How to Study at Home Effectively [7 Step Guide]

Apr 17, 2020

If you are someone who has often wondered how people are able to study effectively at home surrounded by its wide and varied opportunities for distraction, then here are some useful tips to try and become a skilled home worker.

The number of people studying from home has certainly never been higher. The COVID-19 lockdown means a prolonged period cooped up indoors.

For those of us who struggle with working at home and who sought their productive study haven in a silent library or a bustling café, this presents a problem.

Learning to study from home as effectively as possible is great preparation for the 21st-century workplace where WFH (Working From Home) was already a distinctive feature. Post lockdown, WFH is set to be the new norm.

#1: Finding Your Space to Study Effectively

Choosing a good study space within the home is a good place to start. Whilst the temptation may be to lie in bed and work in a world of comfort, it is far better to be sat upright with a flat surface in front of you, such as a desk or dining table.

As luxurious as it sounds, working in front of the television is also not a smart idea. 

A lack of natural light can often be a problem when you’re sat facing a screen all day, so positioning yourself near a window can reduce the strain on your eyes and leave you feeling less tired.

Make sure your study space is neat and tidy enough for you to organise your books and notes.

For those that would normally be found working studiously in the library then a spot with peace and quiet will be the optimum setting in which to study.

Not everyone likes to work in such sedate surroundings though, so if you are the type to linger in the background of a busy coffee shop, then replicate the atmosphere with some subdued background instrumental music.

Gathering around a table with your housemates for a communal study session is not a good idea but a joint study session with someone on your course via Zoom or Skype is a great way to keep up your focus and motivation.

#2: Create a Routine

Revision timetable and pens

 Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Procrastination is not your friend. Don’t fall into the trap of getting up late and dithering around.

Spending a small amount of time compiling a study timetable makes life a lot easier. Plan in time for treats – a favourite tv show, talking to friends – as well as time for work.

Setting yourself some specific objectives to complete at the start of each day can also help to give each day feel unique. Being able to tick off what you have done will also give you a feeling of accomplishment, and this can help you manage your time.

#3: Stick to Your Working Habits

Try to avoid getting into bad habits.

If you know you are someone that works best in the morning then make sure you get up early.

There are conflicting theories on whether background music is harmful or beneficial to your studies; one thing for certain is that the habit is widespread.

The discussion over the consequence of playing music whilst doing your work covers everything from the particular genre of music to the volume it is being played and, crucially, whether there are lyrics.

The BBC recently explored both sides of the argument but every student is different. It is important to be honest with yourself about whether music is a help or a hindrance.

Not everyone works in the same manner. Being an ‘early bird’ is not necessarily better than being a ‘night owl.’

Although some studies may warn against working in the early hours, for some people working under the moonlight is their most effective way of studying.

As long as you are getting a decent amount of sleep and avoid becoming sleep deprived, night working can be a way of avoiding a busy home environment – particularly if you have had to surrender the privacy of your student room as a result of COVID-19 to return home to a house filled with noisy younger siblings.

By all means, work in clothes that you feel comfortable in but, if you are trying to study in your dressing gown or pyjamas, then it might prevent you from getting into the correct work mindset.

Maybe by wearing something you would actually wear to your lecture or seminar, it will make you feel more professional. Wearing comfy clothes during your time off will also help to create a clear distinction between work and play.

#4 How to beat distractions

When it comes to studying effectively, your phone can become your own worst enemy.

If you are someone who too often succumbs to the temptation of going onto social media or messaging your friends then you need to work out how best to stop the lure of your phone.

For some people turning your phone off and putting it somewhere out of near sight in another room is an effective enough method to stop it from getting in the way of your studying.

Since the discussion around our digital health came more into prominence in recent years there has been an increase in applications which actually aim to keep you away from your phone.

Apps such as Forest reward you for not checking your phone constantly by growing virtual trees which eventually lead to the planting of genuine real trees in environments badly in need of them.

  • Temporarily deleting certain apps so that you are less drawn to your phone
  • You can temporarily disable social media accounts
  • Work somewhere with no TV or Radio in the background
  • Ask the people you live with or your siblings not to disturb you
  • Try to use your distractions as something to treat yourself with during your break
  • Eat only during your specified breaks, food can be a distraction

#5 Stay in Touch

Although you may be physically cut off from university during Lockdown, remember that your university will have a plethora of online resources to keep you in touch with your studies.

Your university library will be accessible online and many libraries and other organisations across the country are opening up their resources during the COVID-19 crisis.

If you are struggling with a topic or losing motivation, you should still be able to contact your tutor by email or participate in online study groups with friends.

If you start to struggle with your Mental Health during the lockdown, don’t hesitate to contact Student Support Services or the Student Medical Centre as they will still be there to help.

Information on how to alleviate the strain on your mental health during this period can be found here.

A more student-specific range of resources on this subject can be found on the Graduate Coach.

#6 Keep Yourself Healthy

person tying their laces

(Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels)

When your brain is being stretched to limit the from studying it is important to give it as much nutritional support as possible.

Make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks in the fridge and stick to three meals a day. If you are at home, try to make lunch or dinner a family meal.

The Guardian printed their version of the ideal studying diet to follow, but just eating healthy snacks is not going to suddenly improve your ability to study effectively if you are not doing a decent amount of exercise each week.

Aerobic exercise is said to improve the ability of your brain to learn and store new information, so even if you are only allowed out of the house to exercise once a day at present you should make sure it is to exercise.

Masters Studies suggests intertwining your work and exercise.

Caffeine can be a saviour for some people but repeatedly drinking copious amounts of energy drinks or coffee is best to be avoided. You don’t want to be lying awake in bed all night with sleep-deprivation.

Ensuring you get at least the recommended eight hours of sleep a day is crucially important to maintaining your ability to study.

Being able to nod off easily does not come naturally to everyone and so the Graduate Coach has outlined a few methods to improve your ability to sleep.

#7 Give Yourself Breaks 

Giving yourself proper study breaks is as important as the work itself.

Switching between topics or moving from note-making to listening to podcasts can help to combat monotony.

Even if you are the type of person who likes to power through your work for hours on end, your studying will be more effective if you interleave study activities and better still if you take regular breaks.

Exercising can be very beneficial to your studies, especially when you’ve been sat at a desk all day. Lockdown gives you a maximum of one hour of outdoor exercise. This means you need to plan to take full advantage of the exercise time to ensure that you get plenty of fresh air.

Going for a walk/dog walk is a good way to use your break and it won’t leave you completely worn out.

The worst thing you can do during long periods of studying is to become a complete recluse and hardly be seen out of your room for a few weeks. Social interaction during your breaks will benefit you mentally and leave you to feel less isolated.

More information on how your study breaks can help your learning can be found here.

Summary: How to Study at Home Effectively

Studying during lockdown is different from studying at university but it requires the same determination and self-discipline.

Set yourself realistic goals and stick at it!

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