How to study like a boss from home and stay productive during COVID-19
With the whole coronavirus situation, many of us have had to make the transition to studying or working from home. One would think that it would be easy to study from home because you are in your most comfortable environment and have access to all your resources at your fingertips. There are definitely some benefits from studying from home. But with those benefits comes challenges. After all, what sounds better than studying in your pajamas on your favorite couch? But it is exactly that comfort which makes it that much harder to stay disciplined while studying or working from home. In this article, I am going to go over all of the different ways I have made studying from home more productive for me. I would consider myself a bit of an expert at studying from home and I have learned almost all of these lessons the hard way. Hopefully, these tips will help optimize your study time from home whether it is during the COVID-19 pandemic or just if you are looking for ways to be more productive at home.
What makes studying from home difficult
So why exactly is studying from home so darn difficult? Is it the fact that you are surrounded by distractions in all directions? I think that is part of the reason. But I believe that the real reason its so hard to study from home is because of comfort. Comfort to an extent is a good thing but too much makes you too relaxed to get done what you need to. The key to finding productivity from home is to create some pressure to get work done as well as avoiding distractions. Once you understand this concept, then you will find it much easier to stay focused and productive from home. You must create an environment and situation that facilitates the pressure to get done what you need to. This is done by not allowing yourself to get too relaxed or distracted. If you study while laying in bed you are too relaxed and not creating the mental pressure to be productive. If you want to be successful from studying at home you need to set yourself up for success by creating an environment that facilitates your work ethic. Now that we know the basic principle for staying productive at home lets jump straight into the various tips for doing just that!
Create a schedule (time blocks work)
The very first thing that you want to have is a schedule that you can follow. When you create a study schedule it creates some structure that allows you to know what you need to be doing and not waste time trying to figure out what to do. Your schedule is the back-bone to your success with being productive. It allows you to stay focused and not waste time. My favorite method for creating a schedule for studying is to do “time blocks”. These are basically dedicated periods of time towards doing one task. In this case, studying. During this period of time the only thing you focus on is studying. What you do is just figure out how many of these time blocks you want to do and how long they should be. I typically do around five study “time blocks” of 45 mins with 5 min breaks in between. Although the actual number of time blocks that you do depends on how much material you have to cover and is something that you can adjust to suit you. Perhaps you like to do more time blocks of less time, such as doing 10 time blocks of 20 mins. Experiment with it and find the amount that suits you! I have been recently using an app called “Tomato 2” (from the mac app store), this allows me to adjust my time blocks and keep track of them. If you have an apple computer I suggest you get this app! If you don’t, you can always set a timer on your phone and do it that way!
As for more timing of doing the time blocks I typically try to get started on them right after waking up. So my schedule might look something like this: Wake up. Do five “time blocks” focused on studying material from my First Aid textbook. Then I will do two
“time blocks” focused on flashcards. Then I will do one “time block” working on my website or working on writing my book. Then I will do one “time block” focused on exercise.
If each of those time blocks were one hour long, then that would be a total of nine hours of focus. If each of those time blocks were 30 mins long then it would be 4.5 hours of focus. You can adjust how long your time blocks are for each thing you want to focus on. And the great thing about this is that it means you get all of your desired tasks done.
Create a to-do list (no more than 5 key tasks)
A to-do list is another essential aspect of being productive from home. You need to have a list of things that you want to get done or focus on for the day. Aimlessly wandering around trying to figure out what to do will waste alot of time and not create a focused environment. Having a to-do list adds structure to your day and gives you goals to focus on achieving. This tip also goes well with the previous one about using “time blocks” because it allows you to know what you want to use your time blocks for.
Knowing how to create an effective to-do list is a skill in of itself. You want to make the to-do list focused on the most important tasks first. Its critical that you know what is the priority. If you could only get one thing done in the day what would it be? That is a good way of deciding what needs to get done most. Then make a list of the top three things you want to focus on. In general you should not have more than 5 things on your daily to-do list. If there is something that you want to do but it is not a priority, I suggest making a second to-do list for things that are on the backburner. Treat this second list as a log of all the things you want to do and then move items from that list to your daily to do list when it becomes more of a priority.
It is also critical that you make your to-do list items realistic goals that you can achieve in the time you have in the day. You dont want to come up with goals that are too vague either. Make a to-do list item that is achievable and specific. Such as “Read 20 pages from Ch.20 in biology textbook” or “Complete powerpoint presentation for English class”, these are specific to-do list items that are achievable.
In summary: choose only the highest priority things you need to do for your to-do list, make your goals achievable and specific, and have no more than five items on your daily to do list.
Don’t study on your bed
This tip is actually a huge game changer. Its simple and effective. Studying in bed causes you to be too relaxed and does not create the focused pressured environment you need to be productive. Not only that but being in your bed will make you more prone to falling asleep and also will make it harder for you to sleep in your bed when you are supposed to. Just don’t study in your bed, go find another less distracting place. Period.
