Creating your schedule
You are ready to make your comeback. You’ve signed up for classes. You’ve set a graduation date. You’re excited. Now it’s time to do the work that will get you your diploma.
Suddenly, this big exciting goal seems like a huge, scary challenge. How are you supposed to find time to study when you work all day and your kids have soccer practice after school? Not to mention you need to make dinner and pay the bills and…
Take a deep breath. All you need to succeed is a study schedule that works for you. Making one isn’t hard. This post will show you how in six easy steps.
Step 1: Choose the best time
Making a study schedule that works starts with finding time in your day. Some people think that they need two or three uninterrupted hours a day to study. That’s not true. Research has found that people are most productive when they work for about 52 minutes at a time. That’s less than an hour.
Studying for hours at a time is actually less productive. If you do plan to study for two or more hours in a row, make sure you schedule in some breaks.
Take a look at your daily life. Try to find 30 min to an hour when you can really focus and get work done. When do you have time without work, kids, or other responsibilities? If you don’t have that time you might have to make it. We’ll talk about that in step two.
Try to pick a time of day when you’re most alert. For some people, that’s first thing in the morning before anyone else is awake. For other people, that’s late at night when everyone else is asleep. It might even be in the middle of the day on your lunch break. When you study is completely up to you, the important thing is to pick a time and stick to it.
Step 2: Get support
Don’t try to take on challenges all by yourself. Your family, your friends, and even your boss will all benefit from you earning your degree, certificate, or diploma. They should be ready to help you do it.
Talk to them about your study schedule and why that time is important to you. Tell them that you can’t be interrupted during this time. You may need to ask your family to take on new chores or tasks at home to free up your time to study. You might ask your kids to do their own laundry, your spouse to handle the grocery shopping, or your parents to run the kids to their soccer practice.
In a perfect world, everyone in your life would be supportive of your goals. Of course the world isn’t perfect, so you might have to be firm to make people understand. Show them you are serious by not answering phone calls, getting on social media, or texting during this time. Instead, keep all of your focus on your work. Sooner or later, these people will get the message.
Step 3: Choose a focus
If you only have 30 minutes to study, you don’t have time to work on everything. Choose just one chapter or topic to study. Know ahead of time what you’re going to focus on during your daily study time. You might want to write it in your calendar or put a reminder in your phone. You can plan study sessions a week ahead of time if that works for you.
Just make sure that every time you sit down to study you have a clear focus. That will help you make the most of your study time.
Step 4: Stick to it
Once you have a schedule and a focus, stick to it. Don’t get distracted. Turn off your phone. Put on headphones. Put a sign on the door that says “Do not disturb.” Do whatever you have to do to stick to your schedule.
One effective way to stick to a goal is to use a simple calendar. Make a big X on the calendar for every day you study. Leave the day blank if you skip your study time. This is called “don’t break the chain.” When you fill the page with X’s you’ll have a “chain” of them. You won’t want to skip a day and break the chain. You can also download a goal tracking app for your phone if that’s more convenient for you.
If you stick to your scheduled study time for a few weeks you’ll make it into a habit. Once studying becomes a habit you’ll naturally sit down to study at the scheduled time.
Step 5: Find a study buddy
Step five is optional. You can skip it if you study better alone or if you’re good at sticking to plans all by yourself. But for some students, scheduling a time with a buddy can make them more likely to stick to the plan.
Join the academic group for your Penn Foster program or go to the Facebook page and find someone to schedule a virtual study date with. You don’t have to do this everyday. A once a week study date can help keep you on track and prevent you from getting bored.
Your buddy doesn’t even have to be studying the same thing as you are. It’s enough to have another person sitting quietly next to you doing their own work. Your kids can be your study buddies. Sit down with them when they’re doing homework and do your own. Or your spouse can be your study buddy. Even if they just sit next to you and read a book, you feel less alone while studying.
Step 6: Get the help you need
If you need help setting or sticking to a study schedule, the faculty and support staff at Penn Foster are here for you. Talk to your instructor or assistant instructor for help. You also have access to the Penn Foster Student Community where students share tips, advice, wins, and inspiration.