It’s no secret that online courses are ideal for anyone looking to advance their career and balance a busy schedule. An online program is designed to give you the flexibility you need to get your degree and work around your schedule.Student with headphones studying at computer

What can feel overwhelming, though, is learning how to stay on top of your work when you have so much else on your plate. Whether you’re considering online courses or already enrolled in programs such as MCN’s online RN to BSN or online DNP program, these nine tips will help you stay on track.

Establish a routine.

A regular routine is essential for succeeding in any program, and it can be even more valuable in an online program, which requires you to hone your self-discipline and organizational skills.

Set aside a regular time to work on your classes. When will do you do the reading? Read the lectures and review your notes? Work on weekly assignments? Chip away at a larger project? Setting aside a regular time for your online courses can help you stay on track—and it can also let you enjoy the rest of your time without stressing out about an upcoming quiz or deadline.

Separate your workspace.

It’s hard to feel motivated to do school work in spaces that are usually reserved for sleeping or watching TV. If you’re working at home, set up a separate work area that is only reserved for school work.

If you have the space, you can set up a home office in a spare room, in your living room, or in your bedroom. Just be careful to consider whether you work better in a quiet environment or in a place with some background noise in case you share those spaces with others.

If you don’t have the space to devote to a desk and chair, you can still make your workspace feel separate. Working in the same place regularly can help you stay productive and also separate schoolwork from personal time. If you tend to study at the dining room table or write on the sofa, try to add small touches to your routine that remind you that it’s time to work. Have a favorite mug, notebook, or music playlist? Find the things that serve as talismans for keeping you focused.

Stay on top of organization.

It’s important to keep your space organized—and this includes your digital space. Consider ending every work period by tidying up your space. That way, you will be ready to start fresh the next time you sit down to work.

On your computer or other digital devices, create a dedicated folder for school work with separate sub-folders for each course you’re taking.

A tidy, well-organized work area keeps your brain uncluttered and helps you find important information quickly.

Keep a calendar and a to-do list.

Plug all of your due dates into your calendar at the beginning of the semester. This might be a digital calendar or a physical calendar, and it might be straight-forward or it might be decorated and color-coded. The only thing that matters is that it works for you. A calendar you never open is not going to do you any favors, so check your calendar daily.

Keep a running list of tasks you need to tackle, too. It will feel good to check things off your list.

If you use a digital calendar, set it to remind you of the deadline a week before it’s due. Try to keep things in one place, too; if some deadlines are in a planner you never look at and others are in your Outlook calendar, you’re likely to miss important due dates.

Take notes—and study early!

Even though you aren’t taking an in-person class, you should still take notes on the material. If you’re watching videos or sorting through large blocks of text, it helps to write down key information so you can reference it later.

Make sure to review your notes regularly, too, and keep up with your studying.

Find a study buddy.

If you’re feeling isolated in an online environment and find you work better with others, connect with others in your class. You can create online check-ins with each other to share notes, help one another understand the material, and motivate each other.

Communicate with your instructor.

In an online course, developing a relationship with your instructor is just as important as it is for an in-person course. After all, they’re human too. They care about your success, so take advantage of online office hours.

Your instructor will let you know how they prefer to communicate: via email, phone, Skype, etc. They’re likely to respond promptly and give you individual attention when needed, answering questions, helping to clarify challenging material, etc.

Utilize library resources.

ISU’s Milner Library is full of valuable resources for nursing students. Some resources, such as the library guide, are particularly helpful for students working remotely. There, you can find tips for conducting research, finding articles, and using proper citations. You can also contact the nursing subject librarian, or chat online with a library employee during business hours.

#9: Reward yourself, and give yourself a break!

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the demands of school and work. Make sure you schedule downtime for yourself.

You can also help keep yourself motivated and on-task by giving yourself rewards for hitting certain mile-markers. Finish that midterm? Spend a day binge-watching that show. Wrap up that project? Treat yourself to a nice mealor maybe even a well-earned nap.

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