3 Ways to Make Online School Work for You

COVID-19 has really changed the way that many of us live. Since March last year, many of us have had to get used to working or studying from home, due to closures and regional lockdowns. Coping with virtual learning can be really hard for people who learn better in groups or prefer the in-person guidance of an instructor to get through their readings and assignments. So how do you cope with online learning when you’re not the kind of person who is naturally self-directed?

3. Create a comfortable environment

Your living situation may or may not be ideal for studying, but there are always ways to make it more comfortable for you. If you have the space, set aside a room just for you to study in. This could work if you’re a young professional living alone or with a partner and have a second bedroom or a den that you could dedicate to study purposes. If you don’t have a separate room, invest in a decorative room divider and set aside a portion of your living room.

Do you live with many people or just have a noisy house? You can study in your bedroom if you don’t have another option, but you will need to make a few changes so that you can focus. I used to keep my PlayStation 4 in my bedroom, but when I returned to full-time studies, I moved it out to the living room so that I would no longer be tempted to run through the streets in GTA V stealing cars and running over helpless pedestrians (yep, somehow I prefer that to actually completing missions). I also bought myself a proper chair and a large enough desk to hold my laptop and leave me enough room to spread out my notes and textbooks.

If you share a bedroom with one or more other people (and you’re all home, thanks to COVID), the noise might still pose a problem and you may not even have space for a desk of your own. In that case, invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones so that you can listen to concentration music while you work.

2. Figure out whether you’re a morning or night person

This may not seem very important, but studying when you’re not at peak energy levels can waste a lot of your time. If you’re a night person, don’t study during the day just because someone told you that you should be studying all day and sleeping for eight hours at night. Follow your body. If you’re studying full-time and not working, then create a routine where you sleep until the late morning or early afternoon, and then do something active, such as working out or your daily chores. Once evening rolls around, you can start your assignments and readings, and you will feel alive and motivated.

If you’re a morning person, be sure not to be up on your phone late or leaving all your tasks for the evening. You will be tired and probably not be refreshed when you wake up. Set an early bed time and then get up between 5 to 7 AM to get your studying done. By the time you start to lose energy in the late afternoon and evening, you can then go ahead and do something active, get your errands done, and then go to sleep.

If you’re like me and have messed up energy levels (I have the most energy between 10 PM and 2 AM and again between 5 and 9 AM; the rest of the time, I’m something of a zombie), then work with that. Study when you have the most energy and do everything else when your energy is low. Working out is one of the best things to do when your energy levels are at their lowest because that will help you get your blood flowing and help get you going again.

1. Stay connected with classmates and friends

With most of us in varying forms of lockdown or restrictions on socializing, things can get very lonely, especially if you work from home along with virtual studies. When going to Wal-Mart or the corner shop becomes the main form of entertainment and you haven’t seen your friends in a while, staying motivated is not easy. Since this is quickly becoming our new normal, you may need to get used to connecting with others in ways you’re not used to.

If you’re a university or college student, it’s likely that your courses include online forums for students enrolled in the same course. If you attend your Zoom lectures, it’s likely that your classmates will come together to create a Discord or WhatsApp group chat that you can join. Don’t shy away from these, even if you’re introverted. They can be very useful during moments when you’re feeling isolated or perform better when you’re able to talk things out with others.


Get Off Your Ass and Follow Your Passion

Hi. My name is Kim-Lee Patterson, and I am a writer. Not just any writer, but a fiction writer with over 13 years of experience in writing pieces—85% of which never see the light of day. Oh, some of my work is out there, but the grand majority of it lies unfinished in an assortment of folders across three separate Cloud drives. Why? Oh, fear, probably.

See, that’s a thing that plagues many creatives.

Actually it plagues people in general, but I feel that creatives are especially bothered because our craft is often viewed as a hobby… or a pastime, you know? We’re told that we must have a lot of time on our hands, and we’re asked over and over again when we’re going to get a “real job.” Family, friends, colleagues and many others assume that you ‘’don’t know what you want” and that you will eventually figure yourself out in time.

And as time goes on and your art still remains your passion, their looks of concern and their scornful commentary rises high enough to rival Everest.

So, with that kind of energy swirling around your head, putting yourself out there can seem like the scariest thing in the world. Especially since I haven’t even mentioned the critics yet. Oh yeah. See, the naysayers and discouragers of your whole passion for art are one lot. But there are also the people who DO see the value in the arts, but don’t see the value in YOUR contribution to it. Their intent and purpose is, apparently, to ensure that you never post another bit of your work again. Ever. Anywhere. But you know something? The strength to rise beyond that and to keep on sharing your talent anyway is a thing that every creative needs to find if he or she is to be considered worthy of the title they hold. Whether writer, painter, illustrator, dancer, singer, musician, and yes, even a crafter, you are not worth your salt if you don’t try and try again.

Aaaaah! Such a cliché. I know.

But listen.

The reason why things become clichés is because they hold true, time and time again—so much so that that are immortalized in this thing we call language. Rise ABOVE. Do you hear me? Yes, I’m preaching to myself here too. We’ve got to fight for what we believe in, and the one thing I think you and I have in common is our love of art—regardless of whatever genre we hail from. Quit the second guessing and bare your ass. No, no…not literally. Come on! You know what I mean. It’s okay to have doubts, it’s okay to be afraid. Hell, it’s okay to feel hurt that most people don’t take you as seriously as you’d like them too. But it sure ain’t okay to hide 85% (or whatever percentage) of your work from the work because you think they may not like it, or because you think it isn’t good enough. Or because you think it still needs “fixing.”

