productivity, Students, Studying

The Ultimate Guide to Studying from Home

Studying from home

The recent announcement of lockdown 3.0 means that the majority of students are now completely studying from home. I started the year completely online, and midway through my first term I was informed that at least the first year of my course would be completely online. This was no surprise to me, I figured it was coming, and I was mostly okay with it. The announcement of the first lockdown came in the run up to my final year exams of my last degree, and after that I knew I had to adjust to working from home. 

The idea of studying from home really divides me. On one hand I miss the interaction and the teaching quality is obviously affected by virtual delivery. But on the other hand, I quite like not having to do 30 minute bus and 20 minute walk commute to university everyday. 

Whether you love or hate the idea of studying from home, it’s not going to change the fact that we have to do it. So I’m here to help you do it, and do it well! 

For those who manage to read till the end, I have a surprise for you!


Please note: whilst I encourage you to be your most productive self, don’t let this be to the detriment of your mental health. Check out my post on prioritising your mental health.

If you want you can skip to the bits you want to read the most:


How to stay focused when studying from home

Get up from your desk and walk around a bit

Okay so this sounds like the opposite of staying focused but stay with me. I mean that, whilst you’re on a break, get up and walk around a bit. We’re all guilty of it, we decide to take a break from studying so we pick up our phones, sit back and start scrolling on TikTok or Insta. THAT IS NOT A PROPER BREAK. You need to actually leave your workspace: go make a cup of tea, go to the toilet, stretch. If you go straight from looking at your computer to looking at your phone, then you’re not giving your eyes a break either, which could lead to eye strain.

Get yourself a workspace that’s not your bed

The temptation to work from your bed is REAL, trust me I know. At uni, I used to be working at my desk in my room, and I could feel my bed calling out to me. So I’d say to myself ‘I’ll just take my laptop and work on my bed, and then I would put the TV on for background noise. The next thing I knew, the laptop was closed and I was just watching Netflix. 

I advise not working in your bed for two reasons:

  1. You’re not going to be as productive as you would be working at a desk or even at your dining room table. It’s too easy to lie back, pick up your phone or turn on the television
  2. It is so important to separate your work space from your rest space, both physically and mentally. I don’t do any work in bed anymore, in fact I don’t do any work in my room. The only thing I do in my bedroom that requires thought is reading and journaling. That way, when I go to my room, my brain recognises that I am in a place of rest, and I can start to wind down for bed.

I appreciate that I am incredibly fortunate to have an office space in my house. Working at the dining room table can be just as good at separating work and rest spaces. Even if you have to work in your bedroom, work at a desk, not on your bed.

Organise your day

This can mean different things to different people. For some people they just need a to-do list to get started and that’s enough structure for them. For me, I need a little more structure, so I have a to-do list for the day (including my three daily goals) and then I use a schedule/time blocking.

I like to organise my day the evening before, otherwise I find that I get ready to start the day and then I’m wasting precious time figuring out what I need to do. I start off with my three goals for the day, then add any other tasks I need to do. Once I’ve done this I then organise them into my schedule. Obviously this is a bit different during term time, as I organise my day around my teaching.

Time Blocking

The benefit of using time-blocking and not just a task list is that I don’t waste time trying to decide which of my tasks I want to do next (and I’ll normally pick the easiest). Instead, at any point of the day I can look at my daily planner, and know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Some people might think this is too strict and ‘what if I don’t feel like doing that task when it comes to it’, but sometimes, you have to force yourself to get a task done, and I’ll usually feel so much better after I’ve done it.

Another thing I have started doing this year is a technique that I saw on TikTok (I don’t know why I seem to get all my facts from TikTok now, I’m sorry lol). This guy Peter Pru had basically made a ton of money using this BUILD technique to structure his day. So let me tell you what it is. 

Everyday I write the letters BUILD in my diary, and each one represents something you should do every day.

the world BUILD which arrows coming off it stating: body, you, income, relationships and development
  • B – Body – what did I do for my body today, so like a workout or a walk, something like that.
  • U – You – what can you do today for yourself? Remember self care is not selfish
  • I – Income – what have you done today to boost your income? If you’re a student like me, I translate this into studying, because that basically is for my income, just 5 years down the line
  • L – Relationships – Don’t ask me why L stands for relationships (maybe love? idk), but what can you do today to work on your relationships with other people?
  • D – Development – What are your going to do today for your personal growth and development?

