Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of online classes. Students have opportunities like never before to learn new skills without putting their career or life on hold. While this level of freedom can be liberating, it can also mean more responsibility when it comes to actually finding the time to do the work.

Luckily, there are a few proactive steps you can take to keep your sanity, succeed in your course, and hold onto a healthy work-life balance.

(re)set your priorities every week

As an online student, you have to learn the art of the juggle. This means knowing exactly what you have to accomplish each week according to highest priority. Set aside time at the beginning of each week to go over your schedule and block out time for the tasks you know you need to get done—assignments, deadlines, events, laundry. Design your schedule each week to help you make the most of your time while being realistic about what you actually have the bandwidth to accomplish.

Find your study spots and keep them organized

Having a few study sanctuaries is key to succeeding in an online course. Whether it is a coffee shop you love or those two hours on the couch after the kids go to bed, it is all about knowing when and where you are best able to focus on your work. It can be tempting to do class work while streaming Netflix in the background, but by giving yourself a set time and place to do school work you will save invaluable time and energy.

Beyond having set places to work, it is important to keep those spaces tidy. We’ve all heard it before—a clean room keeps a clear mind. Studies from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute back this up in their research that found that even the presence of visual clutter makes it easier to be distracted.

Stay engaged with your classmates and instructor

There is a common misconception that learning online means you will be learning alone in a vacuum. At Columbia Online, we are breaking down that misconception by giving students spaces to connect, communicate, and learn from each other. Each week students interact in a discussion board and have the opportunity to video conference with their instructor weekly. Because our instructors are so involved on a regular basis, you can create connections that not only make your work better but boost motivation along the way. Building meaningful relationships with others who share the same goal is key to staying motivated—especially in an online course.

Set aside time to recharge

As much as we’d all love to be that person who can sleep for four hours, work a full day, train for a marathon, and turn in an assignment—these are expectations that will set you up for failure. We all know the importance of sleep for our brain cognition, memory, and ability to perform complex tasks. But it is important to set aside times during your day to take a break and relax.

According to studies at the University of Illinois, taking frequent breaks during long tasks gives you more energy to actually complete them. Rather than working relentlessly hard, work smart by giving yourself time to relax and recharge.

Remember your long-term goals

Learning new skills or advancing your career is always easier said than done. To keep yourself focused, it is important to remember why you started in the first place. Before you begin the program, write down your long-term goals and keep them somewhere you can see them. Check in with yourself throughout the process to stay motivated.

Be sure to cut yourself some slack along the way and focus on what you are accomplishing rather than the handful of things that will inevitably slip through the cracks. At Columbia Online, we have a team of advisors who will be there to help you along the way. Whether you need help defining, setting, or achieving your goals— we are here to help you every step of the way. Check out our list of online courses and professional certificates to get started today!

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