Stage 3 Politics and International Relations student, Anna Kirchmayr, shares her top tips for online study
“Studying from home is not easy. Even if these times are ‘unprecedented’, it looks like you’ll be away from Templeman library longer than you’d like. How can you make an unworkable environment work for you? Here are ten tips to make remote learning a little easier that I’ve found work for me.
#1 Schedule everything!
You might have heard this before, but a planner (together with your laptop and trusty water bottle) is a student’s best friend!
In pre-COVID times, you probably wrote handy to-do lists during essay season. Well, studying from home means you have more on that list than reading and writing. Schedule everything. That means walking your dog, helping your siblings with schoolwork, or getting groceries.
Once you’ve written that down, you can work around your other duties. Do you have to do chores every morning? Do you have more free time in the evening than during the day? Schedule in study time around your other responsibilities. The Student Learning Advisory Service has a fantastic website where you can download a term study planner and find other tips for time management.
#2 Do it like Dolly Parton
Do you have more time on your hands than before lockdown? Great! But it is hard to find a reason to get dressed in the morning when you know you won’t leave your house. And it is hard to prepare for a seminar that you can attend from your bed in your pyjamas.
It helps me to think of university as a 9-5 job. I know this sounds intense and insane, but it gives me more free time. This is because of the rule of eight. Out of a twenty-four-hour day, you spend eight hours sleeping, and eight hours doing whatever you want. That means you have a total of eight hours to study.
I am a morning person, so I wake up, get dressed (comfy clothes, of course), and then start ticking-off my to-do list. I know that once it gets dark, I stop working for the day. This means I complete all my tasks during the day. Parkinson’s law tells us ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. If you don’t tell yourself, ‘by the end of the day, I will finish this reading for next week’s seminar’, you can find yourself leaving it to the last minute or forgetting to do it altogether.
#3 DIY Templeman
If you have a desk, use it and keep it clean! If you don’t, section off an area of your room and make that exclusively a study zone. If that’s your bed, try folding your duvet away or covering it with a blanket. This helps signal to your brain that this space is for studying only.
#4 Drown out distractions
Noisy siblings? Or are your neighbours constantly moving their furniture? Invest in noise cancelling headphones.
I used to think headphones were used for, well… music. Studying from home opened my eyes to the world of background noise. You can find long videos on YouTube that mimic a library, a coffee shop, rain, or ocean sounds.
#5 Hang-up the phone
It can be difficult to put away your phone when there are new headlines and trending topics on Twitter every five minutes. In fact, you can even feel like you’re missing out on important information.
There are loads of productivity apps that can help, but I think the simplest and most effective method is to delete social media apps off your phone. Then change your password to a random (and strong) one that you can’t remember off the top of your head. This makes re-downloading your apps or signing in on your laptop a lot more difficult. If you slip up, you might find yourself thinking, ‘Is this really worth it?’
You can also put your phone in a different room or hide it away. During seminars, I have my camera on and my phone on the other side of the room. This means I physically cannot get up and check it during class.
#6 Study smarter, not harder!
Putting in more hours can be difficult, exhausting, and not helpful. Try making note of how long you can focus and concentrate. Is it twenty minutes or one hour?
Schedule in breaks around that and plan your time. Say you’re writing an essay, and you know you can focus for fifteen minutes at a time. Set a timer for fifteen minutes, start writing, and once your time is up, take a five minute break. Soon you’ll realise how much work you’ve done once you ‘force’ yourself to.
You can also try the classic Pomodoro method. Study in sets of twenty-five minutes each, with short, five minute breaks. After four sets, take a longer 15-30 minute break.
#7 Exercise (yes, really)…
The gym is closed. The days of hiking up Elliot footpath every day are eons away. And so are the afternoons spent running along the corridors of Rutherford desperately trying to find room N4.E6.
So why not take a brisk walk in the morning instead? Exercise doesn’t have to be running a marathon. Your body needs movement, and your brain needs fresh oxygen. Or try yoga or salsa! YouTube has great tutorials. Many of Kent’s societies run online classes, too.
#8 Stay away from screens
We do pretty much all of our socialising and work through a screen. Add Netflix to that list, and presto! You’ll notice pretty quickly how much time you spend looking at a screen.
It is difficult to cut down on screen time when you can’t go for a coffee or meet up at a friend’s house. You’ll have to be creative. Why not take an evening walk at the end of the day or clean your room instead of watching two hours of Netflix?
#9 You’re not alone
Studying from home can be isolating and lonely. University is a social experience, and remote learning can be too. Try organising a virtual study session with a friend over Facetime. You can also find study-with-me videos on YouTube.
And don’t be afraid to reach out for help at Kent. The Student Learning and Advisory Service offers online advice and sessions on everything from referencing to time management. The Study Hub is another great resource for academic help. Don’t be shy to send an email to Student Support either. You can book a Teams call or use the chat function.
#10 Don’t take it too seriously. Just try your best.
Studying during a global pandemic and in a less-than-ideal environment is hard. And while it can bring comfort that everyone is going through the same difficulties you are, don’t forget to take care of yourself and your needs. That can mean taking the weekends off, or not working in the evenings. Do not put pressure on yourself to become more productive or produce better results. Getting the assignment done to the best of your abilities is enough. And keep in mind, extensions are your friend! It never hurts to ask for extra time from the student support team should you need it.”