So far, I’m really enjoying it, I’ll keep you updated!

Limit distractions

I read a scary statistic the other day, that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to working after an interruption. TWENTY FIVE MINUTES. I don’t know about you but I don’t have time in my day to be distracted for 25 minutes, multiple times in the day. To limit your distractions effectively, you first need to figure out what they are. 

  • Your phone – put it on do not disturb, those notifications that flash up on your phone are literally designed to get you to go on your phone, so turn them off. Consider using an app like Forest, which I’ll talk about more later on in this post.
  • Your family – make it clear to your family that you are not to be disturbed and put a note on the door to remind them. You could also invest in some headphones to block out some of the noise
  • The TV – this was a really hard habit for me to get out of. I used the justification that, if I can study listening to music, then surely I can study listening to the TV, but in reality, I can’t. In fact now when I study, I only listen to lo-fi that doesn’t really have any words in. (As I am writing this I’m listening to some classical piano, which is really unlike me, but actually I’m quite enjoying it.) My point is that the TV shouldn’t be on when you’re studying, even if you think it’s just going to be in the background.

Keep your workspace tidy

The last thing I do before I leave my workspace (after I’ve planned for the next day) is to tidy my workspace, so that when I come down in the morning with my cup of coffee, I can get started straight away. A cluttered desk will be full of distractions and you’ll spend your day not being able to find anything. If needs be, invest in some pretty box files and pen holders.


How to stay motivated when studying from home

It’s not forever

As humans, we are much better at coping with uncomfortable or difficult circumstances if we know that they aren’t going to last forever. You can study so intensely during exam season because you know that after your exams you won’t have to do it anymore. The end point is in sight. And even though we don’t have a specific date for when things will go back to normal. We do know that things won’t be this way forever (hopefully). So keep reminding yourself of that.

Make your workspace inspiring

My laptop home screen is a bunch of motivational quotes that I wrote out on procreate. Everytime I turn my computer on, before I even start working, I can read them, and inspire myself to work hard. You could get a little motivational print to go on the wall, or even get a mug that inspires you. Check out one of my favourite quotes that I found on a mug, that motivates me with every sip!

Get out of your pyjamas

Yes, one of the biggest benefits of studying from home is that you can study in your pyjamas, but I wouldn’t advise that you make it a regular thing. The act of washing your face, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, getting ready in general, does exactly that. It gets you ready for the day. Changing out of your pyjamas signals to your body that rest is over, it’s time to work. This is a part of physically and mentally separating work and rest parts of your life.

Keep a morning routine

This is quite similar to the last point, but i think it’s worth going into more detail. A morning routine is an essential aspect of readying yourself for the day. The interesting thing about morning routines is that they don’t even need to be the same everyday. I came across this recently on the BossBabe podcast. When you wake up in the morning, you won’t always have time to do your ‘perfect morning routine’, sometimes you have to chop bits out, but you should think about your day ahead, and figure out what would be the best aspects of your morning routine to properly prepare and energise you for the day ahead. Some days a vigorous cardio workout may be what you need, other days it might be extra time reading and meditating.

My main point here is that, even if you don’t do your ‘14-step perfect morning routine’ (joking) every morning, don’t just wake up 3 minutes before your first class. Do something that’s going to set you up for a successful day. If you’re interested in creating a productive morning routine, check out my post!

Reward yourself

One of my favourite things to do hahaha. But seriously, I don’t think anyone could honestly say that they aren’t at least a little bit motivated by the prospect of a reward. This year I’ve started a new reward system for myself which can be divided into daily rewards and monthly rewards.

  1. Daily – daily rewards for me are the ‘U’ from the BUILD system I talked about earlier in this post. Knowing that I have planned to do something for myself, encourages me to work hard to get my other tasks done so that I can really relax and enjoy doing something for myself.
  2. Monthly – in my new diary, at the start of each month, there’s a page for: Monthly Goals, To-do list and wish list. This year I have decided that if I achieve my monthly goals, and complete my monthly to-do list then I will reward myself with buying what’s on my wish list.
the page of a diary displaying: monthly goals, to-do list, important dates and wish list

How to organise your time when studying from home

I have a whole post on time-management techniques so I won’t go into loads of detail, but I’ll just mention two of my favourite techniques.

