14 Tips for Surviving an Online Semester 😅
These 14 tips will help you make your online academic semester a successful one.
Happy Monday, friends!
Can you say this tongue twister out loud and fast? Cuando cuentes cuentos, cuenta cuantos cuentos cuentas cuando cuentes cuentos. (“When you tell stories, say how many stories you tell when you tell stories.”) Haha! If you did, give yourself a high-five, homie. I’ll send you mine here 🖐. Now, raise your hand if you’re excited to start a new school semester… “Yaaaaay...🙋🏻 Oh wait! What?” Lol! Do you have mixed feelings about it? I bet that many of you wish to take your classes at school, but by the look of things, we’re turning our homes and bedrooms into our living, working, and studying space. Again.
Last semester was rough to say the least. As a new one is right around the corner, today I’m sharing 14 tips to help you survive this online semester based on what helped me survive last one. Be sure to like, comment, share, and subscribe to be notified every Monday when a new blog post goes up. 😃 Let's get started!
1. Be self-disciplined
Self-discipline is without a doubt the number one key to success in my book because when you’re disciplined you’re committed to achieving your goal(s). That means that, yes, the professors will give you the lectures, assignments, and resources, but the will and commitment to attend class, learn, participate, hand in quality assignments, and get good grades must come from you. Although online classes might make it easier for us to be lazy, our self-discipline will help us succeed at what we're committed to achieve.
Self-disciplined people have been proven to live happier and healthier lives, but becoming so takes practice and repetition. Therefore, it’s a decision you have to make daily. Click here to read five methods to help you improve your self-discipline and here for other tips specifically for students. They are two helpful articles.
2. Organize your day
Part of being disciplined is learning how to be organized. I love calendars and planners because they help me keep track of everything I need to do. I also love checklists because crossing things out gives me a great feeling of accomplishment. Not to mention, being organized gives me structure and improves my productivity since I always know what to do next, something I'm sure that can also help you. I’ll go more in depth on time-management and organization in next Monday’s blog post, so keep an eye out for that. 😊
3. Get dressed and ready
I strongly believe that the way we dress has a psychological effect that influences our confidence, mood, attitude, behavior, and even our perceptions of other people. It's a form of self-expression and where we showcase our personality and identity.
I read an article on NBC News where Carolyn Mair, a behavioral psychologist, mentioned a few interesting points about dressing up. For starters, she said that it's a way of controlling what we can during these uncertain times while preserving some form of a routine. It also gives us a transition between work, exercise, and leisure. Dressing up, as opposed to wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt all the time, she added, helps us not to feel like the hours of the day are blended, which is SO true. Plus, I think dressing up can be a fun process and something to look forward to even when we're not going anywhere.
I like to dress up but I admit that putting on “normal” clothes is harder for me when my classes are in the evening-night. When the class is over, I just want to bounce from my chair, land on my bed, and wrap myself up like a burrito. Wearing PJ's to the class enables that for me. BUT that often leads me to grab a blanket and lean on to the desk with my hand on my chin and...well...you can imagine how that goes for me.
I don’t recommend it. Haha! But, hey, that has only happened once or twice, or... Okay, let’s move on. 😅
4. Set realistic expectations
Since this semester is different indeed, we can expect to experience distractions, lack of motivation or laziness, stress and anxiety from the load, and desperation for wanting to get out of the house. Not to mention, technological difficulties such as unstable internet connection and power outage (especially during hurricane season). Let's not forget that some professors might still be getting up to date with technology even when they had their trial and error period last semester.
On another note, set realistic expectations for yourself. Be honest and prudent with yourself. Evaluate the responsibilities you had last semester like, the amount of classes you took, a job, house chores, a hobby, student organizations duties, or other extracurricular activities. Ask yourself if you were able to handle it or what can you do differently to make it better. Do not overload, but only take what you can handle. If you overload you’re only setting yourself up for stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and a poor performance. There’s nothing wrong with making adjustments to care for your health and achieve success.
5. Be gentle
Being gentle means being patient, understanding, flexible, and empathetic. It also means, not getting too frustrated or reacting harshly with yourself, as well as with your professors, friends, family members, and even classmates when things don’t go the way you want them too. It’s important to breath in and out, accept there are things we can’t control, and go with the flow instead of letting the flow pass you by because self-discipline is also self-control. We’re all enduring the same changes and struggles at different degrees. A huge part of that is communication, which is the next tip.
Now more than ever you need to be honest and open with those present in your life. Our reality has changed and we don't have the same freedom to either speak with our professors face-to-face or study elsewhere if our house is not the best environment to do so. Therefore, we need to communicate how we feel and what we need, while listening and complying to what it is asked of us.
