By now, we’re all starting to adapt to the “new normal” of studying from home due to campuses going fully digital.
As we continue to get used to this new way of studying, structure and accountability are really important in order to keep moving towards your goals. Having structure doesn’t have to be boring or rigid though - look at it as a tool to give you focus so you don’t panic and have to play catch up later.
Here are 4 simple but effective steps to creating a solid study routine whilst in isolation:
1. Understand your own study habits
Lots of people don’t like studying at home because they get too distracted by what’s around them… or the fridge! If you are normally a procrastinator/compulsive snacker, self-isolation might be tough.
It’s important to set up an area dedicated to study only. Try to leave one space for chilling, watching Netflix etc and one that you’ll only be occupying when you’re studying. This will help you avoid procrastination during study time.
Identify what works (and doesn’t work) for you. Do you find it more effective to study for long blocks at a time, or do you retain more information by studying in shorter bursts? Are you more of an early bird and are productive first thing in the morning, or is there a better time of day that works for you?
Do you prefer to listen to videos or podcasts, or do you soak up information better if it’s written in words?
Whatever timing & learning style works for you, it’s important to figure this out first, so you can figure how to structure your time in order to get into the right mindset to be more focused and get stuff done.
2. Create a realistic yet ambitious study schedule
Once you have clarity on your habits, create a schedule by using a calendar to allocate time for the coming week or fortnight. This includes all your commitments and plans, both study-wise and personal. That way, you can see how much time you’ve got available for your studies & if any tweaks are needed.
It might be helpful to follow your uni timetable as closely as possible. It’s so easy for recorded lectures to mount up over time as you keep pushing them to watch later – try to commit to watching them as soon as you can when they're available.
Hold yourself accountable; it’s easier said than done, but it can really help you lift your game. Be honest and realistic with your schedule and ensure to include breaks. Just because you don’t have your usual work, uni or sport commitments right now, doesn’t mean you’ll put a whole day of study in the diary. The breaks you take are just as important as the study time you put in.
Another handy tip is to flag important dates in your calendar, such as assessment due dates or exams. Put some reminders beforehand to remind you of the upcoming dates so they don’t creep up on you if you’ve lost track.
It’s important to make time to reach out to your classmates either on the phone, chat thread on WhatsApp or another social media platform. Touch base and check how they’re doing, motivate each other or support each other. It’s important to keep a sense of community, particularly when social distancing means you can’t meet in person.
You could even organise a group study session on Zoom, Skype or another app - it’s a fun way to stay connected & make sure everyone’s doing ok.
There are also lots of online resources - like Studiosity - that can provide you with personalised assistance if you need feedback or get stuck. Millions of uni and school students already have free access to Studiosity, which offers 24/7 on-demand support, from detailed feedback on your writing to assisting you with tricky questions on subjects such as Maths, Accounting, Biology, Physics, and more. The friendly specialists are available online to help you anytime, which is useful if your study schedule turns out to be a little unconventional (outside of ‘business hours’).
Lastly, make time for fun. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Study for a realistic amount of time & set time to do fun things outside of studying that keep you motivated and inspired.
3. Check yourself - evaluate and readjust
Blocking out a chunk of time for each specific subject creates a sense of urgency. However, sometimes it’s unrealistic to “wrap up” everything in that period of time. Allow some leeway in your schedule so you can continue while you’re in the zone.
One way to identify if you feel confident to move to the next subject is to ask yourself “If I were tested on this content, what grade would I get?”
Be realistic and flexible. Sometimes you’ll go over your allocated time, and that’s ok. Don’t get discouraged if you find things are aren’t working. It’s ok to make changes as you figure out what works best for you.
Use your learnings from this experience to tweak your calendar to help you get into a rhythm that suits you best. You’ll find that once you’ve got this down-pat, things will become a lot easier.
If you’re finding that creating a consistent schedule should be put in the too-hard basket, give 'The Pomodoro Technique' a go. In a nutshell, the technique uses a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals, followed by a short break. The technique has been widely popularised by dozens of apps and websites providing timers and instructions. You can check out a range of apps you can install on your phone here.
I personally find it best using gCal to block 50 minutes for each subject & leave a 10 minute gap in between, in case I need a bit of extra time, or to reward myself with a break to get away from my desk. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but it gives me some structure which helps keep me focused. Keep in mind, what works for some might not work for others. Feel free to modify as you go along so you can figure out what’s best for you.
4. Use your schedule as motivation
Consistency is key. Creating a schedule establishes a routine, particularly when physically going to uni isn’t part of that routine at the moment. You could stick to your morning ritual of getting ready as if you're actually going to uni. It’s all about getting into the right headspace in order to focus on the task at hand.
Procrastination is your enemy: the temptation to check your social media feed or search for that emergency block of chocolate when you’re stuck or feeling unmotivated can be almost overwhelming, but can really spoil your momentum (and your mojo too). Make those your treats or rewards for getting through blocks of work.
A schedule can actually be a great motivator. When you look back and see what you’ve learned and how far you’ve progressed, it's a pretty great feeling. Plus, it gives your more time to fun things like watching Netflix - or visiting the fridge afterwards!
Peter Crisp studies International studies and Media, majoring in PR & Advertising because he loves trying to understand what motivates and interests people - and how experiences impact perspective and choices. He hopes to pursue a career in communications after graduating. Outside of uni (and pandemics) he is always outdoors at the beach or the snow or playing sport with friends.