  • Time blocking 

This is what my time blocking schedule looks like for next week. I know it looks like a lot, but keeping busy in the day allows me to keep my evenings and weekends (mostly) free.

a time blocking template sheet filled in
  • Pomodoro time keeping 

I’m sure you know what Pomodoro time keeping is by now. I love it, I swear by it, start using it!


Looking after yourself when studying from home

Make sure you’re exercising

We all know the many benefits of exercise, both physically and mentally. When you’re studying from home, it’s even more important to allocate time to exercise, because you’re probably moving a lot less than you normally do when you’re going to uni. If you don’t know where to start, check out my post on exercising at uni when you don’t want to join a sports team (or in this case, can’t join a sports team).

Leave the house

Similar to the first one, but I don’t just mean for the exercise benefit. Even if you go sit in your garden for a bit, get out of the house, get some fresh air. It’s quite easy to get cabin fever when you’re stuck inside all day, so make sure you go for a walk or do something outside, everyday. In the first lockdown, my daily walk with my housemate was one of the only things keeping me sane, as I hated the feeling of being trapped in my house. So make sure you take the chance to get outside.

Still stick to a meal plan

You might think that because you’re going to be at home that you don’t need to meal plan lunches for example, you might just ‘find something in the fridge’. I still like to stick to a meal plan because otherwise I eat the same easy/unhealthy meals everyday. I’m also more likely to snack whilst studying from home, because all my snacks are with me, so maybe I need to invest in some healthy snacks.

Stay in touch with friends and coursemates

It can be quite lonely studying from home, whether you’re living with other people or not. Make sure you’re reaching out to your friends, family and course mates. FaceTime or group zoom calls are so good for this. Or if you don’t have a lot of time to call, just sending someone a text saying you’re thinking of them can really make their day.


Studying from home accessories

a desk with items labelled: ipad stand, drink warmer, headphones, earphones, wireless charger and monitor
  • Wireless charger – I recently got a wireless charger when I upgraded my phone to an iphone 11 and I just love how easy it is to charge my phone and my airpods. It’s small and doesn’t take up any space on my desk.
  • Ipad stand – I use this for both my ipad and phone. I like to use it when I’m facetime-ing someone or watching something whilst I’m typing or working on my computer.
  • Drink warmer – Love this for keeping my cups of tea or coffee warm during long lectures or workshops!
  • Monitor- A second screen is so helpful for me when I am studying as I can have the lecture open fully whilst having a textbook or google on the second screen.
  • Earphones/headphones – As I mentioned before, these are essential for blocking out extra noise, or if you want to listen to some music whilst you study and not disturb other people.

Studying from home tools

Forest

If you follow me on instagram (and if you don’t, why not? Go follow me! @the_everyday_student) you’ll know how much I rely on Forest. This app is so good for keeping me off my phone. If you’re interested in other apps for productivity, check out my blog post.

Pomodoro Timers

I don’t use an app pomodoro timer any more since I use Forest and my Pomodoro Tracker template, but I did use the one in this blog post.

Notion

I use Notion to organise all of my university work, I’ve detailed how I use it in this post.

Coffitivity

This is literally so genius, I can’t believe more people don’t know about it. This tool provides the ambient background noise of a coffee shop and is perfect for those who don’t like studying in silence.

Couch to 5k

As I said earlier, it’s important to keep active when working from home. I’ve just finished my first week of couch to 5k and I’m really enjoying it (believe me I am not a natural runner and I would have previously said I ‘hated’ running) but it builds up your running so gradually so it’s perfect for me!


Productivity Planners

My Productivity Planner is an essential part of many of the tips and techniques I’ve talked about in this post. My time blocking template, daily planner, pomodoro tracker, as well as lots of other templates, allow me to be my most productive self.

As a special gift for my blog readers, I’m giving you 20% any of my Productivity Planners, which are available to buy: 1) as a printable planner 2) as a digital planner and 3) a combo! Just head to my Etsy shop using this link or use the code ‘STUDYFROMHOME’ at checkout (available until the end of January 2021)


Want to become a more productive student? Want to work on your personal development? Want to learn about how to get into medical school?

If you said YES to any of the above, then stick around because you’re in the right place!

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References

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