How to manage studying alongside a pandemic…

Managing distractions

Studying from home is hard, let’s not pretend otherwise. All that talk about being a self-motivated independent learner has suddenly become a reality with the added edge of a pandemic, everybody being home at once, and possibly, having to juggle being a teacher whilst being taught yourself. So, before we get going with study tips, remember you are already doing a great job by making it this far and the most important thing is to be kind to yourself.

A few tips for studying from home…

Close your eyes (actually don’t, that will make reading this quite challenging), what is your perfect work environment? A busy coffee shop? A silent library? A chatty classroom with your friends? Do you like being surrounded by books or ideally would you work in a completely white room with nothing but a table and a chair? Now, think about how you can get closest to that. It might involve tidying a few bits off your dining table so it feels more like a work station or sticking your notes on the wall in your bedroom so you can keep referring to them. I like a bit of chatter to cut through the quiet, so I work with the radio on but if you prefer quiet this might involve a bit of negotiation with others in your house. A pomodoro timer is a great way to set quiet study times for all with regular breaks to grab a coffee or have a quick stress busting dance.

If you study best with others, you can either work with those in your house – whether it is children who need to get their homework or solo study done or your partner or housemate doing their fantasy football/meal planning/finally reading that improving book they’ve been going on about since you met them – or you can use our Teams Student Common Room to set up a study group with other CLL students. Arrange a time to meet, have a chat then settle down to work (with your cameras on – keep yourselves accountable!), then a cuppa and a biscuit at the end (with another natter).

You might find you are waking up and staring at your laptop with that horrible overwhelming feeling of dread that there is so much to do but also you have no idea where to start. Firstly, this is normal, we all do it. One thing that can help is setting out a timetable – not only can you decide which piece of work you are going to focus on for a morning but you can also include in there other things you need to do – make dinner, the weekly shop, going outdoors (remember outdoors? If you can’t, go get some fresh air now). Having designated times to do things can help to bring you some focus. You can also share your timetable with others in your house, specifying unless there is an emergency (e.g. something is on fire NOT somebody cannot work the dishwasher) you are not to be disturbed.

Talking of the other things you need to do now is a good time to reassess. I remember speaking to a colleague who insisted they had to clean the house from top to bottom every week and therefore they didn’t have time after work to do their hobby. This was pre-pandemic and even then I thought it was ridiculous. Now, legally, nobody can come into your home so let the vacuum cleaner gather a little dust, leave the ironing to pile up (or just leave it entirely!), allow the house to get a bit messy, it isn’t hurting anybody and gives you more time to work (or to relax at the end of the day). You might also want to look at the division of chores in your house – if you have older children, housemates or a partner who is now working at home, maybe they’d like to take on a bit more cooking or become better acquainted with the mop?

Elaine, the CLL Welfare Officer, has a great saying that I often find myself repeating when I am re-reading a piece of work for the seventh time obsessing over tiny, fiddly details – sometimes good enough is good enough. You can use up a lot of time going over and over the same essay tweaking words and phrases when you could be doing something more productive. This isn’t to say you should not proofread, because that is essential, but read over with a critical eye – have you answered the question? Is your argument clear and coherent? Have you formatted and referenced it consistently? If you have done these things then you can probably set it aside and move onto the next thing.  If there is time you can come back to it later but it is always better to have completed all of your work than to have poured 90% of your focus into one piece and have cobbled together the rest of it.

Finally, the University has a wealth of support to help keep you going and achieving your best whilst we’re in lockdown. We have writing mentors, online library courses including introduction to research and avoiding plagiarism, and study skills workshops such as managing a project, speed reading, and taking effective notes. And if you are in need of personal support, our Wellbeing team offer expert guidance, self-help resources, and online workshops throughout the term.

This blog was written by Lauren Elmore, who works in our Student Support team.

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