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Top 10 Tips for Staying Motivated to Study During Holidays and School Breaks (Online School Edition) 

Written by Lauren Ambrosio on Thursday, 11 January 2024. Posted in Online College

Young woman sitting on the floor  next to holiday gifts, holding a mug of cocoa with marshmallows and looking in a journal.

Staying motivated to study during the holidays can be hard for online students. The change in routine, coupled with the distractions and stresses of the season, can derail even the most disciplined students. It’s even harder for those with mental health issues or neurodivergent conditions like ADHD.

We gathered these tips from our online students to put together this top-ten list of what works when you have to tune out the jingle bells and focus on your online school or certification program.

1. Create a routine

The holiday season can throw everyone's routines for a loop. To keep on top of things, try to keep up some of your normal study habits. If you're used to studying at a certain time, do your best to stick to it. For those who find it hard to manage their time, tools like written schedules or phone apps can be super helpful during the busy holiday season. Class of 2021 graduate Tiffany Whitter says that setting aside time is important to get through your courses. (Watch Tiffany’s whole interview for yourself!)

Sticking to a consistent daily plan, including designated study times, can help reduce holiday stress and keep you focused, especially if you're someone who thrives on routine.

2. Set achievable, realistic goals

Break your study material into smaller, manageable chunks. Setting realistic and achievable goals is crucial for maintaining motivation and avoiding burnout. Veterinary assistant Penni Katzmann took a hit when her hours were cut at work, so she took the time to work towards her veterinary assistant career diploma, making it work with her schedule. When you’re taking online classes, you don’t have to cram an entire semester into your winter break. Pace yourself.

3. Be gentle with yourself

Remember, struggling to focus on your online schooling does not make you a bad student. It's often a signal from your body that it needs something different. Practicing self-compassion can prevent burnout and help you achieve your long-term goals, even if progress is slower than expected. Take breaks and do things you love with the people or pets you love.

Getting your education in a timely manner is important, but not at the expense of your mental health and well-being. If you have to take a break from classes, that’s okay. Carren Itza-Montego, Ashworth’s 2022 Graduate of the Year, took a ten-year hiatus from school to prioritize her family. She never lost sight of her goals, though, and knew she’d someday go back. She enrolled in Ashworth College in 2021. While you may not need such a long break, taking a day, a week, or a month “off” from your studies can be essential to make sure you don’t get burnt out or overwhelmed.

“I’ve seen my son get a lot of motivation from seeing me go back to school. So that, in itself, pushed me to keep going,” she said. Hear more about her experience.

4. Use tools to stay motivated and organized

Online classes during the holiday and New Year season can be tough. This time of year is full of distractions, and it can be hard to stay motivated. Here are some tips and tools that can help you keep up with your coursework and enjoy the season without burning out:

  • Digital calendars and planners like Google or My Study Life
  • Create study guides and practice tests with ChatGPT
  • Visual task boards, which you can make in Canva
  • Study timers and apps that help you tackle studying, like Easy Study (Apple, Android)
  • Use different colors and even draw helpful pictures in your notes
  • Set clear, achievable goals and use apps to track your progress, such as Power Planner
  • Organize or join a virtual study group through the Ashworth Community
  • Create digital flashcards to help you memorize information; popular apps include Gizmos and Quizlet
  • Minimize distractions to give yourself a better chance of staying on track by using headphones and finding a space where there is minimal foot traffic
  • Don't forget to include self-care activities in your schedule, which can include hobbies, meditation, therapy, or catching up on sleep

Learn more about finding your learning style and how to make it work for you.

5. Take breaks and reward yourself

Taking regular breaks while studying is super important. This could look like 30 minutes of studying followed by 5 minutes (set a timer!) of scrolling on your phone or playing with your cat. Even if you’re in the zone, don’t forget to stand up and stretch or walk around. Sitting for extended periods of time can be bad for your health, so be sure to change positions and move around.

For rewards, it’s okay to celebrate small wins in addition to the big ones. You may have taken all week to finish a chapter, but you finally did it! Treat yourself! Big or small, it’s a good idea to give yourself little rewards along your journey to completing your degree program.

6. Stay connected with classmates

Connecting with other students at your online school can be a significant factor in staying motivated, especially during challenging times like the holiday season. Sometimes, taking online classes can be too isolating–even if you’re an introvert.

