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1.Find a calendar system that works.
Some prefer mobile devices. Others use built-in computer software and even the old standbys, paper calendars. The method is less important than the style that works for you. Choose a calendar or project management system that is reliable and easy to update. Then, populate it with every detail and deadline you need to keep yourself on track, including course deadlines, family and social obligations and more.
2.Keep your class syllabus close.
Online learning requires self-discipline – and a good road map. The class syllabus is the road map that typically lists all the course readings, assignments and deadlines. Students refer to it throughout the course to make sure they are heading the right direction.
3.Create your perfect study space.
Your computer, room lighting, broadband connection, even your chair — all are key to an environment for studying and learning. There’s no need to spend a bundle at an office supply store. Just pay attention to what interrupts your focus. Then, change or eliminate it.
4.Leverage university resources.
Online universities have many experts for students. APU, for example, offers research librarians, tutoring services and even support re: navigating the online classroom portal. A quick call or e-mail may save you time and frustration.
5.Eliminate social distractions.
We are bombarded today with rings, beeps and pop-ups. Consider turning off your phone and logging off of social networks during study time. Even that brief look at a friend’s text message or status update interrupts your thought processes (suggest linking this to the top 10 ways to avoid interruptions article) and slows you down.
6.Try some tricks.
It takes some effort to keep the commitment and focus up, especially after a long day at work. A few tricks can provide a boost. For example, set a timer for 30 minutes or an hour – and don’t stop reading until it goes off. Post a dream job offer in your study space to help you remember your goal. Have energy-boosting snacks nearby, such as nuts, crunchy veggies or a healthy smoothie. Give yourself 10 minutes of a favorite activity to give your brain a rest.
7.Take a break from multi-tasking.
One APU professor’s secret to a long career of accomplishments: He doesn’t multi-task. He has distractions like the rest of us. He has just learned how to stop, attend to another task, and then pick up where he left off. See if that technique works for you.
8.Reward yourself.
Just the fact that you are taking courses is a tremendous accomplishment. Reward yourself along the way. Celebrate a well-written paper with a special dinner. Take the scenic route home to refresh yourself. Have coffee with a friend. Go to a movie.
9.Turn to classmates for support.
If you’re stuck on an assignment or facing writer’s block on that research paper, turn to a fellow classmate. Her insight may help spur you on – and help you avoid wasted time.
10.Recognize when it’s not working.
Despite your best efforts, every night won’t be record-setting in terms of pages read, or words written. Sometimes the best choice is to stop – for an hour or for the night. Remember, earning a degree is a journey toward your goals and self-discovery. Enjoy it.

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