My motto – be realistic!

Paul Mchugh completed his Graduate Diploma of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), studying online and working as an OHS Manager and Environment and Community Manager in mining operations in the Northern Territory. As a 30 Minutes a Month participant, he shares his insight on the art of planning.

There are three things that I had to commit to during my studies…

Allocate time not only to study but to participate in lectures and tutorials

Making a connection with your classmates is essential to have some support – even if only to check you’re on the right track. Your lecturer is keen to engage in your teaching and will answer questions and give direction. Allocating time is essential to ensure that you keep on top of your work and readings and know what is going on in the lectures.

While I was studying, it was important to avoid distractions. My distractions included my kids, my wife, my life, my job…  it goes on…  these are all vital puzzle pieces that need to be part of your life. Make time for this in your schedule. You are undertaking this study for a reason. To be successful, you must remember that reason but keep it realistic. You cannot just check out of life while you are studying. You do have to think about how best to incorporate your study into your life.

Make sure you don’t fall too far behind on your work. If you fall too far behind, it’s easy to become disheartened and give it up. If it seems like this is approaching, be sure to do something about it. Read a few articles related to your next assignment or lecture, talk to a classmate or your lecturer, even just check-in online and see what has been going on. It can seem hard. I have had to defer subjects and felt terrible about not being on top of things. Just one night, reading related articles made me feel more ‘on the path’, and it seemed easier from there.

Feeling like you might be falling behind in your study? The Academic Learning Centre can provide you with one-on-one assistance to guide you through becoming a confident and independent learner.

Deal with the material as to how it will apply to you

I studied in a discipline directly related to my work but still found ways to pull apart the course materials and apply them to my everyday life. For example, there are many observable safety examples in the community at places like retail shops, service stations, and airports that applied to what I was learning and could be adopted or modified for my industry.

To get yourself in the study mindset, I found that a steady routine was the thing that worked for me.  I mainly studied when I was out at work, and it became easy. The routine was to finish work, shower, dinner, back to my room to study for a couple of hours, bed. Some nights a couple of hours was getting online and participating in lectures and discussion boards. Some nights it was reading related to lectures or assignments. I wasn’t harsh on myself if I wanted to hang out with the team or not read anything. It just had to be a one-off.

I’m a little old school, but I love printing out articles and reading or highlighting relevant excerpts. So, my preferred study aid is very tactile – pens, highlighters, and a notebook. Not to detract from the online support available to us students, the discussion boards, emails with colleagues or your lecturer, or side chats with friends are great for staying connected when not physically roaming a campus.

Make it realistic 

As I was a fly in fly out worker at the time of my studies, it was possible for me to burn the candle at both ends when away from the family, but I needed the time with my family as well. I sorted my study routine out to – as best I could – prioritise study for my time away from the family.

When I was at home, I had great support from my amazing partner. It was important to me that I still engaged with their life as much as possible and only studied after they went to bed. I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but there is a saying that stuck with me – ‘pay attention to the small things as for them it has always been big things.’ I worked hard to be present and not distracted when they were up and about as much as possible. I guess that made it easier when I had to knuckle down and disengage. Remember that you are doing this study to improve yourself in many ways, and that will only contribute to them in the future. This won’t take forever, and there are breaks.

Feeling overwhelmed by your assessment? You’re not alone in this journey. CQUniversity offers students counselling support to assist you with wellness and personal resilience.

My final piece of advice

Not sure if this is possible in this COVID-19 world, but I encourage getting to an intensive study block. If you can afford it, in a time and money sense. I managed to get a couple of subjects done this way and wish that more were available for a few good reasons:

You get to connect with other students in a real sense. I learned a lot from my colleagues and their experiences in a short week on campus.

If you treat it like a job, you can get in, do the classes, and most of the assessment in short order.

Direct access to your lecturers as real people. They are real! And happy to help, answer questions, and provide directions where necessary. Calling all graduates! Want to give your advice to incoming students about things you wish you knew when you were studying? Alumni can sign up to the 30 Minutes a Month program and complete monthly tasks to earn rewards while assisting future students in preparing for the learning journey ahead.

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