.

Tip 5 – Buddy up

Establishing a support network with other students on the same course as you can be a great way to swap ideas and make study more enjoyable.

Take part in forums and chat rooms and link up with others at practical workshops so you don’t feel like you’re studying in isolation.

Remember, a problem shared is often a problem halved.

Tip 6 – Boost the brain with exercise

The link between physical exercise and mental clarity is well documented.

Even a 30-minute walk around your neighbourhood will help circulate oxygen, boost endorphins and enhance mental performance.

When you do return to your desk, you’ll be sharper, more positive and ready to tackle the challenges in front of you.

Tip 7 – Study in bursts

Research suggests that many people absorb information better when undertaking short bursts of regular study.

Studying for shorter periods enables you to retain more knowledge and may eliminate some of the stress and fatigue associated with hours of prolonged concentration.

Tip 8 – Reward yourself

Just as children respond to rewards, adults too need some incentives to lighten the study load.

Whether it’s chocolate, a bike ride or a coffee with friends, having rewards to look forward to at the end of a block of study, can act as powerful motivators and help make a task seem less overwhelming. 

Tip 9 – Turn procrastination into action

Procrastination is the thief of productivity and can strike even the most self-motivated learner.

Sometimes when faced with a big project, even a mundane chore like loading the washing machine can seem more appealing than the task at hand!

But taking just one small step in the right direction can banish procrastination and move you towards your goal. 

As Mark Twain, American author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer said,

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Tip 10 – Stay positive

Completing any tertiary course or vocational study is a big undertaking but there’s an immense sense of achievement at the end of the road.

Try to remind yourself of your reasons for enrolling in the program in the first place and what you hope to gain from completing the course.

Knowing what you want to achieve and believing that it will make a difference to your life will give your learning a real sense of purpose.

See this story from Justin who took the plunge into distance study and succeeded.

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