5 Things I've Learnt About Independent Study

For those out of the loop, I've been studying extramurally since March of this year so I can finish my degree. Why extramural? The main reason is that I wanted an option for me that wasn't going to be as stressful, self-management seems to work a lot better for me. There's also the fact that the commute into the city every day wasn't working for me. Yes I could have moved into the city but rent in Auckland is ridic. Let's be real. So yeah, I've been an independent learner now for almost nine weeks and while I'm in no way seasoned in this approach, I thought I'd share five things I have learnt thus far...

1) Self-discipline is key. There are no rules in this house. You are Mrs George from Mean Girls, maybe without the velour sweatsuit but nonetheless, you are an independent woman (or man). This can have many blessings but also drawbacks. One thing I have learnt rather quickly is that you have to be extremely disciplined. Extremely, extremely disciplined. Otherwise before you know it, half the day will have been spent trying to decipher the crazy Kardashian family tree or trawling the ASOS new-in section. You get the idea, be disciplined and regimented with yourself to ensure your time is spent productively. 

2) You are (essentially) on your own. I know some people will debate that and say distance learning/extramural study is interactive but I find for the most part it really isn't. Sure there are Facebook groups and forums but they don't feel...real if that makes sense. I'm a pretty introverted person but still find studying solely online a bit lonely. My advice here is try to find friends in your area who you can chat with and study, it does help. Also if you can, maybe take one or two papers internally. That way you still get to see people and not feel like you're totally alone. 

3) Timetables are your best friend. Y'know with Uni you get a timetable telling you when your lectures are, when your tutorials are and what ridiculous hour you'll have to wake up at. 8am's were the bane of my existence, yet ironically I now start my study days at 8am. The point here is, buy one of those weekly pads like this one. Write up a timetable and allocate hours to each paper. I also write in when I am working, any other commitments I have during the week, deadlines I need to meet etc. It helps. 

4) Go Offline. I love technology, who doesn't? Staring at a computer screen all day however is not great for many reasons. Where I can I like to print notes out so I can handwrite them myself/annotate them. This, I like to think, helps me retain whatever's being taught that week. I also like to do my readings, both assignments and textbook offline as much as possible. I find my focus slips really fast if I'm reading off a screen for long periods of time. I try to get all my online stuff out of the way first and then spend the rest of the day offline. I like to think my eyes are grateful for that.

5) Not Commuting Is AMAZING. If there's one thing I used to find terribly taxing about going into the city virtually every day for University it was the commute. Granted I didn't have my license back when I studied in the CBD, which would have cut a lot of time off, where I live was still far away enough to feel tiring. So to say I do not miss commuting into the city and beyond every day is an understatement. Sure it was a great time for me to work on essays, sunlight permitting and/or catch up on reading/music listening. It always felt like a big chunk of my day was spent on public transport. I do not miss it. At all. 

-Are you studying? What are your tips for making it work for you?

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