7 Tricks To Develop Self-Discipline & Ace Your Online Classes

Taking online classes has never been so easy.

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The fall semester is coming soon for some students and that fear of falling behind is starting to creep up again. As many colleges and universities turn to online classes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it's crucial to learn how to develop self-discipline while you're working from home. 

Taking online classes for another semester is scary because we don’t know if the professors are going to be as forgiving. But don’t worry, there are ways to help you focus and succeed in no time. 


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What is Self-Discipline?

Self-Discipline is the training and control of oneself and one's conduct for personal improvement. According to Adam Sicinski, founder of IQ Matrix, "On the surface, self-discipline is about finding compelling reasons to do something then committing yourself to see that task or activity through to the very end."


Sicinski also shares that possessing self-discipline requires having an internal desire, drive, and motivation that pushes you towards the right goal. It's specifically about your ability to control your desires and impulses that are trying to pull you away from the task at hand in an attempt to stay focused on what needs to get done to achieve that goal.

How to Develop Self-Discipline

This will take time and won't happen overnight. It's the process of building consistent daily habits over time that will help get closer to our desired outcome and taking small, consistent actions to form habits that will help to achieve your goals.

So think about it as training for a marathon. You wouldn't just wait until the day of the marathon to stretch and get your body ready to run for a long time, you would take months to prepare so that you don't get tired once they yell "Go!"

1. Define what you want

Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want.


For example: if you want to pass your test that is next week, make a list of all that you need to do in order to pass (1. Study the chapter that is going to be on the test. 2. Make flashcards. 3. Work on practice problems etc...)

Sicinski says to ask yourself these questions to gain clarity on what you want:

  • What is it that I want to do, be, have, or achieve?
  • What new habit would I like to develop?
  • What behavior would I like to change?
  • What is the one thing that I want to focus on in this moment?

2. Keep up with a routine

College is freeing as you can choose what days and what time to take certain classes. And it might be tempting to just skip classes when attendance isn’t counted for. 

But once you get in the habit of sleeping in and maybe checking in on what you have due will hurt you in the end. All that work you brushed off to the side will pile up and then you’re stuck working well into the night trying to turn everything in. 


Casita.com suggests doing something that will get you up and going for the day, such as taking a shower, going for a walk, making breakfast or a cup of coffee, just anything that you used to do before class. They also suggest changing into clothes and out of your pajamas, and this will all be a step into keeping a routine to stay focused. 

3. Create a workspace dedicated only for school work 

The luxury of leaving your dorm or house and staying at the library or the coffee shop all day is no longer on your plate. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a workspace at home. 

Casita says to have this space somewhere that will keep you motivated and attentive, so not in the playroom or the dining area. They also suggest keeping your workspaces away from your bedroom as you will be tempted to just lay down on your bed. 

Catherine Avery, owner of productivitybydesign.com, tells the Lexington Herald Leader that not having a dedicated workspace means you're not honoring the work that you do.


Maybe there’s a desk in your parent’s room that never gets used, or a spot outside that is far enough to get a wifi connection and is away from your family and under some nice shade. Just make sure you don’t sit there while not working, because then your mind will start to get used to slacking off in that area and no work will get done. 

4. Download apps for school 

Having WiFi is one thing, but is it stable enough? If your connection at home is causing a difficulty staying in class or turning in assignments, try and find someone you know who has a stable connection (and make sure they tested negative and it’s someone who will keep six feet apart!).

Casita suggests downloading certain apps that help with tracking time, taking notes, or setting up schedules with reminders. 

5. Eliminate distractions

There might be an assignment that can be done in under ten minutes, but will take longer if you constantly check your phone or go to different websites online.


It might be easy to just tune everything out and look through social media. But in the end, sending those tweets to your friends could have waited. 

Casita says to eliminate social media so that it doesn’t allow you to be distracted. You can either turn off notifications for the day from all social media apps or if you think you still will be tempted to check, delete the apps from your phone. 

Another distraction can be the people you’re around. Especially if you’re at home and you have siblings who are wanting to play and scream in the living room, or if you’re living with roommates and one of them decides to have a karaoke contest with themselves. 

Casita says to establish boundaries with those under your roof so they will not disturb you. Make sure they know of your class schedule so they won’t walk in on you trying to talk with your teacher or classmates. 


6. Find different learning strategies that work best for you

Now is the best time to try and find out what learning style works best for you. Or even what learning style works best in different classes. 

Maybe in your Math class, you learn best by writing out the formulas many times until you can write them out without looking them up. Or you learn best with flashcards for your English class. 

Casita says to find out if you are a visual learner, auditory learner, or other ways so that you are encouraged to participate and interact in class more. They also suggest finding what way of taking notes fits you best. Try and see if you pay attention and retain the information better with writing it down, typing it, or recording to listen later. 

7. Keep up with communications

Communication is key during school, and this includes both your professor and your classmates. It’s easy to just handle things on your own, but you might get help if you ask. 


Casita reassures not to be afraid to reach out to your professors with questions and to participate in class discussions so you can be attentive. Getting help from others helps you to share any feelings about what’s going on, you never know if someone else feels the same. 

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What does it take to develop self-discipline?

You need to have a reason why. In this case, you want to get good grades in class and not barely pass this year. This also includes any small tasks that lead to a bigger goal.

It requires unwavering commitment and accountability. According to Sicinski, "Long-term commitment takes discipline, and typically, this ain’t something that most people are good at doing by themselves. What these people are fundamentally lacking is a little bit of accountability." It is something that requires us or someone else to hold ourselves accountable for our actions.


Developing self-discipline also requires penalties and rewards. To avoid cycles of struggling through specific tasks, use punishments and rewards, as these will help direct your behavior throughout the journey to the goal.

Reward yourself after making choices that help move you closer to your preferred goal, and penalize yourself when you make decisions that push you back.

You can also create a competitive environment for yourself. This doesn't mean competing against other people, but by putting yourself in a mindset where you are doing your best to outwork others.


"Measuring your current results against past performance can be a useful method in helping you stay focused, motivated, and disciplined," explains Sicinski.

At the end of the day, self-discipline comes down to personal standards. Sicinski says, "The personal standards you uphold keep you on track as you work toward your goal. They are kind of like unspoken rules that guide your choices, decisions, behavior, and actions throughout the day." Some questions to ask yourself are

  • What personal standards will I uphold?
  • What behaviors and choices will I accept? Which ones will I not accept?
  • How will I correct things when I get off track?

What happens if you fail?

We all make mistakes, and we can't be perfect all the time because what is there to learn from? These are just some rules to remind yourself and to get you back on track, not something to hurt yourself over.

James Good of Game Quitters shares how it's important to become comfortable with failure and learning how to forgive yourself. He says, "Even with our best intentions, we fall short. It happens. However, it’s important that you always move forward. If you stumble or hit an obstacle, take some time to acknowledge what caused it and move on."


Straying from the original path is not a reason to hate yourself. It's an opportunity to forgive yourself and to remind yourself why you're doing this in the first place.

Remember, it might look scary at first, but the future is bright. And it's all yours for the taking if you follow these steps to self-discipline.

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Isabell Tenorio is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, love and relationship topics.