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New Year, New Intentions

Part 2: Set the Scene

One of the biggest issues with distance learning is finding the motivation to study. Without a regular place and time for a class to attend, finding a routine or a pattern for work sessions is one of the key components to making progress on your course.


If you can try to plan out your week, put in regular commitments that can’t be moved. Then add in your study sessions. Treat them like any other appointment where you block out dedicated time.
Be realistic on how much you can achieve. Be flexible if you need to cancel a study session, try to rebook it just like you would with another appointment.
Having a regular time slot to work really helps fix the body into a pattern. Try and approach your work in the same way. Simple things like making a drink and choosing your favourite music can establish a routine where the next stage in the routine is to sit down and work.


One of the key motivators to complete work, is having a dedicated space where you can concentrate uninterrupted. This may not be possible. It may be that when you are writing or researching rather than producing creative work, getting out of the home can be an option. Local libraries, coffee shops, are all spaces where you can set up with a notebook and/or laptop. Some people work best with quiet hum of background noise.
There are several writers who plan long journeys by plane or train to work uninterrupted. *
Creating space away from domestic chores and other demands can really help focus the mind and increase productivity.
Creative work can be a bit harder with the need for materials but having one space where you can keep everything together helps rather than having to locate items in different rooms.  


Research has shown that taking five minutes to plan the day ahead just before you go to bed focuses the mind. Your brain becomes primed to the tasks ahead. Planning a timetable for the day can help you focus to work on specific tasks that should be completed. Be realistic about how much you can complete in a given time slot.


Rest breaks are essential. Give yourself time to process information, review and reflect on work.  It may be that you work on a couple of tasks alongside each other. That way if you have a decent length of time to complete work, you can switch activities if you find the brain stagnating.  


Do read ahead in the course material. This works in a similar way to scheduling the night before, as it will prime the brain for what is coming.
Taking a few minutes to skim read headings, assignments, and research points can give you a feel for where the course is heading.  
This will also allow you to pick tasks to suit the time slots you have to work.  
There is nothing worse than scheduling a big study day and realising that the next task requires short bursts of work where you may need to reflect in between on your progress.
Taking some time to think how and when you study best and being realistic about how much you can achieve in a study session can improve the time you spend on your course.
Priming the brain really does help focus attention on what you need to achieve. If you are really struggling with something, looking at it before you go to bed can help. Keeping a notebook by the head helps in case you have that ‘eureka’ moment as soon as you wake up!

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Posted by author: Andrea Norrington
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