Online learning may seem perfect for students. You may study at home, from your own warm bed, in your favorite pajamas and with a cup of sweet cocoa. You may shift your schedule as you please, you may distribute the tasks evenly or take a day off whenever you want to do it. But still, online learning has one but very important drawback: it’s hard to stay motivated when you are studying online.
No one is watching and one needs willpower of a superhero or determination of a zealot to keep going as enthusiastically as at the very beginning. Inevitably, you will be seduced by other things to do, entertainments to enjoy and friends to meet. It’s normal, it is human life and human nature. But how can we stay motivated enough to finish the online course successfully?
Here are 3 important secrets (well, actually taken from some psychological and medical articles, available on PubMed – but translated it from Scientific into English) for students who learn online to keep their spirit high and maintain high motivation.
Secret 1: Get into the Flow
The Flow (yes, it’s an official term already!) is a special state of mind that makes you work more productively than ever. When you are in the Flow, you feel excited and inspired, you get incredible insights and are eager to try again and again until you get the perfect results. Our ancestors called the state of Flow “the visit of Muse”.
You may understand that you are now in the Flow if you are fully concentrated on your current job, you see the tasks and the overall strategy clearly and are working gladly, not getting distracted by anything else – because your task is what gives you joy and satisfaction now.
Sounds fantastic and but fit for creative tasks only? Not at all! Actually, there are several psychological conditions that help you get into the Flow. The first one is the balance of your skills and the difficulty of the task. Too easy and you’d get bored, too complicated and the task will scare you. The Flow flows on the edge of both. The challenge you face activates your natural biological response: positive aggression (I can do it!), energy and excitement. This is something that our furry ancestors felt during the hunt, a hormonal lifehack we can use even now.
The second point is concentration. You can’t divide the Flow to lesser streams, this is the state of dedication to a single task. Multitasking can be a very effective strategy sometimes, but too much of it can kill motivation after a few hours only. The ancient ritual of meditation before starting something really important (making a Hero Sword or writing an essay by viewing or whatever) has a very practical reason: clearing your mind of unnecessary thoughts dramatically increases your chances to get into the Flow and finish your task with flying colors.
Secret 2: We are no better than our pets
Sometimes we all lack self-discipline. It’s a normal state of the human mind: always analyze our day and cut out all the excessive work. The millions of years of evolution taught us to save energy. From our primal point of view, anything that doesn’t give us an instant reward (or doesn’t help us avoid danger) isn’t worthy of the effort.
But while the conservative learning system offers us a ready-to-use system of punishments and benefits, online studying lacks most of them. We have to “punish” ourselves with extra work for skipping classes and “reward” ourselves with the knowledge we will possibly use somewhere later in life. Sounds not too cool for the ancient part of our brain, right?
It may sound silly, but sometimes, keeping our own motivation high is as easy as keeping high the motivation of our pets when we teach them tricks. We are negotiating with the same part of our brain: that wants a quick reward for instant action. So, to stay motivated during online learning, plan small but rewarding actions for yourself: eat a cookie, play a video game, buy yourself something nice, whatever.
Secret 3: No schedule also needs a schedule
Our body is designed to accommodate different conditions. If we always eat roughly at the same time, we will feel hungry exactly at that time. The same is for sleep, work, physical exercises and so on. We can use our brain possibilities and find ways to make us more productive by the right planning. Our physiology gets used to the schedule and functionates accordingly.
Classical learning is also scheduled. We have to wake up and have breakfast, then we go to study. We have lunch at lunch break, also at the same time every day, then study a bit more and return home to dine and have free time. Our body adapts to it and adjusts the peaks of productivity, hunger and other parameters to the process of study.
When we study online, we have more possibilities to shift the schedule closer to our natural one (if we aren’t morning people we can start later and finish later, for example). But then comes the hard part: we have to keep this schedule. Of course, not up to a single minute, but still, we have to grow the habit of studying. After a few months, even if you decide to skip one or two days, the inertia of habit will draw you back into the familiar routine. Your motivation will be self-keeping, and what can be better?