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The Best Daily Study Schedule for Distance Learning

Posted by Ashley Robinson | Apr 17, 2020 2:00:00 PM

General Education

 

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For some students, taking classes online probably sounds like a dream come true. Never having to change out of your pajamas? No tardy slips? What’s not to love?! 

But the reality of attending school from home is different...and more complicated, especially when it comes to maintaining a daily schedule that’s good for your education and your GPA.  

In this article, we’ll teach you how to stay organized and on top of your schoolwork while you’re attending school from your living room. We’ll explain how much time you should spend studying a day, then walk you through a sample weekly study schedule with breakdowns for each day of the week. Finally, we’ll give you practical solutions to four common problems that come with doing school from home. 

Let’s get started! 

 

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How Much Time Should I Spend Studying Every Day?

First things first: just because you’re taking classes from home doesn’t mean you don’t need to study. You’ve still got to hit the books if you want to keep your GPA up! 

But determining how much time you should spend studying is actually more complex than just the hours you spend sitting at a desk or with your nose in a textbook. You don’t need to recreate your entire at-school day in order to be a good student while studying from home.

While having a clear but flexible structure for your at-home school days is important, it’s also crucial to adjust your expectations for what you can get done while learning independently in a day. In other words, you can’t really replicate your at-school days while learning from home because so many things about the circumstances are different. 

Instead, it’s important to set clear boundaries between time that’s meant for relaxing and leisure and time that’s meant for learning. (Yep, that means you probably aren’t going to get good studying time in while watching Netflix. Sorry!) 

Education experts recommend that students spend no more than 50 minutes on independent study at a time, and no more than four hours of total independent study time a day. While four hours might sound like a lot less time than you spend studying in a regular school day, keep in mind that the independent learning you do at school is limited too. 

When you’re in a classroom full of other students, there’s more variety in the learning approaches that can be implemented—you don’t spend the entire time trying to process course content all on your own. You also take breaks in between classes, stop for lunch, and your core subject classes are often broken up around more physically-oriented or collaborative courses, like physical education, dance, or sports. And of course, you have classes that don’t require you to study in the typical ways, including extracurriculars like student council or yearbook. 

 

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A daily study schedule will help you stay on track with your studying, but it will probably put more free time back in your day, too!

 

Creating Your Study Schedule: An Expert Guide

Our goal is to give you a general idea of how you should structure your study time when you’re attending online classes. Every student’s needs will vary, so you may need to adjust our recommendations to fit your unique situation. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can structure your day for the biggest payoff. To maximize the time that you spend studying your core academic subjects and avoid burnout, consider dedicating two solid hours in the morning and two solid hours in the afternoon to studying. 

That four hours includes everything you need to do for school, including watching lectures, attending videoconferences, completing assignments, taking quizzes and tests, and engaging with other required course content. 

 

Start With a Warm-Up Activity

To keep yourself alert and to help get yourself in a learning mindset, try starting your day and following up your lunchtime with a 15 to 30 minute warm-up period. This can be anything from exercise, to reading for fun, to playing an instrument. The goal is to “wake up” your brain so that you’re alert and ready to study. 

 

Split Up Your Sessions Into Chunks

Now it’s time to dive into your study sessions. Like we already mentioned, your goal is to set aside a two hour, uninterrupted chunk of time for studying in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Keeping the time chunked together will make sure you get the most bang for your buck. 

So how should you divide that time? We recommend that you take your two hours and divide it into three to four study “sessions” that are 30 to 45 minutes each. That will give you enough time to focus on your work while helping you study more subjects more efficiently. 

In between each study “session” on your schedule, take a fifteen minute break to walk around, get a snack, or text your friends. The trick is to keep it to no more than fifteen minutes. At the end of your break time, head back to your digital device, switch gears for your next subject, and start in on your workload for another class to keep your productivity high. 

 

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Watching Netflix and procrastinating might seem like a good idea now...but it's a decision that could come back to haunt you later. (Also, if you stick to your study schedule, you'll probably have MORE time to binge your favorite shows anyway!) 

 

Use Your Evenings Wisely 

After you wrap up your daytime “schedule” for taking care of schoolwork, how you spend the evening during your school-from-home experience is up to you. Most students find they need several hours of out-of-school study time per week under normal circumstances, but your evening/weekend study needs might change since your daytime study habits look different now. 

In general, it’s probably a good idea to expect to use the evenings and weekends to complete bigger class projects and prepare for exams as needed. 

Having said that, it’s also important that you schedule down-time for yourself. Don’t underestimate how stressful it is to switch to self-guided study. Additionally, outside circumstances like your family responsibilities and/or tense social situations can add to your mental and emotional burden. That’s why you need to make sure you’re letting off steam at some point during the day. Whether that’s watching Netflix, reading your favorite book, or even doing a puzzle, giving yourself a break is important for your mental health.

