Depending on your school, ‘non-contact time’ may be called ‘off-air time’, ‘set work’, ‘self-motivated study time’, ‘individual study time’, or simply ‘homework’. Basically, it’s any time that’s not contact lesson time or otherwise occupied, when you’re meant to be doing whatever work your teacher set for you to do during the lesson.
So, here are my best tips for getting the most out of your non-contact time.
#1 – Have a routine.
Up to about Year 10, your teacher will probably ask your to send in a timetable of when you’re going to be doing your homework. No, they probably don’t expect you to follow. We all know you won’t.
However, you do need to keep a basic routine, at least. Try to get up at a reasonable time and be at your desk by 9am (9:30 at the latest) – unless, of course, you have an 8:45 lesson. Get to bed at a sensible hour, and try to eat meals at about the same time each day (have breakfast, have lunch, have dinner).
Your school will probably encourage you to work at the same hours as kids at face-to-face school, and it’s definitely best to start work at around the same time. But you don’t have to work from 9-3. You might choose to take a long break after lunch and go back to schoolwork at 3 and work through to 5 or 6. That’s up to you and your supervisor (mother or governess).
#2 – Know what you’re going to do.
When you sit down at your desk, or before you do, work out what bit of homework you’re going to get on with first. It’s a good idea to do the homework from a lesson immediately after that lesson – or at least make a good start on it. This way, it’s all fresh in your mind. Of course, this can get a bit difficult if you have two contact lessons one after the other.
For myself, I’ve found it beneficial to have a (written or mental) ranked list of tasks that need to get done. Organising the tasks by when they’re due is a good idea. If you have a large project due in four weeks, break it down into smaller chunks and spread them out on your list. When you sit down at your desk in the morning, pull out your mental list and get started on the next bit of work on it.
#3 – Take breaks.
Not great big long frequent ones, like road workers, but it’s still good to take breaks. Have a short break after you’ve completed a piece of work, or even a particularly difficult exercise. Take a quick walk outside, if it’s not too hot, and have a piece of fruit. A quick five-minute break will make your mind sharper when you go back to work.
#4 – Keep your fluids up.
Keep a glass of water on your desk. Naturally, don’t keep certain beverages at your desk, such as cordial, fizzy drink, alcohol, and so forth. Water or fruit juice is perfectly sufficient. If it’s hot, put ice cubes in!
#5 – Don’t procrastinate.
I’m sure you’ve been told this a lot, and I know it’s difficult to do, but it’s important.
If you’re freaking out about a certain homework task, don’t start off with that. Choose something easy and manageable to start off with, but at least do something. Of course, don’t put off the big task forever. If you really are having trouble getting started with it, e-mail or phone your teacher.
Remember the golden rule – work before play. Reward yourself when you finish a task, by taking a break, having a piece of fruit, or playing a game you like.
#6 – Remove distractions.
Since you’re working mostly at a computer, it’s important not to have distractions on the computer while you’re working. Before you get started on schoolwork, close all the windows of stuff you do in your leisure time, and just have school-related stuff open.
Don’t work in your bedroom. If your parents put your desk in there, ask them to move it somewhere else. Your bedroom is full of distractions and you’ll never get any work done. Likewise, don’t have a television or a bookcase full of non-school-related books in your schoolroom.
#7 – Ask your teacher.
If you get stuck, if you’re having problems understanding your work, if you don’t know how to start or how to do the next bit, or if your technology isn’t working, don’t put it off until your next contact lesson, by which time you’ll probably have forgotten the question and may well have forgotten that you didn’t actually finish the task. Remember, your teachers are sitting in a call centre doing nothing all day but waiting for their dear students to give them someone to talk to. (Don’t tell your teachers I said that). Anyway, if you have a problem, send them a quick e-mail or phone them.
I think this is everything we covered, but if you’re a SOTA/correspondence/distance student and have any more ideas, let me know.