As universities move to remote education platforms, uni students now face the unique expectation of having to study at home—as if this lockdown wasn’t already stressful enough. “It is quite obvious that, regardless of quality, online learning simply cannot replicate the laboratory-based or practical learning of many courses,” an article in The Guardian points out. 

However, for countless uni students, there is no other choice but to adjust to virtual webinars, online discussion groups, and solo projects and coursework. If this unprecedented new reality has been difficult for you, though, fear not. There are strategies you can implement to ease the transition and increase productivity, and these four tips below are excellent places to start. Just because the world is uncertain right now does not mean your academics have to suffer as well.   

1. Stick to a Routine that Mimics Your Normal Course 

Think about how you structured the day when uni was in session and replicate this schedule at home. For example, did you start each morning at 8 AM with a shower and coffee before heading to your 9 AM lecture? Would you take an afternoon pause in your studies to exercise or spend time outside? Were evenings then set aside for thirty minutes of Netflix, followed by a couple of hours of studying? 

Whatever routine you are used to in normal circumstances can be effective during your remote term too, since it brings order and familiarity. Of course, you can modify aspects of the schedule which are not conducive to being at home, but it’s important to maintain a defined structure, so you know what needs to be done each day and when to tackle it.    

2. Clear External Distractions from Your Environment 

Whether you’re more comfortable studying at a desk, on a sofa, at a kitchen table, (or even moving about your apartment throughout the day), you must ensure the space is free of all distractions, especially for heads-down, concentration time.

Designate a quiet nook that is sectioned off from the rest of the house—and other family members or flatmates, if you’re living together. Then remove objects that could disrupt your concentration such as books, TVs, and any electronics you do not need. Consider putting your mobile face down, out of sight, so you don’t get distracted by notifications.

It’s also a smart idea to restrict your access to social media sites during virtual school hours. You’ll also want to resist the urge to study in bed. There’s no quicker way to derail productivity than falling asleep.

For those in a loud environment, consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

3. Arrange a Virtual Study Group with Other Students

You might not be able to see your course mates in person depending on where they’re quarantining, but the physical distance cannot stop you from connecting with them online. Plan a Zoom or Facetime study session. 

Not only can this help you work out a chemistry equation, understand a French verb conjugation, or cram for an upcoming exam, but it can also benefit your mental health. If this lockdown has caused you to feel isolated, hearing the voices and seeing the faces of your mates can reinforce social connections and relieve some of that loneliness. So coordinate a regular group chat to make studying more interactive and fun. 

Hint: You will want to catch up and chat about non-uni related things, so designate the first 10-15 minutes for banter. Then set a timer, so you know when to get to work. 

4. Set Time Limits to Allow for Short Breaks 

Have you tried to study nonstop for hours at a time, only to catch yourself reading the same paragraph over and over? If the brain is fatigued or unmotivated, it will not be able to retain the information you need to digest and remember. Because most assignments require you to be sharp and focused, intermittent breaks in the day are crucial—even just a 10- or 15-minute pause from screens and coursework can help you find renewed energy. 

Set an alarm for every 2-3 hours that reminds you to step back from the computer, unplug from mobile devices, stretch your legs and allow your mind to rest. Or consider taking breaks after your virtual lectures before you jump into to work. Continuous mental stimulation is exhausting, so periodic breaks from the grind, however brief, can actually lead to more sustained productivity and retention. 

What’s more, when you take a lunch break, consider not using your phone to give yourself a screen break. Maybe read a non-uni-related book or magazine, or call your mum?        

How To Stay Productive At Home  

The unpredictable nature of this pandemic has left a mark on all uni life—so much so that universities around the UK are even planning to start their fall terms remotely, based on recent reports. But no matter how long this continues or how daunting it seems, you can still be productive as a student. Although the full uni experience is currently on-hold, your potential for academic success is not!