By Avery Strangstalien, Digital Marketing student
When I heard Western TC was planning on going fully online during the pandemic crisis, I was thrilled. I could watch class in my pajamas, my schedule became more flexible, and I could have snacks and coffee without sounding like that one terrible, terrible person at the movie theater (you know who you are).
Everything was great… until it wasn’t.
See, the problem with online learning isn’t the tech or the classes: it’s procrastination, and you’ve just met the Queen. One day it’s Monday, I get all my assignments updated on Blackboard and I’m ready to take on the week… I blink, it’s Saturday, and I’m scrambling to chug caffeine while I finish my assignments, red-eyed and frantic.
Recently, however, I’ve made a few small changes that have made a huge difference. My sanity and GPA are saved. Here’s how I did it—and how you can succeed as an online college student, too.
1. Learn Your Classes’ Homework Patterns
One of my favorite things about Blackboard, the platform Western uses for homework, is that you can see all your assignments and their due dates in one place. Pretty quickly, you’ll realize that your teachers will have a pattern for homework due dates.
What do I mean?
Well, I have one professor who assigns homework on Mondays, and that same homework is always due the following Monday by 11:59 PM—no exceptions or deviation, ever. I have another professor who assigns homework on Tuesdays every week, and the assignments are usually due on Monday at 11:59 PM as well. However, some weeks we have discussion boards, where our post will be due on a Friday.
Knowing these patterns ensures I’m prepared for them. I typically check in to see what is assigned for the week on Tuesday, because then I can see ALL of the homework for the week, instead of just for a single class. And, if I know I have an assignment due earlier than the others, I can work on that one first.
2. Have a To-Do Master List in Your Planner
If you don’t have a planner, first and foremost, get one! I would have flunked out a long time ago if I didn’t have one. Planning gives you a peace of mind that makes life as a student a breeze (or, at least, a little less intimidating).
On the day of the week when you receive your assignments, the first thing you should do is write down everything you have to do for the week and make special notations for assignments due on “unusual days.” For example, as in the discussion board assignments I discussed earlier, I will put “Friday” in parentheses after the entry, so I know what to work on first.
Also, I put little check boxes by each task. Why? I don’t know about you, but every time I check something off a list, I feel a little rush of victory. You can take advantage of these little spikes of dopamine to build momentum. When you feel capable, confident, and productive, you’ll feel ready to take on the world (or, you know, your homework—which is about the same thing for a student).
3. Know Yourself
I know myself a lot—probably a little too well. I know I am always going to try to wriggle my way out of something if I can. If I am slightly inconvenienced, I will find a way to try to talk myself out of ever doing homework again and start making plans to become a self-sufficient mountain hermit. This is only a slight exaggeration.
Yes, it’s ridiculous. However, now that I know how ridiculous I am, I can strategize ways to keep these “procrastination spirals” from happening, because let’s be honest—I would last 24 hours tops in the mountains, and I would miss electricity.
Here’s my example: I have autism, anxiety, and conversion disorder that makes me have seizures if I get to stressed (I wish I was kidding). One of my “triggers” for seizures is doing too many things on the same day. Therefore, if I know I’ll have a particularly busy day during the week, I’ll schedule homework time at least 12 hours away from the chaos, either before or after. I also know that if I hang out with friends, I will have a 2-day long social hangover, so I try to finish my work before doing any “peopling.”
These are my procrastination triggers: figure out yours by knowing yourself and turn your weaknesses into strengths.
4. Focus on Your “Why”
Have you ever been at work, asking yourself why in the world you’re there, but then remind yourself that you’re saving up money for a new car or a trip to Las Vegas and feel energized enough to push through the rest of your shift?
That’s how I’ve been getting through school. Let’s be honest with each other: school can be really hard. It’s mentally taxing, stressful, and expensive. But we’re doing this for a reason, and that’s why we’re still here.
I’m disabled in a way that means I quite literally can’t have a normal job—I have to work remotely. The first time I realized this—realizing I’d never become a research psychologist, my dream job—was crushing. Then, in high school, I joined DECA, won some awards, and fell in love with marketing. Now, I’m two semesters away from an associate degree in Digital Marketing.
My “why” isn’t just to get a job.
- My “why” is to prove to the world that a disability can take a lot from a person, but it can’t take everything.
- My “why” is I have four young nieces, and I want to show them what they’re capable of when they don’t give up.
- My “why” is to prove to myself that I am competent, intelligent, and capable of more than what life has tried to assign me.
The key to these “why’s” is they’re emotional. I have tears in my eyes writing them. That’s pure, unadulterated motivation. They light me up like nothing else.
Chances are, you’re not doing this just for a job, either. What do you want more than anything? Financial freedom? To travel the world? To support your family?
Find the “why” that makes you cry, write it down or carry a picture of that thing/person in your wallet, and you’ll always have a trump card for your procrastination.
5. Use Western’s Resources
This is my third attempt at college. I previously attended UNLV and SNHU.
Now that I’ve come to Western Technical College, I feel like I’ve come home.
I promise I’m not being paid to say this—I genuinely adore it here. Every staff and faculty member I’ve talked to has gone above and beyond to help me reach my goals. The instructors know what they’re doing, and they want to see you succeed. That’s why there’s an entire resource center dedicated to do just that.
Whatever you need help with, you’re an email away from free assistance.
Need a tutor? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want help with a paper? Visit https://www.westerntc.edu/online-writing-center.
Need counseling? Check out https://www.westerntc.edu/counseling-and-case-management-services.
This is just a sampling of some of Western’s best resources. Read more about what you can take advantage of as a student here at https://www.westerntc.edu/student-services.
In conclusion, there’s so much you can do to nip procrastination in the bud and succeed as an online learner. Remember the five tips:
- Learn Your Classes’ Homework Patterns
- Have a Weekly Master To-Do List in Your Planner
- Know Yourself (And Know How to Make Your Life Easier!)
- Focus on Your “Why”
- Use Western’s Resources
Yes, school can be difficult, and yes, we are somehow still in the thick of a global pandemic.
However, I’m a few weeks away from the end of my 3rd semester, and if I can do this and succeed? I guarantee that you can, too.