Don’t study in your pajamas
This is actually another simple but game-changing tip. Simply putting on a pair of jeans and a proper t-shirt will get you in the mindset that you need to be productive. It helps to create that pressured environment and is a great subconscious trick you can use to get into the right mentality. When you wear pajamas and study you are telling your brain that you are relaxed and thus you don’t focus as hard and are more prone to getting distracted. Don’t let this be you studying!
(While I may look comfortable studying I’m not exactly set up for being as productive as I can)
Put on a pair of jeans, t-shirt, socks and see what it does for you! I also suggest experimenting with different outfits to see which ones you are most productive in. I find that wearing my shoes and a jacket usually has me most productive, but that might not always be practical given your circumstances or the time of year it is.
Create the right study environment (away from distractions)
Creating the right study environment is very helpful for allowing you to stay focused. You want to find a spot in your house where you are most free from distractions, is comfortable but still facilitates focus. If you live with other people, places, where people walk by and talk, should be avoided. You want your study environment to be one where there are not any visual distractions or temptations. This means avoid environments where you can “people watch” such as a window over the street and avoid rooms with things that might tempt you to be distracted. You don’t want to be tempted to turn the tv on or go grab a snack. Having a comfortable chair is also an important quality to a study environment because it allows for longer studying sessions. I suggest a desk that is big enough to accomodate all of your study material (books, ipad, laptop, etc.). This desk should have nothing excessive on it. Just a lamp, pens, pencils, paper, and other necessities. With the right study environment you will notice that your concentration will be much stronger and focused!
Turn your phone on airplane mode and leave in another room
Here is another quick fix tip to help you on your road to productivity. This one is especially useful and often necessary for those of us who are constantly checking our phones and feeling the urge to look at social media. Simply put your phone on airplane mode and leave it in another room.
Do some calisthenic exercises between activities and to stay awake
Here is something I started doing out of necessity that has really helped me with feeling tired and out of energy. The other added benefit is that it helps to keep me healthy! So after you finish a time block of studying for 45 mins go ahead and get up and do some exercise that you want to do. Every time you take a break is a chance to pump out 20 reps! Also you can do exercises when you get up to get water or go to the bathroom. Use each chance you get up as an opportunity to get a few reps in. Some of the exercises I suggest trying in order to get your blood pumping are squats and push-ups. Do enough that you feel the burn and are re-energized.
10 minute meditation break to regain focus
This is a great way to reset your mind and your focus when you find yourself overwhelmed by all the things you have to do or if you keep finding yourself distracted. I understand that the last thing you want to do when you feel so overwhelmed is to take a break and do a meditation but it is exactly that which lets your mind calm down and relax. Give your mind a break from all the distractions and stress. You will find that after your meditation you are much more calm and focused.
Find your flow
Being able to get into a flow is so important when it comes to being productive. This is when you are working and being productive and lose track of all time because you are so caught up in what you are focused on. This can be achieved when you have the right study environment and when you are not distracted. Everyone is different in what helps them reach their flow state. When you are in your flow is when you get the most work done. Learn what helps you get into your flow. Is it when you study in a specific place? Is it when you wear a certain outfit? Or is there a certain type of music that helps you get into that flow? One of my best tips for this is that once you find your flow try your best to stay in it as long as possible. Avoid getting up to go do something or giving in to the temptation to check your phone. Once you do you lose your momentum and it can take awhile to get back into it. When you find yourself being productive take advantage of it and try to ride that wave as long as possible.
Prepare snacks and drinks
This advice is basically another way to avoid unnecessary distractions. You might not realize it but having to get up to go grab a drink or snacks is a distraction by itself. It is one of the sneaky ways you have your attention to be taken away from what you set out to accomplish. When you get up to go grab some food and drinks, you lose momentum that you had. And often going to grab something to eat might turn into you doing something else and next thing you know you spent an hour doing some less important task instead of what you should have been doing. Avoid that whole situation by preparing ample amount of snacks and drinks when you are setting up to study. The other benefit to to having snacks and drinks is that it keeps you full of energy throughout the study session.
Stay on one task until completion
This is such an important point when it comes to being productive. Do NOT multi-task! I don’t care if you think you are amazing at it. Focusing on one task until completion is way more efficient. This allows you to not have to waste any time between jumping between activities and hesitating what to focus on. Don’t divide all your attention between multiple activities, instead focus it all onto one task. This way you can complete your to-do list one item at a time.
So there you have it, these are my best tips for how to stay productive at home! This became an especially valuable skill to develop since the whole coronavirus situation began. I learned all of these things the long and hard way as a medical student that had to self-study 15 hours a day for the majority of my first and second year. And these tips can apply to studying or working from home, the concept is the same. This will help you get more work done as well as study. I hope these tips were helpful! Don’t let covid-19 get in the way of your productivity! Let me know what your study tips are for staying productive from home, I would love to hear them! Post a comment down below and please share this with someone who is struggling from staying focused at home.