 

Stick to Your Schedule Every Weekday

While you don’t have to be super strict about it, trying your best to keep a similar schedule every week will help you stay on top of your tasks and avoid heaping more stress into your plate. Routines are a great way to give yourself a sense of stability, and they can ensure that your assignments and deadlines aren’t sneaking up on you. 

More importantly, sticking to your schedule will actually make sure you have more time to relax and do the things you want to do! A schedule helps you maximize your study time and make it more efficient. 

Now that you have a sense of how your school-from-home days and weeks might be structured, let’s look at a sample weekly study schedule next.

 

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A Sample Weekly Study Schedule

We’ve put together a sample weekly schedule that parses out your daily time for specific subjects and study tasks on an hour-by-hour basis. This schedule is based on the argument that students should spend no more than four hours on one-on-one, independent study time in order to get the most out of their studying, and that this study time should be broken down into manageable chunks. 

The schedule we’ve designed is meant to prioritize required tasks for each of your core subjects (e.g. lectures, readings, quizzes, tests), your agency in guiding your own learning (e.g. open-ended creative time and reading time), staying active (e.g. exercise, dancing), and your mental health (e.g. rest and sleep, taking breaks, having evening time for leisure and family). Check it out here:

Time
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
9:00 - 9:45
Physical Activity
Reading/
Creative Pursuits
Physical Activity
Reading/
Creative Pursuits
Physical Activity
10:00 - 10:45
Subject 1
Subject 4
Subject 1
Subject 4
Subject 1/4
11:00 - 11:45
Subject 2
Subject 5
Subject 2
Subject 5
Subject 2/5
12:00 - 12:45
LUNCH
LUNCH
LUNCH
LUNCH
LUNCH
1:00 - 1:45
Reading/
Creative Pursuits
Physical Activity
Reading/
Creative Pursuits
Physical Activity
Reading/
Creative Pursuits
2:00 - 2:45
Subject 3
Subject 6
Subject 3
Subject 6
Subject 3/6
3:00 - 3:45
Flex Study Time
Flex Study Time
Flex Study Time
Flex Study Time
Flex Study Time
Early evening or late evening (if needed)
Prepare for tomorrow’s subjects (Subjects, 4, 5, 6)
Prepare for tomorrow’s subjects (Subjects, 1, 2, 3)
Prepare for tomorrow’s subjects (Subjects, 4, 5, 6)
Prepare for tomorrow’s subjects 
(Subjects, 1, 2, 3)
Prepare for tomorrow’s subjects (Subjects, 4, 5, 6)

 

Now, remember: this schedule isn’t the end all, be all of study schedules. But this sample schedule emphasizes that you are a whole human being trying to finish your school year in the midst of a global pandemic. 

To allow time to take care of other responsibilities in your life (such as caring for younger siblings, working, or taking care of your health), this schedule helps you focus on three core subjects per day with lots of flexible study time built in that you can tailor to your specific needs. 

In the schedule above, three daily 45 minute sessions are dedicated to three of your core academic classes each day. But what should you do in those 45 minute periods? During each 45 minute study session, we recommend prioritizing any required daily work that your teacher has asked you to complete. That could include listening to lectures, reviewing slide shows, taking virtual quizzes, posting on discussion boards, or taking exams. If you have extra time left after that, you might get started on “homework” or study for an upcoming quiz or test. 

At the end of each day, we also built in 45 minutes of flexible study time. It might be a good idea to use this time to check your to-do list and make sure you met your goals for the day, or you could complete any unfinished assignments from that day’s core subjects. Alternatively, you could use that time to do some collaborative studying with friends on FaceTime to add some variety to your study methods. 

If you need to, think about how you can revise this schedule to suit the realities of your life right now, and remember to be adaptable and flexible. You can sub out subjects or activities in the schedule above and add in additional classes, or you can move around which subjects you focus on each day. 

What’s most important is that you have the tools you need to meet your academic and personal goals under the conditions of this new school-from-home situation. 

 

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We know you might encounter a few problems when you're studying for your online classes. That's why we're here to help you through them. 

 

Studying for Online Courses: 4 Major Problems and How To Solve Them

While going to school in the comfort of your own home sounds amazing in theory, there are some practical challenges that distance learning presents for many students. 

Some of the advantages of going to school and sitting in a classroom with your teacher and classmates are lost when you have to study where you sleep, but don’t worry: we’ll explain four common problems with studying for online classes, and how you can solve them.

 

Problem 1: You Have to Motivate Yourself

When you’re studying from home, you receive less instruction on how to use your time to complete school-related tasks. You also won’t have the external motivation that can come with the daily process of having to turn your assignments in to your teacher. These changes may make it difficult to feel motivated to take care of school responsibilities when there are so many other things you could be doing. 

