‘Get a planner.’ To some, this sounds good in a moment of chaos and might even creep toward inspiring for a split second, but often it falls flat. Along with several other phrases that can be categorized as ‘easier said than done,’ we’ve compiled a short-list of some realistic actions you can take on these seemingly “too simple” bits of advice.

Get a planner…and actually use it.

How often do you hear the second half of that sentence? It’s the key to making the first three-word segment work. If you’re like me, you know that simply getting a planner isn’t the solution to solving your scheduling dilemmas!

Awareness and preparedness are two of the most realized benefits of using a planner or calendar to keep track of your weekly work, personal, and school commitments. You’ll be able to anticipate adjusting your study hours to fit around a dentist appointment, the basketball tournament your daughter is competing in, or the two days you need to drive your son to work. As you become accustomed to adding to and referencing this calendar regularly, it can help you stay on task and meet deadlines.


If a professor identifies their preferred method of communication, use it.

…period. This is perhaps one of the easiest actions to implement as an online learning habit, but it can easily be lost in the excitement of getting into a new semester. We tend to pay more attention to the assignments, their due dates, and the points each are worth when scanning the syllabus. It’s not until you have a question or need help a little later in the semester that you’ll wish you had the quickest path for communication.

Limit distractions.

This can mean many different things depending on the learner. Maybe to you, it means finding a study space that’s quiet and removed from other people. Or you might find that being in a public place, like a coffee shop, is a tempting diversion. If you are also working from home, your distraction might be studying in a place that has pending work projects visible.

For most, their smartphone becomes the biggest culprit for distraction. App locking features and screen-time limitations can be effective ways to keep focused. If possible, have someone else in your house manage this by giving them the pass code and control from their phone so you’re not able to override the block you created for yourself. No mater which distraction is most disruptive to you, work to identify it so you can proactively implement habits that lead to success.

Hold yourself accountable.

Online learning is a different ballgame when compared to in-person experiences. You have to be your own motivator to log in to class, participate in class, and keep up on top of assignment deadlines. Check-in with yourself four times a semester and have a real honest heart to heart with your conscience. How have I been doing? Are there areas in your education where you lack motivation? Make new goals and strive for them.

You don’t have to go it alone. Enlist the support of your classmates, spouse, roommate, or anyone that understands why you’re doing this. Give them a copy of your syllabus and ask them to help hold you accountable with reminders about due dates, progress checks, and maybe even study help. Networks are great for a lot of things – especially moral support and encouragement. For more tips on how to succeed in college and avoid the mid semester slump read here.