Realistically ‘back to school’ or ‘back to university’ will look a little different this fall, due to the COVID19 pandemic – and we all have to do our best to adjust to the new reality. Likely some of your classes, if not all, will be online and you’ll be studying from home. It’s easy to blur the lines between ‘study’ and ‘personal life’, and get distracted. Here are some tips to stay motivated:
- Create a timetable
Plan ahead using a calendar and put together a study timetable to help you prioritize and keep on track – be realistic about how long you can study for at a stretch, and schedule in breaks, meals and exercise. List the tasks you need to do in a ‘to do’ list, with the most important tasks at the top – there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking off items. Refer to it often, so you can see your progress. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get through the full list – just carry over those tasks to the next day.
- Take regular breaks
Keep your motivation and productivity high by taking lots of short breaks; stand up, stretch, walk around or open the window to get some fresh air. If you have a stand up/sit down desk (recommended), alternate between the two positions. Increase productivity by using the ‘Pomodoro method’ which promotes 25 minutes of ‘productivity’, followed by a short 3-5 minute break. Check out cell phone apps for that.
- Have a designated study zone
Whether it’s the kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom, create an area for your studies. Choose somewhere quiet and free of distractions, and keep the space neat and tidy. If your ‘study zone’ is organized, it will help you feel more organized. If you have noise-cancelling headphones, these are great for tuning out distractions. Play music if it helps you concentrate.
- Ask for help when you need it
Keep in touch with your teachers/lecturers, ask questions and ask for help if you’re feeling like you’re falling behind, or you’re having trouble getting motivated. It’s also helpful for them to get feedback so they can tweak their online teaching if necessary. Likely some of your colleagues are also having the same issues, and will be happy you asked the question.
- Stay connected
During the pandemic, pretty much everyone is staying in touch with friends and family using Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, Google Hangout or some other video chat tool. In today’s world where we are lacking that face-to-face interaction, it’s more important than ever to keep connected. You can use those same tools to keep in touch with other students in your class/program and to share tips and ideas, discuss assignments, and just generally share experiences.
- Avoid Multitasking
While you’re studying, turn off phone notifications or put your phone on mute and put it to the side (preferably out of reach), and close any web pages you have open to minimize distractions. If you’re participating in an online lecture, actively taking notes will help you engage and focus better, and you’ll be less likely to get distracted.
- Take care of yourself
Eat healthfully, sleep and exercise. If you get enough sleep, you’ll be more alert (less likely to doze off), better able fo process all of the information you’re learning, and you’ll improve your memory – leading to better grades. Eat healthfully; it’s easy to snack when you’re at home studying, so prepare healthy snacks and have them at hand, so you don’t need to make frequent trips to the kitchen. Schedule time for exercise – even if it’s just a 20 minute walk around the block to clear your head.
- Keep a positive attitude
It’s easy to feel frustrated and feel like our lives are ‘on hold’. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that ‘this too shall pass’. Take advantage of the extra time you have, and appreciate the small stuff. Practice mindfulness if it helps – download an app for quick daily meditations (Headspace, Calm, for example). Be kind to others – do you have an elderly, or perhaps vulnerable, neighbour you could offer to shop for? Phone a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to for a long time. You’ll make their day and you’ll feel good about yourself.