Previously we’ve shared some tips for successfully studying and working at the same time, such as creating a dedicated workspace, setting expectations and using technology wisely.

Here we consider some simple productivity ‘hacks’ that will maximise what you get out of your online course.

1. Make it routine

Studying an online MSc is tough; you’ll most likely be taking the course alongside your full-time job and other commitments. However, it is not advisable to get in from work and start studying straight away. The quality of your work might suffer, as you will become tired and find it difficult to concentrate.

Routine helps you to focus on what really matters. Spending the time to plan your week ahead will really help you to make the most of the time you have available.

Start by thinking about when you have the most mental energy. If you’re a morning person, perhaps you could get up earlier to fit study in before work. Or you might be able to negotiate a longer lunch break with your employer so you can spend time on your assignments during your workday. If you do need to study in the evenings, make sure to have a break first to recharge your batteries and start your studies feeling refreshed.

Setting your own expectations about when to study means you’ll approach it with the right mindset, feeling dedicated and ready to get the most out of your course.

2. Focus and schedule

When we focus on one specific activity, we naturally dedicate more time and effort to it, ensuring it’s completed to the best of our ability.

Take the time to break your assignments down into their component parts, and start writing a checklist of what needs to be done – from the texts you need to read, to the research you need to perform and the discussions you might need to have with the online community, before the actual writing of your assignment.

Ticking each activity off as you go along feels immensely satisfying and ensures nothing is missed or forgotten.

3. Exercise your mind

Exercise has been shown to change the way the brain works to protect memory and thinking skills. It boosts the size of the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.

You don’t need to turn into a gym junkie though, a weekly 60-minute brisk walk home from work, or around the park with the dog is enough to get your blood pumping. You could even think about how to optimise this time further, by listening to podcasts or audio books, or dictating your thoughts for your latest assignment through an app on your phone.

Besides the physical and cognitive benefits of exercise, it’s also shown to improve your mood and sleep, by uncluttering your mind to reduce stress and anxiety. Choosing to study an online MSc is going to put you under pressure at times, but through a programme of regular exercise, you can stop the pressure becoming overwhelming.

4. Switch off before bed

Sleep deprivation leads to less efficient learning and a less efficient brain. So, while the idea of late night studying might seem acceptable, it could actually have a negative impact on your studies.

Jumping from a high cognitive task straight to sleep can be a struggle for your brain, and you’re likely to be lying awake for what feels like an eternity. Therefore, if you are working late into the evening, make sure you plan some downtime to enable your brain to wind down and prepare yourself for sleep. Choose a predictable activity, such as watching a TV programme you enjoy, reading a book, or listening to a familiar playlist to help your brain transition from work to rest.

Discover more about what you can expect from the online learning experience at the University of Bath.

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