It is without a doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new normal, such as grocery shopping or hearing Sunday mass through our tablets and laptops from the safety of our homes. But perhaps the biggest adjustment most of us had to make is having to work and/or study from home. As a student myself, I have to admit that this change was not easy, and that it took a lot of time for me to get used to taking my exams and submitting my assignments in the same place I eat breakfast. Sometimes, studying from home feels like the hours are bleeding into one another, and that I have absolutely no sense of when the work starts and ends.
Luckily, I was able to come up with a few ways to make studying from home a lot easier and this new normal a lot more bearable. From being able to weather my long and complex assignments into more manageable chunks of work to incorporating much-needed study breaks in my day, here are five tried and tested tips to successfully study from home:
- Create a work schedule and stick to it. If you’re like me and your professors have already provided you with a schedule of your classes and assignments, then fantastic, all you need to do is try your best to stick to it. I found printing my schedule out and sticking it to my desk’s cork board to be really helpful. This is because whenever I lost track of time or didn’t know what my next class was, all I had to do was look up and find it on my schedule.
However, if you have to make your own weekly schedule based on the amount of workload given to you every week, then there are a few extra things to consider. One would be knowing your work ethic – are you the kind of person who likes to work continuously with very little breaks so that the work is accomplished faster and you have more leisure time afterwards? Or are you the kind of person who prefers to space out your work with breaks in between so that the load isn’t as overwhelming? Whatever your work ethic is, these should reflect in your schedule – for example, having a schedule with little breaks and continuous work hours, or a schedule with longer breaks and shorter work hours. What’s important is that you know what works for you and you know what kind of schedule will help you maximize your productivity. Just remember to stay on schedule!
- Keep track of your work with a to-do list. I’m an avid fan of bullet journalling and one of the key features of a bullet journal is the daily to-do lists. These to-do lists of mine kept me focused (and if I’m being honest, sane) on all the tasks I had to accomplish and they made it easier for me to break down some of my heavier workloads into manageable chunks of work. That being said, you don’t have to have a bullet journal to do all of this! A simple pad paper and a pen will do so you can begin writing your to-do lists however way you want. Also, there are a number of journal or to-do list apps available in your smartphone or tablet that you can use. They can go hand in hand with your weekly schedule, as you can jot or type in whatever you need to get done for a certain class on a certain day on your to-do list and then check it off when it’s finished. I find that to-do lists didn’t just help me keep on track, but they gave me a sense of accomplishment too. An item ticked off on my list gives me enough motivation to keep me going.
- Stick to a daily routine. Before the COVID-19 pandemic happened, we all had mostly consistent daily routines – we woke up, ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and went home at certain times of the day. These were our constants back then, and whether we’re aware of it or not, they gave us a sense of control and direction in our lives. Now that we’re all stuck at home, we might feel overwhelmed and at a loss of what to do and when to do these things. Establishing a daily routine can really help with that. What I did was to recreate my old daily routine as closely as possible – I woke up at the same time every morning, I ate during the time I usually would’ve in school, and I’d halt all work at the same time my last class would usually end. This helped me stay on track with my classwork and prevented my work from bleeding into the leisure hours of my day.
When recreating your own daily routine, it’s important to have a clear and firm separation between work and leisure. When you’ve set your end time to 2 pm, you must end at 2 pm no matter what – otherwise the hours bleed into one another and pretty soon you’ll find yourself working late into the evenings or even wee hours of the morning. Don’t do this. It is physically and mentally unhealthy; and it puts you at a greater risk for burnout!
- Chat or video call with your friends and/or blockmates. Whilst under enhanced community quarantine, it’s very easy to feel isolated from everything and everyone you love – because unfortunately, it is for the most part true. I found myself feeling less isolated and more motivated to work whenever I was on call with my friends and blockmates. This gave me a semblance of normalcy as I could pretend that we were all still physically in class together, working on our assignments side by side like usual. So if while studying or working you miss your friends and want to chat, don’t hesitate to give them a call! Chances are, they’re missing you – and their normal lives – just as much, and are needing the motivational boost and emotional support as well.
- Don’t force yourself to be productive. If there’s only one thing you take away from my list of tips, it should be this: when you physically, emotionally, and mentally cannot accomplish everything that’s on your to-do list, don’t. Obviously we don’t always have a say on this – more often than not the tasks that are assigned to us by our professors are time sensitive – but when you can afford to stop working, stop. Forcing yourself to be productive even when you’re already physically, emotionally, and mentally unwell is very unhealthy, and may subject you to unnecessary stress and anxiety. During this enhanced community quarantine our number one goal as students isn’t to maintain our level of productivity to that of the level we had before it started – no, the goal is to stay healthy. Exposing ourselves to high levels of stress puts us at risk of contracting illness and disease, which is the last thing we need during a global pandemic.
So don’t feel guilty about taking frequent breaks and definitely don’t beat yourself up for not being able to accomplish as much work as you used to. The whole world is undergoing mass trauma and our bodies may process this trauma in a way that makes us lethargic, exhausted, and unproductive. And that’s okay. Be sensitive to what your body needs to do to cope with these uncertain times – even if it means not being able to finish everything on your to-do list.