Online learning can sometimes be quite a lonely and tough way to learn, particularly if the content is challenging either because it’s complex and totally foreign to you, or because it’s boring as bat… stuff. This leads to the most common problem and what we’re really talking about here, which is how to keep motivated for online learning.
The key to success is your mental health or your mindset. How you feel is a result of the conversation in your head, and what you think and feel, determines your actions and behaviour. We all pretty much know this, right?
The problem is that for many, it’s too easy for the mind to spiral.
Once you get overloaded or overwhelmed, procrastination sets in, and it often brings along its friend, Guilt, because you’re falling further behind. Frustration may or may not show up and then it’s just a matter of time until Mr/Mrs Shame shows up like that little devil on your shoulder, saying all the horrible things you sometimes say to yourself… Well then it’s a party and not the good kind.
It doesn’t have to be like that though and in fact, as a company who does mostly online learning, we purposely do our best to provide engaging material, lots of easily accessible support, and blogs like this to help you keep mentally healthy, to keep you motivated for online learning. We can only do so much though, the rest is up to you.
So here is what you can do:
This means setting up a regular study schedule. Just like you have a work schedule, have a study one where you block off dedicated time to focus. No distractions. No excuses or options to skip or postpone it.
Having some kind of study buddy, even if they are doing a completely different training, can be helpful. To hold you accountable, you both commit to the same study times, and “body doubling”.
This is a handy ADHD strategy that anyone can use, for getting things done. If you’re in the same place, great but if not, jump on Zoom or some kind of video conference and just have it on while you study. Having someone working or studying next to you really helps motivation and getting focused.
The aim of the game is to just keep going!
Every mental health related article like this says to get decent and regular sleep, eat good food, get out, get moving and meditate (I have to laugh, my fingers initially wrote “medicate” instead of meditate, but hey, if you have special medication to help with ADHD, any kind of mental illness or chronic illness, then absolutely, take your medication too).
As a parent who is all too familiar with sleep deprivation, I know how easily that often leads to comfort or easy food, which is an energy drainer. I can honestly tell you, just having decent sleep and healthy food makes a world of difference to the mindset and internal mental chatter. On top of those, movement leads to more energy which helps massively with focus. And meditation helps to calm that monkey mind. Speaking of…
Yup, your mind is going to throw all kinds of things at you. From “I’m stupid” to “I’ll never finish this” and including “I can’t do this”. It’s going to get all kinds of creative with reasons to keep you distracted with other things that may seem important to do over studying. In the end, it’s really just stopping you from sitting down and doing the work. It may possibly talk you into quitting altogether. It can be a tricky minx.
However, you know your mind. You know the kinds of things it tends to have you thinking. You know the kinds of distractions you’re likely to get off track doing so now is a good time to be ready to tango with it (I’d say “battle” but that seems like hard work).
Prepare a list of statements or affirmations that are the opposite of what your mind is likely to come up with. Also add examples where the prepared statement is actually true, or add an action you can take that will dissolve it naturally.
For example, if it’s saying “I can’t do this”, say “I can do this because I have plenty of help that I’m going to tap into right now.” Or for something like “I’m a failure”, “I have succeeded before and I can succeed now” and remind yourself to come up with 5 things you’ve successfully completed, even if it’s as simple as making your coffee this morning!
The blanket statements our minds come up with are rarely the whole story. So when it steps forward with stuff that’s putting you down, you step forward with stuff that will build you up! And if need be, do some self care like sitting in the sunshine and just focusing on breathing deeply. This will bring your energy up and you’ll have more inner strength to lead your mental tango.
This is a common roadblock for a lot of people who are doing online learning. Thankfully there is a simple solution, and if you find this difficult to do, see point number 5 below.
For overwhelm, break it down into smaller chunks and only focus on the chunk you have to do first. Don’t worry about how much more you still have to do, just focus on the one thing in front of you and if that still feels overwhelming, break it down even further. As long as you’re doing something, you’re making progress!
For overload, extend the timeline or cut back on other stuff you’re doing that isn’t recharging. You might scale back on work, family events or some social activities. Remember it’s just temporary while you’re studying.
Feeling overloaded is usually because you are maxed out. It’s a sign that there is too much energy going out and not enough recharging going on. I’m going to talk more about this in point 6 but this is something to pay attention to and adjust accordingly.
As soon as you hit a block that’s confusing, hard, or you don’t know what to do, use those help lifelines you have access to. Don’t wait until it gets to “Houston we have a problem” and it’s crisis level drama going on, mostly inside your head, but still.
We’ve had students reach out multiple times, just to get through the parts they’re finding hard. We believe there are no questions too small, too big, too silly or too ridiculous, and so many passionate trainers are the same. So don’t hesitate to lean on your trainers and support team to help you get unstuck and keep moving forward.
I promise, getting past the block and moving forward again feels sooooooo good!
Despite what we’ve been told, we can’t do it all and we definitely can’t do everything really well if we don’t have time to recharge, along with time to work, time to study, time for family and time for self care things like exercise and downtime.
Rest is as critical as study and work. Rest is how we recharge our batteries to have enough energy to bring our best to everything we do.
Being in physical burnout makes it easy for your mental health to slide. When you have no energy, everything becomes so much of an effort and procrastination is actually your body telling you it NEEDS to rest.
Anytime you are pushing past your energy reserves to keep going, you’re walking right into the burnout zone. Sometimes putting everything off for a day of laying in bed, bingeing on movies or episodes of your current favourite TV show, or reading and sleeping all day, can do you the world of good.
The critical factor here is to listen to your body and be honest about what’s really underneath your procrastination. If you make time to rest and recharge in your schedule, you’ll be able to focus and learn more easily, and you’ll keep going all the way through to the end!
That’s pretty much everything you need to know to keep motivated for online learning.
At the end of the day, it can be one of the best ways to learn because you’re the one in charge of the schedule, and you have the flexibility to make it work for you around your energy levels and other responsibilities.
Staying mentally healthy while doing it is also well within your control, but let’s be honest, sometimes it’s a bit of a dance.
IMPORTANT: If you find yourself struggling to even get yourself to do the above things, please seek out some extra professional help. That in itself is a sign that you may be burned out already, or something else may be going on and you need other strategies or solutions for you at this time.
No matter what though, with a top notch support system, there isn’t anything that you or I can’t do. So my parting words to you are… You’ve got this!