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Do You Have the Discipline for an Online Degree?

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Online learning isn't for everyone. Patti Faustini discusses the personal attributes you'll need

By Patti Faustini in Online Students / Fri December 31, 2010

So you think you lack the self-discipline necessary to earn an online degree? You probably do. I know I do.  But I’m going to tell you how I overcame the enemy (Facebook, Anthony Bourdain’s latest escapades, email, the lure of my Nook, and History Channel’s bubonic plague episodes) and earned my M.Ed online.

Because you recognize self-discipline as a stumbling block, you can deal with it. Some people don’t even know they have stumbling blocks; they’re the ones most likely to get blindsided by the self-discipline required to earn a degree online (or any degree, for that matter).

You and I share the same rival for our time and attention: distractions. Just two seconds ago, I lost a minor skirmish with Facebook (I had to find out about my daughter’s best friend who landed a job in Spain).  However, I admitted defeat and got right back to Word or you wouldn’t be reading this. Losing my focus didn’t matter nearly as much as regaining it. I hope you’ll remember that if self-discipline concerns cause you to worry about getting your degree online.

Distractions are as inevitable as taxes.  Whether you’re trying to ignore the siren call of video games, or that menacing laundry pile in the corner, or your best friend (who is the most fun and worst influence in the entire universe), staying focused  is tough. Self-discipline is for ‘Adults Only.’

But, aside from minor lapses, don’t you somehow manage to stay in the game? Don’t you haul yourself out of your cozy bed so you can go to work, do the dishes, or look for a job? You make yourself do these things because doing so generally results in a better quality of  life.

It’s the same with earning an online degree: you’ll mute your cell phone and email dinger when writing papers or studying.  You’ll turn off the TV or video games until you’ve finished  that chat with your online cohorts and instructors. You’ll find you’re able to do these things for the exact same reasons you go to work, do the dishes, or look for a job: getting an online degree generally results in a better quality of life.

Here’s a terrific technique for beating Demon Distraction in your pursuit of an online education: engage in short battle sequences. You set a timer for 30 minutes (works for me). Then, you maniacally attack your studies. When the timer dings, you’re free. Now, set the timer for 10 minutes and do whatever you want: gaming, laundry, texting your brains out, ordering on QVC, or whatever. At the 10  minute dinger, reset the timer for 30 minutes and return to your academics with a razor sharp focus. Repeat the cycle. This really works for me when I have to do anything I don’t want to do (domestic chores come to mind). I just can’t work and work forever. I have to stop periodically and do what I want.

If you’ve read this far you have enough self-discipline to set a timer, get your online degree, and do the right thing to improve the quality of your life.  I have confidence in you. You’re not in this alone; I would love to hear from you.