Monday, May 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Working from home like a pro

Tiger-Lily shares the latest tips and tricks for being productive at home.

With the inevitable increase in online work coming our way as the new, albeit strange, term begins, it’s essential to have some techniques up your sleeve for being productive at home. Sitting down for those online classes or trying to start that first assignment of the year after such a long break is a daunting task, but here I hope to relieve you of some of that dread and help you push past procrastination. By keeping it controlled and finding ways to feel positive, you can become more productive; work won’t pile up and you’ll get back into the swing of things. 

Firstly, where to work and when to work? As for where, this could be your desk, a table in one of the new commuter hubs on campus, or a place in the library using the new ‘click and sit’ system. The most important thing is that you have a dedicated and tidy study space. You may have a love for clutter, but a cleaner and less distraction-inducing desk will allow for better concentration and make you feel more positive about your workspace. When it comes to making a study schedule, it is best to record your timetable in a digital calendar or diary you regularly check. This schedule should be personalized to work best for you- this means realistic work hours; not overworking yourself but ensuring you have enough study time to keep up with your workload. Chances are if you have been getting up at noon for the past 5 or so months, then it’s unwise to expect yourself to be up working by 8am. On the other hand, if you know your most productive hours are 12-3pm but you know 4pm means tea and naptime then work with that: tackle your hardest tasks during your peak-work hours and have that well-deserved break when 4pm comes around. 

Next is setting goals. These need to be sensible and allow you to spend time on all areas of your studies without getting sidetracked. Don’t reprimand yourself if you can’t reach 100% of your goals all the time; sometimes tasks will take longer than you expect, or you won’t be in the right mindset. As a side note, it may be worth setting time aside to play catch-up or to go over things. If not, this time can be used for extra research to solidify your understanding of course content- professors always push for this! 

Avoid burning out at all costs. Pay close attention to your work-life balance, ensuring schoolwork, part-time work, social life and personal time each share the right amount of your waking hours, with enough time leftover for a good night’s sleep. Finding clear boundaries between study time and you-time can be hard with the tendency to procrastinate, e.g. scrolling on social media or chatting with housemates, but setting these boundaries is easier with a dedicated workspace and clear schedule. Once you know you’ve reached your goals for the day, you can enjoy your  time off guilt-free! A schedule will also save you from the workaholic rabbit hole; there is no benefit in sacrificing your social life to get work done. Feeling isolated without anything to look forward to will not put you in a great mood, leaving you with less motivation to work. With both situations in mind, wouldn’t you rather sit down and finish writing an amazing report you’ve spent several, planned, days working on and then get to go out and gloat -at least a little- that you’ve finished it with days to spare? 

First thing in the morning your aim should be to guide yourself to your workspace, with a dedicated morning routine. Sleepily sitting up in bed with a laptop will only remind you of the fact you could be asleep. Instead, start your day in a way that suits you: have a shower, do some yoga, get a coffee or read a magazine: whatever gets blood flowing to your brain ready for the day ahead. Most importantly, put some pants on! Doing work in your pyjamas may feel great but getting dressed is proven to put you in a better work mindset (Journal of Experimental Psychology). Furthermore, finding a flow for breaks and after work is important to turn off your work mindset, so guide yourself away from your workspace. Go for a walk, make dinner, see friends, watch Netflix in bed- it’s your time now. 

Lastly, take advantage of the extra hours you have at home this term. You are no longer in that lecture hall or quiet library, so eat snacks without having to share, play your music aloud or even work away to your favorite podcast. This way you can find a nice level of background ambience that works for you in an environment that is all your own. My mornings last year consisted of rushing out the house to get to 9am lectures with a packet of Belivita breakfast biscuits to eat on the way. The time saved not travelling to and from campus as often gives us more time and energy to pick up new hobbies, e.g. crafts or baking. In lockdown around 27 million adults tried their hand at baking (poll by YouGov), myself included. 

I hope you found these tips useful for the term ahead, and good luck with your online studies!

Tiger-Lily Goldsmith