Blog 17.11.20

How to study or work effectively from home

Young person in purple hoodie working at desk with laptop wearing headphones

Are you at university or college and have to study online? Or perhaps you are at school and having to spend more time studying at home and submitting homework online? Maybe you’re at work and have to spend a lot of your time working on digital projects?

Whatever the case, being organised and staying motivated can be really hard, especially with so many distractions at your fingertips. We’ve compiled 12 ways to help you concentrate and stay organised…

1. Set a morning routine

Get into the habit of setting an alarm and following a morning routine – having a clear routine can help you to achieve more with your day. Aim to start working at the same time each morning, plan your schedule around any online lectures or meetings you may have and it will help you to finish your day on time, ready to relax. Remember to get a good night’s sleep to recharge your batteries too.

2. Establish a good study area

It’s good to have a desk area dedicated as your work area, but this isn’t always possible. Not everyone has access to a spare bedroom or home office – but maybe there are other solutions?

– Set up a rota to share a workspace with another family member.

– Can you set up a workspace in a shed, garage or utility room? (Ensure adequate electricity, heating, light and ventilation of course.)

– Can you use a corner of a local café or similar premises for a couple of hours a day (assuming no restrictions)?

– Keep your study area tidy – this will help you to feel in control.

– If you work in a space where you also relax, try and tidy away your work things at the end of the day so that you don’t think about them.

– If you would normally have a school run or commute to the office, consider going for a quick walk both before and after work to give yourself some distance between work and relaxation and help you switch from one to the other.

3. Get dressed

It may sound silly, but how you dress can affect how you work as it sets the tone for the day. Maybe wear what you would wear to a lecture, meeting or lesson – but you needn’t necessarily bother with school uniform – as long as you’re comfortable! Getting dressed at the start of the day can also then help you to unwind at the end of the day when you change back into your more relaxed clothes

4. Keep hydrated

Remember to have a bottle or glass of water to hand and keep hydrated. In the winter you may not think you need it, but central heating can really dry you out and might give you headaches if you don’t keep up your fluid intake. Why not set a reminder on your phone to drink a glass of water every hour? An average person should drink two litres of water each day.

5. Keep physical

If your work and study is entirely online, it’s still really important to get some physical exercise. Going out for a brisk walk around the block after lunch could be a good starting point. Eating a balanced diet will also help you keep focused and improve your general wellbeing, but don’t forget to reward yourself every now and then!

6. Set goals

Use our DofE weekly planner to map out what you need to get done and make sure that you have time available for everything. Planning helps to avoid last minute stress and can also help you think about your weekly goals. Daily plans can provide space to break down some of your bigger weekly tasks into smaller more manageable segments, and help you make the most of the time available. Our daily planner has space for a daily timetable and to-do list. As well as the big things, make sure you factor in time for the little tasks, like uploading evidence to eDofE.

7. The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method which breaks down work into 25-minute chunks, with a five-minute break in between. Either set a timer or use a Pomodoro app on your phone or use an online timer like this. This technique helps you to focus on one project at a time, and it encourages you to take a break and refresh yourself, rather than working solidly and getting slowly less productive.

8. Question yourself

Ask yourself questions before, during, and after your study time.

Before studying:
– What am I about to learn?
– Do I already know anything about this topic?

Whilst studying:
– How does this topic fit into other topics?
– Do I really understand what I’ve just read?
– Will my tutor/teacher/manager understand what I’m trying to say?
– Have I really answered the question/met the brief?

After studying:
– Did I do what was wanted?
– What have I learned from this session?
– What can I do to make it better next time?

9. Turn off notifications

Having your phone pinging with notifications every five minutes can be a big distraction. Try and leave it in another room (or put it on ‘do not disturb’ mode) and only check on it once an hour. This will be frequent enough to pick up anything that is ‘urgent’ but will give you space to concentrate on your work.

10. Checking in

Remember to keep in touch with teachers, lecturers, colleagues… and your friends. Don’t feel isolated and try to ignore problems. If you don’t quite understand something, or if you need guidance on which direction your studying should be taking – ask! Email or call your tutors/teachers/line manager. Maybe set up a WhatsApp group or similar with fellow students/colleagues to discuss the course, projects and presentations etc.

11. Try not to multi-task

Try to concentrate on one project at a time. As with your phone use, ignore any incoming emails or requests until you get to a natural break in what you are doing. This way you won’t feel overwhelmed and can take elements of each project you may be working on one at a time in bite-sized chunks.

12. Know where to find support

Do you know where to ask for help (other than subject related queries) if you need it from your school, college, university or workplace? Your mental wellbeing is really important as it can be easy to feel isolated and unsupported. Check out this site for some advice on looking after your mental health while studying, and this site for wider information on mental health for young people during the current crisis.