I’ll tell you from experience: you’ll be fixing those goddamn manuscripts forever if you follow your inclinations.

Start a blog. Start a diary. Um, buy a notebook and take pictures of what you write in it and post them to Instagram. Buy a lamp and start being the photographer you think you need fancy equipment to be. Save up and buy a starter mic and put a piece of cloth over the thing ‘til you can afford a filter, and start that podcast. Mount your phone on a selfie stick and model your fashion designs. Get a tape recorder and record your music samples. Stop making excuses!

Yeah, I know, I know. I’m not the world’s best example of having my shit together, or being great at telling myself not to let days and weeks lapse between blog posts, or telling myself that I WILL write those next 1000 words of my novel “tomorrow.” But hey, while I’m screaming at the woman in the mirror to do better, I may as well jot it all down and encourage you too. Maybe I don’t know you. Maybe I do. But I DO want you to know that I’m rooting for you.

All of you.

I don’t care whether you’re full-time, part-time, or “just doing a lil somethin’ on the side.” Whatever you want to call it—if you’re an artist, then for the love of God, be the best artist you can be, with whatever resources you’ve got. Life is way too short to spend it doing only things that don’t make you insanely happy. I’m serious. It is far too short for that. 

What is the difference between a soft and a hard skill?

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

You’ve probably heard these terms being thrown around a bunch of times. But what do they mean, really? Today, I’m going to make it very very simple. Why? Because making things simple is my favorite thing to do.

Let’s begin.

A soft skill has more to do with emotions: dealing with people, situations, and behavior. Think about dealing with conflicts, resolving issues between other people (or between them and yourself), and just general communication in the workplace (or pretty much anywhere else). Those things fall within the realm of having good (or bad) soft skills.

Now, hard skills have to do with objects, applications, dealing with tools, machines, or just technical matters in general. So examples of hard skills would include things like typing, troubleshooting, programming, repair, and pretty much anything else that involves you using your hands or something that you perform/physically do.

Okay, so we’ve covered the definitions. Another question you may have is, “why are soft skills such a big deal in the workplace today?” Well, allow me give you some examples of a few soft skills, how they are used, and why they are so freaking important.

First one: reliability.

Have you ever worked with a really smart coworker who just had no idea how to be on time for meetings or get things done by a certain deadline? I think you can guess why reliability would be an important soft skill to develop. If people can’t rely on you, after a while they’re not going to care how good you are at doing the specific thing they want you to do.

And that leads us to our next soft skill, communication.

Have you ever had a coworker who didn’t know how to talk to people? One who came in every day and demanded things or ordered people around without even asking if how they were, if it is was a good time or if they had the capacity to take on something else? People who can’t communicate simply suck to be around. So if you do not have communication as a soft skill, then you’re going to find that there aren’t many places where your hard skills are going to be enough to to get you out of trouble.

Let’s see one more: self regulation.

You might wonder, “how is self regulation considered a soft skill? Or even a relevant one?” Well here’s another example. Suppose Johnny gets up every day at 6:00 AM to work on all of the extra projects he took home from work yesterday. He heads out at 8:30 to get to the office for 9, where he then proceeds to work all day, barely taking a break or talking to anyone he doesn’t have to speak to. When he leaves the office at 5, he gets home by 5:30 and fixes himself a poor excuse of a dinner before resuming all of the extra work that he took home from the office. He does this until around 9:00 or 10:00 PM, then does a couple stretches and take a quick shower before heading to bed–without doing anything fun for himself.

Johnny is obsessive, doesn’t know how to set boundaries with himself, and will eventually become pretty difficult to be around. Because he doesn’t listen to his own body or engage in any self-care, he’ll be hard to speak to and generally emit a negative vibe, because he does not know where to strike a balance between work and play. Even though he thinks he’s staying ahead of the game by bringing work home and not taking a break, what he’s really doing is making it difficult for anybody to interact with him in a meaningful way in the future. If all he does is work, then he has no time for recharging and no time to bring fresh ideas or even a positive attitude to the office.

So, there you have it: those are a few examples of soft skills that can be relevant to your work life.

There are many others, including time management, organization, accountability, coachability, teamwork, initiative, and problem solving. Feel free to hit up Google sometime and check out what types of soft skills you might be generally bad at, or missing entirely. It can be revealing to see that you are not as much of an interpersonal expert as you thought you were.

But, it’s not all bad news.

Even if you’ve developed your hard skills far more than your soft skills up until now, you still have time to change. You can develop your soft skills if you take some time out to figure out which areas you aren’t doing so great in. Reach out to friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else in your life will be honest with you to figure this out, and then work on yourself. You’ll find that your work persona and reputation will be a lot more balanced and many doors will open for you that were slammed shut before.

And remember, if you are already a soft skills expert, but aren’t doing so well in the hard skills department, well, that’s an easy fix. Go online to Coursera, Kham Academy, Udemy or another online learning portal to get access to free and inexpensive training on any topic imaginable. If you prefer to do things in person, look on Kijiji or Meetup and find classes, groups and workshops going on in your area. Strengthening your hard skills can admittedly be a lot easier than strengthening your soft skills, but it’s worth it to make sure that both are always being improved and attended to at all times.

Now, go out there and be amazing.


Disclaimer: This was “written” with dictation software and hastily proofread before my ADHD causes me to forget to post it for another month. Please excuse any and all typos or (nicely) point them out. Muchas gracias mis amigos.

Yours Truly,
Miss Kim-Lee

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