I’ll be the first to admit it – working from home has been a bit of a challenge so far. Much like the egg yolk I spilled on the duvet from last weekend’s brunch-in-bed, the days have congealed, indistinguishable from each other. I do try to focus, but some Youtube discoveries – like this school for baby orangutans, or this malamute with a horror of bath time and a wildly misconceived notion of its own size – are just too important.
Sound familiar? Do you, like me, wish you could hunker down and actually get something done? Then look no further than this list of pandemic study tips.
1. Study Organised
In the midst of all this uncertainty, there are only a few things we can control. One of these things is our daily routine – we suggest following a routine as similar as possible to your normal day at University. Having a daily routine helps you procrastinate less. When you stick to a routine, you end up completing your tasks habitually, without needing to dredge up the determination and willpower that can be so hard to find.
Time management is also key here; knowing what you’re going to do when you get up each morning also helps minimise anxiety and stress. A good starting point is to organise your day around the online teaching you already have, as this will help you assign enough time to each module. If you’re feeling really unfocused, try something like the Pomodoro technique, where you concentrate for short-ish bursts interspersed with breaks.
Wherever you’re riding out the pandemic, a dedicated (and organised) workspace is crucial. Working from bed is never a good idea! If your desk is looking a little messy, we suggest taking some time to KonMari it, creating a workspace that ‘sparks joy’ for you. Of course, we understand that you may not have the luxury of your own desk or ‘office space’. If you’re using a common area, agree on a study schedule that works for all members of your household – maybe you can take shifts? Once you’ve agreed on this timetable, all housemates or family members should respect it and tidy the workspace between uses.
2. Study Smart
Before you begin, set goals – they will give you something to work towards and a ‘road map’ of sorts to refer to along the way. Larger goals can be broken down, each step towards achieving them becoming a smaller goal in itself. Make sure to write your goals down and refer to them often!
What will you need to do to achieve these objectives? You could create a study plan by determining what you are expected to do in your exams or assignments, then working backwards from the assessment dates, planning out when you’ll cover the required content. There are loads of free apps available to help students plan out their revision; for example, My Study Life, School Planner, or Chipper. If you want to go old-school, consider investing in a planner or diary.
Feel the need to brush up on your study skills? The University’s very own Library has plenty of great e-learning courses, all 30 min or under. Our current favourites are Academic Reading and Note-Taking and Demonstrating Good Academic Practice – if you’ve got exams coming up, you won’t regret taking these courses!
3. Study with Others
We get by with a little help from our friends. In these house-bound times, finding communities and participating in them is more important than ever. If you can, keep in touch with your friends and course mates regularly; say, a Whatsapp group for students studying a particular module, or group study sessions on Zoom or Microsoft Teams (Teams is free to use for all Salford students – just
download and sign in with your University email and password). That way, you can discuss the course material and support each other when necessary. Two (or more) heads are always better than one!
Next, make sure to keep updated on School and University-wide developments. These could come in the form of emails from your School or updates on the Student Hub. None of us has experienced anything like COVID-19 before; the situation is changing every day and the University must adapt its policies to reflect these changes. Making sure you understand your options around things like exams and progression is the best way to stave off anxiety. For example, did you know that detailed guidance on the new ‘safety net’ policy is available online? The gist: don’t think about it, just focus on your upcoming assignments! For the majority of students, the marks you’ve already achieved will be banked – you’ll only be able to score higher in assignments submitted during lockdown.
Of course, there’s no shame in asking for help if you need to. Your lecturers are all working from home; you can still contact them via email. Similarly, the askUS service is still open
and reachable at 0161 295 0023. You can also contact the various Students’ Union departments via email. Got a question about your studies? The Students’ Union Advice Centre is ready to help! Drop them an email or chat to a member of the team using the new Live Chat service.
4. Study Kind (to Yourself)
My last point is also the most important. Whatever people around you might be saying about pandemic productivity, make sure to cut yourself some slack! I mean, we’re living through a global pandemic. It’s okay to feel unfocused, scared or just plain tired. When you’re studying at home, try and factor in some of these activities – they’ll help you put your wellbeing first.
When you create your study schedule, make sure to take frequent breaks. Tea-breaks, snack breaks, walk-in-the-park breaks – whatever you like! Just make sure you’re getting enough food, fluids and fresh air throughout the day. Similarly, make sure you’re resting your eyes regularly, and why not try some gentle desk stretches?
Getting enough sleep and exercise is also crucial to help keep you on an even keel during lockdown. Try your best to keep to a regular sleep schedule and to develop good sleep hygiene. As for exercise, no one’s judging you for not using lockdown to get ripped or running 5ks every day like everyone on Instagram seems to be doing! However, it’s a good idea to find some form of lockdown exercise you enjoy and can manage – maybe yoga, a walk with a housemate, or a gentle jog? Go get those endorphins!
Lastly, reward yourself when you meet your goals – this could be anything you like, maybe that last piece of cake your housemate boredom-baked the other day, or some TV or
video game time in the evening. Try your best to make some time for things you enjoy. After all, delaying gratification over time helps improve your self-control, which in turn will help you achieve your long-term goals.
Just like those baby orangutans and their coconuts, there is room for trial and error: no one is expecting you to follow all these tips perfectly on the first attempt! So, go forth, armed with this knowledge, and know that you’re not alone in trying to wring some meaning and structure out of this pandemic. We got this!