Stay at home; the government advice couldn’t be any clearer. Cue people from all four corners of the world scrambling to adapt to studying or working from home, myself included. I’m a postgraduate who over the last couple of weeks has sat my spring semester exams, conveniently timed just as coronavirus began to turn the UK upside down. Cheers 2020! Uni stopped face-to-face teaching a week before I was due to sit them, meaning my exams had to be rapidly adapted to an online format, and done from home. This, combined with moving back to my family home a few days before exams started resulted in a slightly unusual exam season, to say the least!
Having done my exams during the Covid-19 pandemic earlier than most students, I thought I’d share some of the little things I found useful for revising/working from home:
- Find your workspace.
It’s important to set up somewhere in your house/flat that you can associate with work, to help you get into the right mindset. Actively make this space your ‘work’ space and then stick to working only there. I appreciate that not everyone will have a spare desk at home, and in this case maybe the kitchen table or living room coffee table will have to do, but whatever you do, don’t work in bed. It blurs the line between working and relaxing, making falling asleep at night more difficult.
2. Keep to a routine.
Human beings thrive on routine. In fact, our entire existence relies on biological rhythms; one of the most important being our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm famously regulates our sleep/wake cycle, but also affects a whole host of things including blood pressure, hormone regulation, body temperature, appetite and alertness. Going to work or the library every day sets a routine which your body gets used to. Why not try to stick to the same routine at home and give yourself the best chance to succeed. This will be different for everyone so try and find something that works for you. Personally, I aim to get up at 8am, start revising at 8:45am, have lunch somewhere between 1 and 2pm and generally finish at about 6pm. Naturally this fluctuates a bit, but having something to aim for is really useful.
3. Get ready for the day.
Now I’m not suggesting putting on a suit and tie every morning but getting dressed into comfortable clean clothes really helps to transition into a ‘work’ mindset. This could just be simply putting on some joggers and a fresh t-shirt, getting out of pyjamas in the morning makes all the difference. Along the same lines, making (even minimal) effort to act as you would if you are going out the house e.g. brushing your hair and washing your face is very important for making yourself feel put together and ready to work/revise.
4. Consider how your work/revision is now different.
This may not be applicable to everyone, but make sure you take the time to consider what you actually need to do and how to make your work/revision the most efficient. For example if your assignment/exams change format to allow you to sit them at home it is likely you might want to change your revision method. My exams changed from being closed book, knowledge-based exams to open book, problem-solving and conceptual understanding exams. Therefore, I had to alter my revision method from learning definitions and content, to ensuring my notes were detailed and organised, and understanding the content thoroughly.
5. Utilise the tea/coffee/drink of choice at hand.
The main perk of working from home is how close the kettle is. It’s also the perfect excuse to have a little break – you’ve got to stay hydrated after all!
6. Know when to finish for the day.
At the end of the day – stop! Wind down and switch from ‘work’ to ‘home’ mode by packing away your revision notes, work and laptop out of sight. It’s important to keep your evenings revision free and do something you enjoy and (virtually) catch up with family/friends to maintain a clear work/life balance.
7. Find time to exercise.
Exercise is widely regarded as an important tool for improving mental health so it’s very important to find some time to incorporate it into your day. I personally feel the benefits most after sitting down all day, but lots of people like to get moving first thing too. There are loads of home workout and yoga routines to do online, or get out the house on your daily walk/run/cycle for a change of scenery (without going within 2m of anyone).
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that ‘unprecedented’ is the media’s new favourite word. Whilst it’s annoying to hear it every two minutes, it is true; no one was expecting this. Keeping self-motivation high is difficult, these really are crazy times we are living through. Everyone has their own individual barriers to work, interruptions to the day or simply just a distracted mind. It’s important to recognise this and give yourself a break sometimes. There’s always a new day to start afresh tomorrow if today really just isn’t working for you.
If your personal situation is really impacting your learning, make sure to let your tutor or department know and they will be able to offer advice specific to your situation to help you.
Overall, the underlying aim for successfully working at home is being able to mentally establish a distinction between ‘work/study’ life and ‘home’ life, despite them suddenly completely overlapping. It will likely take time to adjust and we are all individuals so try out different things and find what works well for you. Stay safe and good luck in all your exams, assignments and projects!