Here's how making connections with other students can help:

  • Shared experiences and emotional support
  • Accountability partners
  • Study groups and collaborative learning
  • Networking and building relationships
  • Mental health benefits
  • Sharing resources and study tips
  • Motivation through healthy competition

You can connect with other Ashworth students and alumni on our official social media pages, student-led Facebook groups (if you search “Ashworth College” on Facebook, you should find them), or on the Student Community!

7. Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction Techniques

Practicing mindfulness and reducing stress while taking online classes, especially during the winter season, is super important for maintaining mental health and academic success.

Here are some tips to help online learners find a moment of zen:

  • Create a cozy and comfortable space where you can study and establish a routine.
  • Practice deep breathing; even doing it for a few minutes a day will help.
  • Take regular breaks!
  • Go for a walk. Take the dog.
  • Stay hydrated. What may feel like a mid-day slump is actually dehydration. Drink up.
  • Practice gratitude. Think about why you’re working so hard and the payoff at the end.
  • Meditate, or give yourself ten minutes of quiet, to help clear your mind.
  • Connect with friends and other students to avoid feeling isolated.
  • Limit your non-academic screen time. Your eyes need to rest, and so do you.

8. Ask for extensions or accommodations

Sometimes life happens, and turning in an assignment on time isn’t possible. That’s okay! If you know that you’re going to turn something in late, the best thing you can do is let the instructor know as soon as possible. Be honest, explain your situation at a level of detail you are comfortable sharing, and come prepared with a new deadline. Your instructor may or may not be understanding of your plight, so be ready to accept their decision, even if it isn’t in your favor.

When requesting accommodations, here are some reasonable asks:

  • Get a deadline extension, especially if the reason is for a family emergency, illness, or mental health issue.
  • Ask for flexible scheduling if the classes usually meet during a specific time.
  • Request your assignments in an alternative format if the currently used format is challenging.
  • Seek out additional resources like lecture recordings, notes, or tutoring.

Be proactive when it comes to asking for the things you need in order to be successful in your online program. With Ashworth College, and many other online programs, there are no set due dates or deadlines, so you can take your time and submit assignments or exams at the pace that works best for you!

Read more: 5 Test Taking Tips To Boost Your Grades

9. Use different types of media to enhance your study experience

Use online resources like educational podcasts, webinars, and tutorials that are relevant to your coursework. Mixing up your learning methods can keep things interesting and prevent boredom. Plus, exploring different online educational tools can give you new perspectives and help you better understand the material.Accounts Ashworth students have recommended:

  • @studywithmaggie (Instagram): Study tips, motivational quotes, and organization hacks.
  • CrashCourse (YouTube): Educational videos on a wide range of subjects, including science, humanities, and more.
  • @collegesuccessplan (Instagram): Advice on navigating college life, productivity tips, and academic resources.
  • Khan Academy (X: @khanacademy): Updates on new courses, educational insights, and learning tips.
  • TED-Ed (YouTube): Educational and engaging videos on various topics that complement college learning.

Read more: 23 Helpful Websites & Apps for Students to Help You Study

10. If it’s not working, change it!

If you have a routine that isn’t working for you anymore, change it up! Sometimes, our brains just need a little change to jumpstart our motivation. If you normally study in a sunny room and the weather’s been gloomy, try a SAD lamp or putting on upbeat music. Maybe doing your English studying and reading in bed is the best way for you to absorb that material, but doing math in bed makes you tired. Move around, adjust your lighting, try a different app, or take a break. You’ve got this!

The important thing to remember is to not be hard on yourself. As I’m writing this, my living room is so cozy and festive, but I’m at my desk in another room. Why? Because I focus better at my desk, and I have deadlines!

Start the new year right!

Tackling an online program, whether it’s a diploma, career certificate, or college degree, is time-consuming and requires you to use a lot of new skills. Mixing the holidays and the start of a new year with online learning can be a challenge, but with some of the tips and tools listed above, hopefully you’ll get through January without too much stress.

At Ashworth, you'll find a community ready to support and guide you through every step of your learning journey. Call our Admissions Specialists at 1-888-427-6500 to learn more about our online college degree programs.

Let's talk about your educational goals. Call 1-800-957-5412