Hi! I’m Montana, a fourth year uni student from Perth. Throughout my degree I’ve been ranked in the top 1% of students for academic performance.
During that time, I’ve become an expert at studying productively from home, so much so that I now get more done there than what I would on campus.
And while I understand that this isn’t the same for everyone, sometimes we have no choice but to work from home.
You might have to take an online unit because it clashed with your work schedule. Or you might be trying to avoid studying in public spaces for the time being.
Whatever the reason, I’ve got 5 tips to make sure those hours at home aren’t wasted on snacking, procrastinating and Netflix.
1. Set up a designated study area
If you don’t already have a productive area where you can study at home, now is the perfect time to create one!
Find somewhere in your house with good lighting. Ideally, the spot should be near a window as exposure to natural light increases the amount of melatonin you produce, which indirectly affects your alertness.
Next think about whether the space is going to be comfortable for a long period of time. Consider your posture – try find somewhere where you can sit with two feet on the ground, your back straight and your arms at a comfortable height for typing and writing.
You may notice your neck getting sore from looking down at your page or laptop. This is when old textbooks or magazines come in handy. Stack them up and put your computer on top so you’re working at eye level.
Finally, find somewhere with limited distractions. If you’re not used to studying at home even the smallest distraction – background noise from the TV, pets and unfinished chores – may steer you away from being productive.
Whatever you do, avoid studying on the couch or in your bed!
2. Get dressed
We don’t often get the chance to stay in our pyjamas all day and while it may be tempting to do so when studying from home, I suggest getting dressed first thing in the morning!
If you want to stay productive, try keep your routine as close to normal as possible.
Getting dressed in the type of clothes you’d normally wear to uni will help convince your brain its time to get to work.
3. Communicate with your peers and teachers
Use email and social media to stay in touch with your university network.
If you have a question, simply email your lecturer or tutor. Don’t let yourself fall behind just because your study situation is a little different. They will appreciate you getting in touch and be more than happy to help.
Also stay active in the group chats you have with your university friends. You’re used to chatting with each other during class, so organise a group call every couple of days. It will help you all stay on track.
4. Write a to-do list, create a timetable and schedule in breaks
Work out what you need to work on at the beginning of each day. Turn this brainstorm into a prioritised to-do list, putting the most important tasks at the top.
Now create a timetable for the day. You’re used to having a structured day full of lectures, workshops and tutorials, so stay productive by continuing to follow a time bound plan, rather than just doing tasks when you feel like it.
Take into account your most productive hours, based on your normal routine. If you normally prefer having your classes in the morning, schedule your most important tasks for the first few hours of the day, as you’re used to concentrating at that time. On the other hand if you’re a night owl, plan to do the tasks that require more brain power in the afternoon or evening.
And don’t forget to schedule in breaks!
Here are a few quick scheduling techniques that will help you improve your productivity:
- The Pomodoro Technique – work for 25 minutes with no distractions then take a 5 minute break (avoid looking at your phone or laptop during this time).
- Eat That Frog Perspective – tackle your hardest project (the one you dread the most) first, then everything after that will feel easier.
- Flowtime Technique – split large tasks up into smaller, more achievable sections and then work until you feel you need a break.
5. Stretch and exercise when you can
Don’t underestimate the power exercise has on your productivity!
It can help you gain energy, boost your memory and reduce stress levels.
We tend to forget that simply walking between classes gives us a few minutes to stretch and let our brains have a break.
As you won’t be getting this exercise at home, it’s important to schedule time in to stretch and move around.
A short walk, some yoga or an at home workout are easy ways to get a break from the books and computer screens and ensure you’ll be productive when you return.
This video has some great stretches designed to relieve the areas that get sore from studying!
At home you’ll have access to all your favourite food, just walking distance away, making it hard to resist the temptation of non-stop snacking.
To overcome this, take a few snacks out at the start of the day – two healthy options and one cheat option – and only eat those when you’re feeling snacky or want to reward yourself.
Although studying at home can seem easy because it’s so convenient, procrastination and distraction can get in the way of you efficiently producing your best work.
Many of us aren’t that great at overcoming these barriers to start with.
However, the more you practice these tips the sooner you’ll start to see your at home productivity grow.