Distractions, procrastination and exhaustion – you may be experiencing one or all three as you hit the books. They’re common byproducts of the busy lives of military spouses working on advanced degrees. And according to the experts at Tutor.com, which offers free online tutoring for military spouses and dependents, they’re likely the top three hurdles to your academic success.
But they’re something you can overcome with a little forethought, said Nikita Spoke, mentor for Tutor.com and Air Force wife.
“To me, good studying really comes down to planning ahead,” she said.
That means setting yourself up for success before you even crack a book.
“It’s good to remove any distractions before you sit down to study,” Spoke said. “Put your phone on ‘silent,’ set it out of reach, close out of Facebook, get your food ahead of time.”
For brick-and-mortar students, many of those distractions aren’t an issue. But if you’re working from home, online, it’s often harder to clear time and space for schoolwork.
“You definitely have to have more self-motivation,” she said. “You have to intentionally remove those distractions. You’re not in a classroom where most of these have been removed for you.”
If you tend to put things off until the last minute, you’re not going to turn in your academic best.
“Procrastinating not only gives you less time to do what you need to, it also increases your stress level,” Spoke said. “It feels like something’s going to go wrong when you leave it till the last minute. When you’re rushed and stressed, you’re not going to do (assignments) as well.”
Procrastination can lead to sitting down to study when you’re mentally and physically wiped out – yet another self-sabotaging habit.
“Plan study times for when you know you’re not tired – it may not always be possible,” she said. “Make sure you’re awake and alert to study.”
If you can organize about a week’s worth of time, you’ll have a clearer picture of your workload, another key to effective study, Spoke said.
“Usually about a week in advance is going to give you enough time to get everything done,” she said. “Then you’re not going to forget about anything and not stress about it for too long.”
She knows military life is full of unexpected changes; all the more reason to plan as much as you can, she said.
“All of it can at least be made better if you plan ahead,” Spoke said. “You’re going to have less time to accomplish all the household chores and errands that need to be done … It takes even more planning.”
Be sure you pencil in some downtime on your calendar, too.
“It’s good to include time to relax,” she said. “If you don’t relax, you’re going to be more stressed and the best work doesn’t usually come out of people when they’re stressed.”
When it comes to writing papers, prepare yourself for a multi-step process.
“Make sure you know with papers in college there’s likely a research step, outline step, first draft step and then second draft – as many drafts that are needed to get the final polish on the paper,” Spoke said.
It’s also important to know your natural study habits and use them to your advantage. Some students do better with music on; some study better in groups; others excel alone.
“Specifically for online classes, you just really need to want to do well,” Spoke said. “Make sure you give yourself what you need to succeed.”