Since the choice to take care of school stuff will be up to you now, remembering the goals you’ve set for yourself may help you feel motivated to get up and get going with your schoolwork. Creating a vision board with your academic goals or writing them on the front of your planner can help to keep you motivated in those moments when you’d rather hit snooze than study. Assembling pictures of your future college, your career, and even your life goals can help you keep your eyes on the prize. 

You can also consider finding an accountability partner that checks in with you to make sure you’re doing your work. Make a deal to keep each other accountable to getting up by starting on your school work at the same time every day, and you can send each other updates on how your studying is going. Keeping these connections can also help you remember that your friends are figuring out how to navigate learning-from-home too, and that while you may be apart, you aren’t alone. 

 

Problem 2: Sharing Technology Can Interrupt Your Schedule

One of the most difficult realities of completing the school year from home is the fact that a lot of students don’t have their own digital devices. While schools realize this and are doing what they can to loan out devices and get them hooked up to Wi-Fi, many school districts don’t have enough resources to share a laptop or tablet with every student. 

This means that a lot of students are going to be sharing technology with siblings, parents, and maybe even friends or classmates. If you’re trying to implement a structured schedule for getting schoolwork done every day, having to share technology can make that really hard. Sitting down with the people you have to share technology with and creating a flexible daily or weekly schedule together may alleviate some of the tension surrounding sharing devices. 

Here’s what we mean: your family may only have one computer or tablet, but both you and your little brother have switched to taking classes online. Instead of constantly fighting over the computer, you can work together to decide who gets to use the computer in the mornings and who gets to use it in the afternoon. 

While your schedule will look different depending on your family and your needs, we recommend trying to schedule your tech time for the same slot every day. Doing so will help you keep a stable schedule and get more work done. 

But what about the periods of time that you don’t have access to a digital device? Your “unplugged” time is a great opportunity to do any studying that doesn’t require technology. If you have print copies of textbooks, study guides, quizzes or tests, or have physical projects to complete, try to work on those during your offline time. And most importantly, if access to technology is an issue for you, communicate with your teacher about your situation and ask for help when you need it. 

 

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Make an effort to limit your distractions while you're studying. (Don't be like Doug. Or maybe...aspire to be like a less distracted, more focused Doug.)

 

Problem 3: There Are a Lot of Distractions

We’re all living in slightly organized chaos under the conditions of COVID-19, and for most of us, all that chaos is compressed into the spaces of our homes as we practice social distancing. Whether your distractions are caring for your siblings, your mom’s hourly conference calls on speaker phone, or your cozy bed, distractions while trying to get school work done are inevitable. 

Having a plan in place for how you’ll eliminate distractions during your scheduled study times can help you manage your time well and maximize the time you do spend studying. When you sit down to study, put your phone in airplane mode or silence notifications. If you’re tempted to stay in bed, study in the kitchen or living room. And if you can’t handle lots of noise, get out your headphones, shut your door, or study outside (if possible!). 

If your home is mostly shared spaces, try negotiating with your siblings or parents for solo use of an area for an hour or so, then switch off with them. When you do have the chance for some low-distraction study time, complete the school-related tasks that require the most concentration first, and save your lower-pressure assignments for times when the distractions aren’t unavoidable. 

 

Problem 4: Studying Can Get Monotonous or Boring

It may not seem like it at first, but doing school from home might get a little tedious after a while. When you go to school, you have more opportunities to use different learning styles and mediums, attend classes that incorporate physical activity, and spend time with your friends and peers. 

When you’re doing school from home, a lot of these elements of learning that you get to experience while at school mostly disappear. You’ll be able to use technology to listen to lectures and engage with other multimedia course content, but there are some things about face-to-face, in-person learning that is difficult to recreate through digital mediums. 

If the absence of some of these aspects of learning makes you feel a little bored or disengaged right now, make an effort to connect with your classmates and to get creative with your learning each day. Doing school from home shouldn’t exclusively consist of you staring at a computer screen, and it shouldn’t just be hours of independent study time either. Balance is key! Even though you may feel pressure to dedicate your entire “school day” to completing assignments online, remember that a real day at your school isn’t actually structured that way.

To mix things up, spend some of your day being active. Draw something or color a picture. FaceTime your friends and talk through a study guide. You can even spend some time outside (if you can social distance, of course)! Finding creative ways to incorporate these elements of learning into your long days of school-from-home can help to alleviate some of the boredom you might be feeling. 

 

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What's Next? 

If you’re in high school, you’re probably wondering what you should do about test prep. After all, many in-person prep classes have been cancelled, too! Why not check out our online test prep classes? Our expert courses can get you ready to knock your SAT (or your ACT) out of the park.

If this is your first time taking online classes, you may be unfamiliar with how they work. This expert article will teach you everything you need to know about taking classes online. 

For some students, AP classes may not be available at their high schools. Luckily, you can take AP classes online! Learn more about what that means (and how to choose the right online AP classes for you). 

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.



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