Skip to main content

How to Stay Focused While Distance Learning

Slow and Steady Wins the Distance Learning Race

There’s nothing like a mound of classwork on top of your already overflowing plate to send you into a complete tailspin. While distance learning or hybrid learning (a marriage between in-person learning and distance learning) can fit seamlessly with your schedule and allow you to pursue your passions, it can be all too easy to let your classwork fall by the wayside as a result of sheer overwhelm.

After a long day of work, you come home, put on yoga pants or sweatpants, pop open your laptop, and stare blankly at your online class hub. You head to the kitchen, make a Keurig cup of coffee, and sit back down at your laptop. “Let me check Instagram really quick, and then I’ll start my assignment,” you say to yourself. An hour later you check the time, and the cortisol starts to creep through your body. Sound familiar? 

Staying focused while distance learning or hybrid learning can be a painful task. Luckily, there are a few tools that can help you to stay ahead or at least in line with your classwork schedule. Slow and steady does, in fact, help you to reduce anxiety and make it through your distance learning education scoff free… and with a degree!

Tools to Keep Your Distance Learning on Track

We would love to say that there is a wonderfully magical tool that will keep you from missing an assignment, forgetting an exam, or keeping the perfect balance between work, school, and your home life. 

The reality is that there is no magical tool, but there are tools out there that will collectively help you to manage your schedule and stay focused when it matters most. These are a few of our favorite distance learning tools that will keep you on track and focused throughout your session. 

A Calendar Tool

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

A calendar of any sort is an absolute necessity to stay ahead of your classwork when participating in a distance learning or hybrid learning program. Whether you prefer handwriting in a day planner, bullet journaling, color coordinating your Google Calendar, or just dropping reminders into your Apple Calendar, this deadline and exam hub will be your lifeline. 

Pro Tip: at the start of your session, create a list of all key deadlines and exam dates. Put these deadlines into your calendar and set 48 hour and 24 hour notifications to ensure you never miss a deadline. 

Google Drive or Onedrive  

Distance learning is fluid; you work at your own pace within the confinements of your class deadlines. A fluid workflow means you can get your classwork done when it works best for your schedule; sometimes, that means spending your hour-long work break grinding out an assignment, or reading this week’s reading assignment. 

Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive allow you to access your documents from anywhere. Whether your laptop died, and you need to finish an assignment on the go, or you have a spare half hour while you’re out and about but only have your cell phone, these cloud based workspaces will allow you to access the documents you need when you need them.

An Incognito Browser

Most of us are well-aware of the rabbit hole that is the Internet. You browse one website, see an ad for a product you added to your cart but never purchased, visit that site and browse their products, then remember an Instagram influencer who posted about a product that’s supposed to work better than the one you want to purchase, and end up scrolling endlessly through your Instagram feed until you fall asleep. 

While staying focused takes a personal commitment, there are ways you can reduce distractions. Notably, using an incognito browser like Google Chrome’s Incognito Browser or the privacy browser DuckDuckGo, can help to eliminate the distracting advertisements that follow you around from site to site. These browsers work by preventing websites from saving your IP address in their database so they cannot target you with relevant ads. Less personalized ads on the Internet, less potential distractions.

Pro Tip: BlockSite is a Chrome browser extension that allows you to block certain websites and keywords that you believe are a potential distraction. You can set a blocker schedule that allows you to create time segments during which your selected websites and keywords are blocked, which is extremely beneficial if you have designated classwork time.

A Task List

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Your iPhone or Android phone have task applications included in the factory setting applications. Whether you choose to use your phone’s automatic task application, your favorite task app from the Apple Store or Google Play, or a good ‘ol fashioned paper to-do list, you should have your task list handy at all times. 

There’s nothing more satisfying than checking a task off your to-do list; the sense of accomplishment can motivate you to complete another task, or reward yourself with an episode from your favorite Netflix show. However you choose to celebrate your little victory, using your task list to harbor all of your class assignments, exams, or other notable dates is very useful. 

You can add all of your assignments for the class into your task list at the start of the session so that you do not miss a single assignment throughout the course of the class. This will prevent you from having to manually look up your assignments weekly, which is a time waster and, frankly, exhausting.

Pro Tip: There are 3 ways (probably more, but these are our best recommendations) you can organize your assignments in your task list. 

  1. Add all of your assignments into 1 task list and check them off as you go through the course. 
  2. Create separate task lists for each week, and add the assignments due on each week into the coordinating task list. 
  3. Create category task lists, and add your assignments into the coordinating task list (i.e. Reading Task List, Discussion Task List, etc.)


Timeboxing is the highest ranked productivity tool according to the Harvard Business Review. Timeboxing is the process of making boxes of time on your calendar for specific tasks. 

Let’s say you have around 4 hours of textbook reading to complete before the end of the week. The timeboxing method would have you set a 4 hour block in your calendar for your textbook reading (4 hours on 1 day, 2 hours over 2 days, or 1 hour over 4 days); the block is considered an appointment with yourself, so you do not schedule any other activities during this time. You just read your textbook. 

A timer is a useful tool to supplement the timeboxing method; you set a timer for your timebox appointment and hard stop when that time is complete. Timeboxing allows you to streamline your classwork by scheduling times during your day for certain assignments. This allows you to focus strictly on your assignments with confidence in knowing that you have plenty of additional time in your day to handle your various responsibilities. 

Hybrid Learning at Avenue Five Institute

At Avenue Five Institute, we understand that cosmetology, barbering, massage therapy, and esthetics are trades that require professional, hands-on training. We also understand that certain coursework can be completed in an online setting rather than a traditional, classroom setting. As a result, we created a unique, hybrid program that allows you to receive hands-on training when you need it and distance learning when it’s appropriate. 

Whether you have a desire to pursue a career as a hair stylist or barber or venture into the field of alternative medicine as a massage therapist, we have a place for you at Avenue Five Institute. Browse our program offerings and explore class start dates. It is never too late to pursue your passions.