Isn’t it nice to come home from work and, after helping the kids with their homework, tidying up after dinner, checking bills, changing light bulbs … finally sit back and relax? Now that you have decided to advance or change careers with an online degree, you face another commitment: to study. Sounds intimidating? If you do it right, it won’t. Here are 5 tips to get you started.

Get organized: create a study calendar

Start with what you need to accomplish next week. Then divide your study time into manageable parts. But here’s the problem: you have to write it literally or virtually.

Use an Excel planner, calendar or spreadsheet, depending on your needs. So stick with it. If you are more comfortable with mobile devices, there are plenty of apps to help you organize your study time. Just search for your app store.

Track your progress throughout the week. If your study time is not enough, you need to add time.

Take small bites and chew well

Online classes are a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t try to focus all of your study time on 1 or 2 days a week. It will burn you and you won’t learn either. Scatter the time during the week with downtime pads.

You can also split your studies in the time provided. Set a timer for 30 minutes of solid, focused learning. Then take a 5 minute break. Take a walk around the neighborhood, do push-ups and read about the latest celebrity scandal. Then come back refreshed for another 30 minutes.

Enter your study cave

There are so many distractions: kids, friends, the internet … you need a special place or two where you can get away from it all and really focus on your classroom work. If you can take some time off from work, is there an empty office or lightly used conference room where you can have some privacy (assuming you clarify this with the boss)? At home, your study office should probably have a door and a “go ahead” sign. Inside, it should be comfortable but simple. Nothing to play with. Never without TV. If you want music, keep it classical or instrumental. Nothing prevents you from concentrating. You’ll find that you can do more, faster.

Ironically, smartphones keep you from studying

Yes, it is short and follows the last point. But the important thing is: if possible, you should keep your smartphone somewhere else during your sacred study time. Don’t quote me, but I’ve heard of surveys where even a stupid smartphone on the desk was a distraction for people. Save it, you will learn better and maybe feel more liberated.

Maximize your study time

Just some great, solid study tips for online students:

Take notes: they help you study and are easier to review than reread an assignment.

Schedule free time after exam work to be prepared and relaxed for the big test

Use memory cards to divide information into smaller pieces. Also, it may be easier to check them on your local bus/tram/train on your way to work.

Ask your teacher which podcasts and audiobooks to study. They are ideal for daily commuting.

Avoid carrying textbooks on buses or trains. Just make a copy of what you need to learn that day.

Before you start online classes, let your friends know that they don’t have much time to get together.

Be strong but take a break – sometimes problems arise and you may miss your scheduled study time. Don’t worry, but also know that you need to catch up.

That’s it Get organized, stick to your schedule, don’t get sidetracked, try not to overdo it all at once and you are ready to be successful with your online learning.