While college takes discipline no matter what kind of student you are, it's especially true for online students. Without a teacher telling you when to do something -- including assignments, tests and class itself -- it can be easy to wander off the golden path. This is where self-discipline comes in.
Here are five tips for being self-disciplined while attending college online.
1. Make a schedule
In theory, the beauty of being an online student is the flexibility. You can work whenever you want, on any day you want, wherever you want. In practice, however, it may be difficult to stay on task without making a schedule, according to a George Mason University article by GMU assistant professor Dr. Shahron Williams.
"Successful students do not view online education simply as the answer to their scheduling dilemmas," Williams wrote. "Although online courses offer a more flexible study schedule, they do require the same amount of time as face-to-face courses. To be a successful online student, we recommend that you…block out 8 to 12 hours per week to work on each online class."
Winging it as an online student will possibly lead to non-productivity. Schedule out your assignments, readings, studying and tests each week, determining which day you'll do what. This way, nothing gets forgotten and you don't get overwhelmed.
2. Select a work space
Location matters when it comes to being productive.
In an article for Fox Business, Emily Driscoll writes, "Without a classroom setting that involves sitting in front of a professor or whiteboard, online students must create their own learning environment circumstances."
While you can work anywhere as long as you have a laptop, not everywhere is in your best interest. Try out a few spaces to figure out what environment you're most productive in. This may be a coffee shop, a room in your house, the school library or somewhere else.
Beyond location, make sure you know what kind of seat you're most comfortable working in, the sort of lighting that stirs your creative juices and the perfect level of sound.
3. Break up assignments
Not all assignments can or should be done in one sitting. Attempting to do it all at once may lead to you becoming overwhelmed. If it's a larger assignment or reading, spread it out over the course of the week or however long you have to complete it, depending on what it is. This will make it more manageable.
Besides, you're only human after all.
4. Give yourself incentives and rewards
If you have multiple assignments or readings to do in one day, or an especially big project you need to break up, then one great way to do so is by giving yourself rewards and incentives.
According to a Grantham University blog on staying focused in online degree programs, "After completing a course assignment, research paper or exam, take a break and reward yourself. Spend some time with family. Eat at your favorite restaurant. Watch baseball…Personal rewards also provide motivation for the next time you have an assignment to complete."
If you need an incentive to finish an assignment, you could use hunger as a motivator ("I'm not going to eat lunch until I finish this"), entertainment as a motivator ("I'm not going to watch the new episode of 'Walking Dead' until I finish this") or a whole array of other motivators. Whatever you need to finish your work, do it.
5. Take at least one day off per week
If you're going to have the energy to be self-disciplined, you should try to have at least one day a week off from schoolwork (and ideally everything) to recharge. It's easy to get drained in college, especially as an online student when the scheduling and organizing is all on you. That weekly break may be that extra nudge to help you persevere through the next week and the rest of the semester.
It may also be necessary for your sanity.
Self-discipline is a skill. If you don't have it now, you can develop it (and should develop it as an online student). Developing this skill may not only make you successful in college, but perhaps in life, as well.