How to Find Motivation in an Online Learning Environment
Over the past year, many students have made an abrupt transition to virtual learning. While it may have seemed fun at first to stay home and not worry about going to school, many of us now struggle with finding the motivation to keep up with assignments and due dates. Working for hours on end causes us to burn out quickly. Learn more about burnout with this article on how to overcome junior year burnout, although now more than ever it applies to all students, and how to continue forward after burnout. To combat this, another ambassador, Daniel Leon, and I have compiled a few strategies to help you stay motivated and succeed during online school.
How to Adjust to Virtual Learning 💻 💤
It's been a while since distance learning has first started for many of us, but making some adjustments to the way you go about attending Zoom classes might make you more inclined to be productive online!
Create a Work/Study Space 📔 ✏️
Because we stay home all day, it's tough to differentiate between the home that we associate with relaxing and the home that we need to study and go to class in. Even though it seems tempting, attending classes from bed only makes us less productive because we associate our beds with sleeping, not learning. So, if you have the means, make a dedicated space for working from home!
- For some people, this could mean finding and setting up a table dedicated only to studying; you could add a calendar 📅, textbooks 📚, stationery 🖋️, and more!
- For people who already have a desk, this could mean adding something that makes you want to be more productive: for example, I got a book stand so that I'd be more inclined to take notes 🗃️
- And, if you don't have a desk or table, having a workspace could be as simple as getting a small lap desk for your computer or even just changing into professional clothes for class. Comfortable seating is key 🛋️
If you dedicate some time and effort to preparing a certain space or atmosphere for online learning, it’ll incentivize you to use this space to learn!
Create a Schedule ⏰ 🖇️
During in-person school, most of us had very structured schedules; we would attend class, socialize, eat, and exercise all at specific times. However, during online school, our schedules have become much more flexible. Although this is largely a good thing, we must learn to manage our time. One important way is by learning self-study strategies to help our ensure we are using our time in the most effective way possible since it's easy to overestimate the amount of time we have in a day.
By taking account of all the assignments you have to do and scheduling them into a specific block of time, you can stay on top of all of your assignments and avoid an overload, which might cause you to burn out. Also, this allows you to schedule free time into your day, which could act as an incentive for you to get everything done! You'll be able to guarantee yourself that playing video games or watching a show will happen sometime in your day if you plan your days out.
Many people use bullet journals or planners to do this, but there are great digital alternatives too! Notion is a great tool for organizing your to-do assignments and putting them into a calendar or with other layouts. Todoist and Taskade are great tools, though they focus mainly on to-dos and don't have any block scheduling features. Any native calendar app is also useful for this! The app you use doesn't matter as long as it works and is convenient for you. Make as much effort as you can to stick to a schedule, and you’ll be able to have more control over your everyday activities!
Study Tips to Increase Motivation 😼 👍
Set Attainable Goals ✅
An important part of studying, in general, is to set goals. Setting goals is a huge part of developing self-discipline; knowing your goals will allow you to have a certain checkpoint to work towards, rather than studying with no end goal. You could organize these goals to be easy to see in several ways, whether digital or on paper: use whatever works best for you! It's crucial, though, that these goals are specific and attainable.
- Specific goals will allow you to know what you need to do. For example, "review math" might be a bit too vague, and you could end up being overwhelmed or sidetracked 🖩 However, if you clearly outline what units/topics you need to review and even how you plan to review them (e.g., review unit 2 of math using Fiveable study guide), you will have a specific goal. Consequently, you will be more inclined to achieve this goal if you know exactly what you want to do to achieve it.
- Having attainable goals is also very important in not being overwhelmed and motivated to complete these goals 🎯 When goals are achievable, they are possible to be achieved by the individual (you). Therefore, make sure to create your goals based on your objective judgment of your capabilities are for a certain day. Don't bite off more than you can chew! Now, you'll be sure that you can accomplish your goals, which will make you more motivated to achieve them.
Take Breaks and Reward Yourself 🍬 😌 🤩
When studying, it’s necessary to take breaks in between. I cannot stress this enough! A huge cause of burnout for many people I know is that they work for too long without any breaks. Working for hours on end with no break is exceedingly overwhelming for your brain, so it's essential to have dedicated time where you positively deal with your stress, whether it's by chatting with your friends or taking a walk.
One of my favorite techniques is the Pomodoro technique, which lets you take consistent breaks when working to avoid excessive burnout 😪 The basis of this technique is that you work for a certain time (ON) and take a short break (OFF). After a certain number of cycles, you take a longer break. The timings of the break and work periods vary. We have study sessions using a group Pomodoro timer in the Fiveable Discord server, so feel free to join one of these sessions if you need help staying motivated or focused!
Also, introduce a reward system 🍬 that you allow yourself to do after completing your studying or assignment. By doing so, you will be more inclined to consciously try to complete the task so that you can obtain the incentive!
For example, I might tell myself that I can play my favorite game for an hour if I finish this assignment. I would recommend only using this for things that you don't want to complete, though, so that you won't become used to completing tasks just for incentives; it's important to be motivated by achieving a sense of satisfaction or enjoyment as well! Although learning can be fun, we generally don't look forward to studying or finishing homework assignments.
Similarly, reward yourself for working for a long time or doing well on an assignment, even if you didn't do it for the incentive. It's important to be kind to yourself to be more inclined to complete tasks that further your knowledge!
It is important to understand that focuses on taking breaks can lead to more goals accomplished, but it also important to understand other tips to continue to be productive even when unmotivated.
Stay Healthy and Have a Positive Growth Mindset 🧘♂️ 📈 🥰
This may seem obvious, but everyone should remember to take care of their physical and mental health during virtual school! The pandemic was so unprecedented, and we've never seen the likes of one before, which affects our health in ways that we don't know.
- Make sure to stay hydrated 💧 and stretch after sitting for long periods.
- Eat healthy 🥗
- Make time to exercise, whether it's just taking a walk 🚶 or going to the gym.
- Get enough sleep 💤
- Keep in touch with your friends 👐
- Set aside time in your day to take care of yourself however you want to go about doing it; this could include doing yoga 🧘, meditating 🧎, listening to your favorite music 🎶, and more!
Although your world may seem defined by that one exam, remember that you will be able to get through this with time 💪 Staying healthy will provide the perfect framework for you to begin working towards your goals; it is very difficult to be motivated when your basic health needs aren't met.
Finally, I'd like to stress that everyone can have a positive mindset 🤩 Likely, you've felt down, depressed, or unmotivated due to the pandemic. There is no clear end in sight, which could induce a lot of stress. While your emotions are very valid and you have every right to feel them, it is important to try and adjust your mindset to prepare to learn and try hard on your assignments. If you don't intend to learn or grow academically, it will be exponentially more difficult to gain motivation to study or do assignments. Attempt to set that intention in your mind so that you consciously can work towards it! This will allow you to associate more positive feelings with studying and therefore have more motivation to do it!
For more tips check out this video on time management and motivation.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to try out these different tips whenever you're feeling unmotivated to do anything; remember that these tips will work better with some people than others, and that is totally fine! Just use whatever works to get you motivated and ready to take on school assignments. Happy studying!