For example, when I gave virtual dance classes, which you can know more about here, I needed silence and uninterrupted time. I made sure to tell my family the time of my classes so when the time came, they could cooperate for me to have what I needed. We did the same for each other. I would even put sticky notes that read “studying,” “class in process,” or “dance class” in case they forgot and would pass by my bedroom. It didn’t go smooth all the time but that’s where being gentle comes into place again. We had to make it work and communicate with each other even though it wasn’t easy all the time.
7. Have a support system
I couldn’t have gone through last semester without my Master's group chat with two peers and friends. Since we would basically take the same classes together, we kept each other up to date with the courses’ materials, heard each other’s complaints, and supported one another through our meltdowns. #yaygradschool Plus, our gif game was on fire and it helped us to laugh (instead of crying).
Going back to communication, it's important to have people you can talk to and who can be there for you. We often try to handle things entirely on our own, but it’s nice to let others help us once in a while, especially when school can be so overwhelming.
8. Have a designated work space
Try to have a designated study space like a desk or a table, rather than studying on the couch or the bed. That can make us too comfortable, while hurting our posture and our productivity. It's nice to move around and change where you're studying throughout the day. For example, I may switch from the kitchen counter to my desk, and then probably to the dining table afterwards. However, having an organized and neat place to do your work can get you into the right mindset without temptations, which leads me to my next point.
9. Minimize distractions
This is very important! There are things we can control and things we can’t. You can’t control when lawn mowers come and disturb your peace by trimming the grass or if the neighbors crank up a tune that makes you want to karaoke. You can, however, control yourself. Know what distracts you the most and be disciplined enough to set boundaries. Whether it’s turning your phone off or getting apps to block other apps on your computer, do whatever you need to do to minimize distractions. And no, Finding Our Beat is not a distraction. 😉 You can read and browse through it on your break or your free time.
10. Prioritize tasks and reward yourself afterwards
Speaking of breaks and free time, surviving an online semester does not mean all work and no play. There must be a balance between the two and it starts by prioritizing tasks. This means that if you’re eager to play the new video game you just bought but you have a paper due, you should set a time to work on the paper FIRST and set a time to play the game LATER.
After you're finished with your obligations, reward yourself by doing activities you actually enjoy. The rewards can often be a motivation to get stuff done. Think of what those rewards are for you and let yourself look forward to them when you’re fulfilling your duties.
11. Video call a loved one
Since we’re physical distancing and relying more on our phones and social media to stay connected, I found it very therapeutic to schedule a video call with a friend or a family member every once in a while. I noticed how my mood and my attitude changed for the better and it was truly a happy hour. See what I did there? 😎 Besides, it can be an opportunity to put tip number 2 in action: dressing up! Plus it’s a great way to disconnect from our responsibilities and invest in our relationships.
12. Spend time outside
Although we’re trying to avoid going out, it's nice to change scenery every now and then. You can go to your porch, backyard, or even the roof of your house like my sister used to do. We need to get Vitamin D, feel the breeze on our face, and breathe a different air. You can also try going on a nice walk or run if it's safe. If there are people, wear your mask. When you protect yourself, you protect others.
13. Stretch daily
According to an article on The Mayo Clinic Diet stretching increases flexibility, improves range of motion and circulation, relieves stress by relaxing tense muscles, and promotes better posture. Even though The Harvard Health Publishing suggests stretching for at least 2-3 times a week, we’re about to spend more time seated. That’s why I strongly suggest stretching daily for at least 15 minutes. If you can do 20-30 minutes, even better. Just do your best and what feels good to you. Your body will thank you.
14. Change your Mindset
Our mind is very powerful. Since we can’t attend school, it’s easy to focus on not having your professors present, not seeing your friends and peers, not eating at the yummy spots around campus, not having the library to study at, and not being able to hangout, or attend sport/artistic events.
If we want to make this work, we have to change our mindset. Try shifting your energy on what you’re gaining, like: flexibility, control of your schedule, more time to do things you always say you don’t have time for, no traffic, no searching for a parking spot; and not spending money on rent (those who dorm), gas (those who commute), food, private parking, food, purchasing course material and assignments, and FOOD! I can sense you nodding. Haha!
I know online can never replace face-to-face and it’s important that you allow yourself to feel your emotions and miss what you don’t have right now. Nevertheless, don't dwell on them for too long, for it can have a negative impact on your mental and emotional health, something we really need to care for right now. You're mindset is everything, people!
I hope you found these tips helpful and that they bring you a successful academic year once you implement them in your day-to-day. Be sure to share this post with everyone who you feel can really benefit from it and comment if you have additional tips. #sharingiscaring
My best wishes go out to you as you find your beat to dance to the rhythm of an online school year. You got this! 💪