11 tips for staying productive while studying from home

JodieAdvice, Final Year, First Year, Guest Blogger, Postgraduate, Second Year

With social distancing comes the challenge of studying and preparing for your assessments from home. If you’re used to doing the majority of your studying with your friends or in the library, it can be tricky to get into the right headspace to carry out all your work from home now. To help you out, we’ve pulled together these tips to ensure you can still cross out everything on your to-do list.

Dress for success

Now we are all spending more time at home, it can be tempting to just sit around in your PJs. However, you’re more likely to get into the right mindset for studying if you smarten up a bit. Now, we’re not say you should break out a suit for a day of creating mindmaps at your kitchen table, but a shower and some comfy, but practical clothes will help set the tone for a more productive day.

Create a designated study space

Whether it’s a desk/chair/beanbag, create a little study space and try and stick to using that spot for studying – that way, it will be easier for you to physically and mentally distance yourself from your studies when you move to another part of your house/flat.

It’s also a good idea to make your study space an appealing place to be. Having a pen pot, a framed photo that makes you happy and a potted plant are just some ideas to get you started (however, don’t fall into the trap of cramming too many things into your study space, as a messy environment is distracting and stressful). If you can, sit by a window so you have a view to gaze at when you’re procrastinating thinking and easy access to fresh air.

Write a to-do list

Is there anything more satisfying than crossing a task off your to-do list (the answer, you’ll find, is no)? At the beginning of each day, spend a few minutes writing down some key things you want to complete or have achieved by the end of the day. This will help you focus your mind and prioritise your workload.

However, it’s important that you are realistic when jotting down tasks (we would all like to think we could nail the 574 tasks that we’ve assigned ourselves for that day, but the reality is it isn’t going to happen – unless you’re superhuman). Write down a few urgent, achievable things that will make you feel good when you’ve done them.

If you’re finding that your list of things to do is never-ending, it may help to create a separate ‘master list’ of tasks and then having separate daily lists which will help you chip away at everything you need to do.

Listen to productivity soundtracks

It can be good to have the freedom to blast out your thrash metal tunes without having to use headphones, but sometimes it’s good to tone things down and put on less-distracting soundtracks. There are loads of playlists specifically designed to aid concentration or studying on streaming services like Spotify. These often feature chilled or instrumental tracks to help get you in the zone.

If ambient noise is your thing, why not look up playlists full of soothing rain or nature sounds? If you haven’t already, then also check out Coffitivity, an app which creates a gentle background noise such as the chatter of a coffee shop or the hubbub of a campus café – great for if you’re missing those carefree days of being able to sip chai lattes at Costa.

Take frequent breaks…

Sitting hunched over your laptop or books for hours is going to cause you a whole host of problems such as aches and pains, eye strain and a bad posture. It’s important you get up and move every so often, whether that’s to go and make yourself a drink, have a natter with your flatmate or do a spot of fishing on Animal Crossing. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

If you often find yourself getting stuck in the zone and not moving for hours at a time, consider setting alarms on your phone or whack a post-it note on your laptop screen so every time you see it, you remember to have a stretch.

…but get a balance between studying and downtime

We’ve all been there – promising yourself you’ll only watch one Netflix episode for a lunch break and the next thing you know, you’ve finished the whole series and you’re scrolling through the other recommendations.

It can be hard to start focusing on your studies again, but it’s important that you are strict with the length of your breaks. A great way to do this is to work in sprints – set yourself a timer for 50 minutes or so, then have a ten-minute break when it goes off. Rinse and repeat.

Another option is to map out your day ahead of time by creating a schedule. It can be hard to focus when you’ve got the whole day stretching out in front of you with no routine, so draw up a plan of your day and allocate yourself study and rest times. It’s also important you set yourself a time to finish your studying for the day, so you can properly switch off when that time comes around.

Break out your favourite stationery

Now you’ll be doing the majority of your studying digitally, you’re probably watching lecture recordings and attending webinars. While this is all great, it’s still important you have a notebook and pens on hand to take notes, rather than just relying on rewinding recordings. It’s easy to get distracted when using your laptop, so you’ll find you remember more if you scribble down key bits of information. We recommend investing in a nice notebook and pens which you’ll be just itching to use at any chance you get.

Make time for exercise

You don’t need us to tell you how good exercise is for you, but we will remind you that moving your body will pump oxygen around your muscles, strengthen your lungs and flood your body with mood-enhancing chemicals, all of which will increase your productivity levels. It’s just trickier to make sure you’re getting enough now we’re spending most of our time indoors.

Don’t let the gym being closed stop you from getting in your workout though – there are thousands of hours worth of workout videos on YouTube, whether you want it sweat it out in HIIT, dance like nobody’s watching (and they won’t be!) in Zumba or get your core burning in an abs session.

We also recommend picking a certain time of day to do your workout (whether that’s when you get up in the morning, during your lunch break or in the evening as you’re winding down) as then you’re be more likely to stick to the routine.

Eat healthily

In the same vein as the previous point, look after your body by being mindful of when and what you eat. With your kitchen being close at hand, it’s easy to just keep raiding the cupboard and munching your way through your emergency supply of vegan chocolates and crisps. Try and stock up on some healthier snacks, plan some simple meals and stick to a regular eating routine where possible.

Organise virtual study sessions with your pals

Sometimes you may love the peace and quiet you get at home, as it might be easier to focus on getting stuff done. However, it’s also completely normal to feel isolated and lonely during this time. It’s important to try and maintain as much contact with the outside world as possible, so make sure to organise plenty of video catch-ups with your friends. You can either have a virtual coffee break together, or even host a study session together. Just seeing your friends’ smiling faces will instantly brighten your day.

Don’t be hard on yourself

With all this extra time spent at home, you may be thinking your productivity levels will be through the roof. That’s not always the case all of the time though. And, remember, we’re currently living through a global pandemic – you can’t put pressure on yourself to be your absolute best self right now. The most important thing at the moment is keeping yourself and others safe, and just getting through this as best as you can – however that looks for you.

Written by Jodie Carpenter, Careers and Placements