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Professional Foundation

How to manage a remote part-time course on top of everything you’re already doing

Silvia Ferrari, Created Learning Support

Our lives are busy. Juggling full time jobs with all sorts of commitments and obligations is already a lot to deal with. Add a remote, part-time course like ours to the mix, and things can get real crazy, real quick. Having the motivation to accomplish something that solely relies on your self-discipline and organisation is a tough nut that many struggle to crack.

So, if you’re in this position yourself and need some inspiration and reassurance, grab a cuppa and carry on reading. I’ve got you covered with some useful and practical advice that’ll help you deal with productivity, motivation and organisation, also with links to further resources that can help you manage the madness.

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1. Have a dedicated workspace

First of all, mindset. Being in the right mindset to work, makes all the difference. But that can be trickier when you’re working by yourself and in your own space. Laying in your bed in the evening and opening a new tab after watching cooking videos for an hour (guilty as charged) will definitely not set you in the right mind space. There are a few ways you can make this easier for yourself, by physically changing or compartmentalising your environment. Have a dedicated desk where you can work. And if you don’t have a desk, leave your bedroom or couch and sit at the kitchen table. If you have a day off or your weekend is free, go to a cafe. Personally, having to wear proper clothes and being surrounded by the buzz of people chatting while sipping good coffee puts me in the best mood to be productive.

Creating a working routine, so that both your body and mind can switch to working mode, will make it so much easier to actually get things done.

2. Get some help to reduce distraction and improve productivity

Even when you’ve got the best intentions and you’re working on your stuff, you’re still human and at times it’s hard to stay focused, especially when social media is a tap away. In fact, I bet you were scrolling Instagram not less than 10 minutes ago.

Despite being the core of the problem, technology can help you with this. Here’s a couple of apps you definitely need to check out to keep you from impulsively checking your phone:

  • Offtime: restrict access to certain apps, block texts, calls and notifications for a set period of time. You can set auto-replies if someone tries to contact you, and once you unlock your phone, you get a comprehensive list of all missed activity.
  • Forest: my personal favourite. It doesn’t just get you focused, but it rewards you when you are. Forest is a game, with a pretty simple concept: you set a timer and that makes a “plant” grow. If you use your phone, the plant dies. The more you stay focused, the more plants your grow and if you’re really disciplined, you’ll end up with a forest. And there’s more: if you get the paid version, you help actually plant trees IRL. Getting stuff done + doing good for the planet? Yas please.

3. Maintain motivation by engaging with your community

Working on your own can get lonely and staying motivated can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have the possibility to hang out with your teammates/coursemates, do so online! It seems pretty obvious to say, but you’d be surprised at how many remote workers and students tend to isolate themselves.

If you have a Slack workspace, use it. Did you see something online that made you laugh? Post it. Did you find a good playlist that boosts your productivity? Share it. Did you read a Medium article that made you reflect on a relevant topic? Start a discussion. Are you struggling with a task? If you’ve been googling aimlessly searching for an answer, ask your peers. Chances are that either they know the answer or that they’re struggling too. And you can struggle together.

Seriously, there are so many reasons to reach out to your community. It’s a win-win for you and for the others too.

4. Take inspiration from others

There’s an infinity of resources about productivity and planning out there and picking one may seem like a job itself. So here’s a couple of great books, for you to check out:

  • Get Your Sh*t Together: some of it might seem obvious, but seeing it written down on paper can make you come to your senses. Example: are you often late, but don’t really know why? That’s because you don’t actually know how long it takes you to do things, like taking a shower. That’s when time-logging becomes your friend, and helps you verify if you’re overestimating the time it takes you to perform a task. Just open your Clock app and start keeping track of time in your notes. And BAM you’ll know that clearing up your workstation actually takes you 7 minutes and not 2 like you thought. That’s why you’re always slightly late for that Pilates class. Easy right? This and the many other revelations in this book can seriously affect your time management and indeed, how much shit you get done.
  • How To Be a Productivity Ninja: I recently was at a ThinkProductive workshop. Boy, do they know what they preach. And this book of theirs is full of quickly actionable tips that can revolutionise the way you work. One I took away? The two-minute rule. If something comes up and it takes you less than two minutes to do it, do it immediately. So simple, yet so effective! Reply to that email. Empty that bin. No more small tasks filling up your to-do list. If you need help organising your day-to-day, but also framing the big picture, this is definitely the book for you.

5. Take care of yourself

Eat healthy, exercise, meditate, do yoga, go for a walk. You’ve read these tips a million times, but seriously. DO IT! It’s little habits that you weave into your daily routine that keep you stay sane and healthy. Did you know that our body sometimes mistakes dehydration for hunger? That’s why sometimes you mindlessly stare at the fridge an hour after lunch, feeling kinda hungry but not really – you’re probably thirsty instead. So make sure you hydrate, that you get your body moving and that you get proper rest. Need help with the last one? I gotcha covered. This brilliant podcast, “Sleep with me”, puts you to sleep like a baby.

6. Keep a schedule, make plans, but be flexible

At the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to planning: picking a method that works for you and sticking to it. You might not be used to having a planner, or you might be a Pomodoro technique fan, or a planning master who makes their own bullet journal (if you do, I envy you for that).

But sometimes, the simplest way is the best way. Personally, one thing I always go back to – second to none when I need to keep on top of everything – is checklists. I keep checklists for everything. What I need to do on a daily basis, what needs to happen by the end of the week and stuff I want to get done over the weekend which I am most likely to forget about until I go to bed on Sunday night. Seriously, this system is so simple it’s refreshing. And the secret is that you don’t have to be tied down to it! Checklists are a guide: if you don’t get EVERYTHING done when it needs to be, don’t panic. Re-prioritise next steps and rewrite them at the top of the following checklist until you get it done.

After all, getting stuff done is a continuous process. When you’re spinning a lot of plates you have to be organised, yes, but also a little forgiving to yourself. The key is ultimately finding the right balance between self-discipline and accepting the fact that, simply put, you’re human.

So there you have it! Simple tips that help you plan, be productive and keep on top of things when you have to get work done at your own pace. Start exploring what works for you, and find small changes to your routine that can have a big impact on all you need to get done and move forward.

Still not feeling like a productivity ninja? Created courses can get you coached and mentored into total productivity beasts. Find out more here.

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