Life. It has a habit of getting in the way of the stuff we’re actually meant to be doing. Many students at The Left Bank juggle studies around full-time work and family, not to mention sleep, socialising and all the stuff that makes for a well-rounded human.
We recently put a call out on the Student Community Facebook page for your study tips and hacks, which we’ve compiled here along with a few of our own. If you’ve ever had the feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day, this might help you make the most of the measley 24 we get.
1. Make a schedule (and stick to it)
The first step to managing time is knowing how much of it you need. Your student handbook details the number of hours needed to complete any subject and you can then allocate those hours around your other commitments. Be realistic about how many hours you can commit to each week… an unworkable goal just sets you up for failure.
As Left Bank student Claire points out, study isn’t the only thing that works best on a schedule. “Allocate time to check socials and emails and don’t go back until the next allocated time,” she suggests.
While you’re putting aside time to do things, make time to not do things. “Have designated no study days,” advises student Tameka. You’re not a machine. Step away from the screen.
2. Set up processes
Making time to study is one thing, making the stuff you’re learning stick is another. Ever noticed when you jot down a shopping list or an appointment and then you never need to look at it again? Studies have shown that the act of writing information down increases the chances of retaining it.
For what it’s worth, recent findings reveal that handwritten notes are more effective. Typing is a very linear process, whereas, with a pen and paper, we’re forced to organise our thoughts as we go, which leads to better learning.
Whatever works for you, be consistent. “I use a template for my Word Docs so that all notes follow the same style,” Left Banker Dan tells us. “This makes it much easier when you go back to review notes for assignments or even to look back on as a refresher in later units.”
3. Avoid distractions
This one isn’t rocket science but it’s often easier said than done. Maintaining constant focus without even a small interruption makes study much more efficient. Unfortunately, you can’t control the world around you but there are ways to insulate yourself from it, the most obvious being to turn of notifications—learn not to jump to check an email or update the moment your phone or computer emits the familiar tone or alert pops up.
If you don’t need to be on call for kids, partners or work, go hardcore and switch to flight mode. Put your phone in a drawer or another room (out of sight, out of mind) to immerse yourself in the study bubble with zero chance of having it burst by someone else. One student who studies during her work lunch break has a sign— ‘I’m studying, do not disturb’—for her desk. Colleagues know she’s out of bounds until it comes down.
It’s one thing to keep others at bay, but what if you can’t be trusted? Student Nic dobs her husband in as “a huge procrastinator”—he uses Saent, a device that lets you nominate time-sucking sites to be blocked when you really need to knuckle down.
4. Sell your kids on the black market
Not really, but for students who have family to deal with, it might often feel like the only way to find peace to study. Working around the kids’ schedule means stealing time throughout the day after they go to bed (or before they wake) and those merciful hours they’re in care or at school.
When they’re actually at home and you’ve got stuff to do, rather than wait for them to distract you, get in first and distract them.
“My advice for parents is Disney and a good set of headphones,” says Tameka. “I put a movie on for the kids and sit on the couch with them sharing popcorn while I study on the laptop. Works a treat.”
5. Consider your surroundings
Create a space that’s conducive to your way of working. Some people need silence, others like a great Spotify playlist to egg them on. Try to have everything you need at hand and nothing you don’t (see: 3. Avoid Distraction).
Creating the right environment might mean changing it.
“About 75% of my study is now done at a library in the CBD here in Brisbane,” Dan tells us. “Leaving the house, putting in a solid three to four hours a day, has been more productive than trying to do five to six hours study at home. The change in location definitely helps your mind to associate your surroundings with study.”
6. Be realistic
Sometimes your brain won’t co-operate during the time designated to it. Other times a kid comes home sick from school when you really could do without it. Ultimately, pushing yourself when you have a mental block or if you’re not working productively isn’t a good use of time.
“Go easy on yourself,” advises Dan. “You’re learning, and that means the majority of concepts will be new to you. Don’t beat yourself up.” An hour of effective study under your belt is better than stubbornly sticking to your plan to do five hours on a Tuesday.
7. Have the right attitude
Don’t let study get to you. Keep the end goal in mind and treat it as a process of discovery with the intention of taking something fresh out of every webinar and assessment.
“Remind yourself why you’re studying,” says Dan. “I wrote down five goals that I want to achieve as a result of completing my Dip. Digital Marketing.” This helps him get through those days when it all feels a bit too much.
8. Lock in your support network
You’re not in this alone. Lean on family, friends and colleagues who can make things easier for you by taking the kids, walking the dog or just keeping out of the way when you need it.
“Talk to your nearest and dearest about how important the course is to you, what it will mean for your future and how they can help to support you and keep you on track,” student Amber says. “My husband is great at holding me accountable if I’m procrastinating … ‘shouldn’t you be studying tonight?’”
The Left Bank has your back, too. Online study is about maximising learning on your terms—on your time, in your way. We get it and we’re flexible. If life gets in the way, give Student Services or your tutor a shout. We’ve never met a problem we can’t help solve.
Special thanks to all our Left Bank students who contributed their ideas and hacks for this story. You’re tops.