Before your study begins

Taking the time to forward plan before study, will enable you to create an effective study routine and set workable study rules. Both are needed as your decision to study, not only affects your life, it affects the lives and routines of those around you. Your friends, family and colleagues will want to support you, but that is difficult if your study routine appears ad-hoc or random.

Planning for study will set ground rules. It helps you establish the mind-set and environment you need and it also allows those around you, to see, understand and accept the importance of your study. If possible, involve them in the planning as most people readily accept change, even young children, when they are part of the decision-making process.

Once the routine has been set, it is important that you are seen to follow it. Be firm as this is your study time and you expect those around you to respect it. By taking this approach with yourself and others, you will soon establish this study routine as the normal routine.

Step 1

There are three key decisions to make when establishing a study routine:

  1. Where are you going to study?
  2. When are you going to study?
  3. How much time do you have to study?

The three decisions seem simple enough, but they’re interlinked and need careful planning if you are to achieve stress free online learning.

Always plan using ‘certainties’ not ‘maybes’, because this avoids stress and creates motivation. If you are certain you have 8 hours available to study, but can maybe stretch it to 12, only plan for 8. If you achieve 12 hours it’s a bonus and you’re ahead, if you plan for 12 hours and only achieve 8, you’ve fallen behind and that doesn’t feel good.

Where are you going to study?

Key to effective online learning is your study area. Ideally, it should be distraction free, comfortable and a permanently allocated area where your books etc. can be left open and ready for next time. Try to have your own writing tools, calculator and computer. If the latter isn’t possible, ensure you schedule regular times that give you priority. Playing music can be relaxing while you study, but play familiar music, as new music is a distraction.

Avoid a room where the family are relaxing, as it isn’t fair on them or you and it doesn’t clearly define a study routine.

When are you going to study?

Learning and achieving success is as much about focus and routine as it is about ability. You have selected to study this course therefore; you and your tutor believe you have the ability to pass. This means deciding on ‘when you are going to study’ should centre on achieving focus and routine.

Try to select study days that are regularly available to establish routine and timeslots that are less pressured so you can relax and achieve study focus.

How much time do you have to study?

When assessing the time you have available, try to allocate blocks of time of more than 2 hours for actual study. This is particularly the case if you have to set up and pack up your workstation each time. If you have shorter blocks that you also wish to utilise, allocate these as reading time for revision of the previous session or preparation towards the next session.

For planning, you should assume that in every 2 hour block, your actual study time will be 1.5 hours to allow for setting & packing up or study breaks.

Regular short breaks are important to rest and refocus the mind. It has been proven that the brain can only concentrate & learn effectively for short periods of time, up to 1.5 hours. A break need only take 5-10 minutes provided you leave your workstation. If you stay at your desk your brain will not be rested and subsequent learning will be less effective.

In addition, research into links between colours and learning has identified that during breaks focusing on the colour green, particularly if there is movement, is the quickest and most effective way to refocus the mind ready to absorb more information.