How to Work and Study From Home

By Logan Bright Modified on March 16, 2020

Classes cancelled and moving online? COVID-19 is no joke, but neither is your education. Find advice to keep on top of your work.

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A young woman puts a solid effort into her online coursework during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working and studying at home

Stuck at home instead of in class? For some, this is a dream come true, but for most, it's just one more thing to deal with as we try to finish out the semester.

Online course delivery and remote work aren't new, but they're all the rage right now. This trend is likely to accelerate, so now's a great time to adopt new strategies for success in the age of COVID-19.

If you're in remote classes thanks to the outbreak, how can you make the most of your time?

Develop boundaries

Drawing a line between work and play is critical. It can be hard enough at school with your phone in your pocket, but now you're at home, where all your stuff is.

Establish a routine for "school days," including all the usual stuff: wake up with your alarm, grab a shower, get dressed. Though you may not see many other people, taking the time to set up your day will make you more productive, and help draw the curtain between leisure and labour.

Make a plan for each day, and write it down. Having your tasks in front of you, staring back in black and white, will help keep you active and on-track. Keep your to-do list updated. In fact, when you're winding down for the day, make a few notes about what's to come tomorrow. You'll have an easier time getting started.

Find a space to work

Where do you normally do your homework? If it's the library, you're probably out of luck, so you might be kitchen table-bound. Unfortunately, even that's not ideal, as the kitchen can be a high-traffic area, and you need a quiet space where you can focus.

Try to stay away from spots where you can recline, like the couch or your bed. It might be tempting, but the division between work and play is liable to blur when you're taking it easy, so find a part of your home that you can claim and dedicate to work. Make it yours with a few homey touches, but be sure to keep it tidy!

Fight distractions

This is the toughest part of working from home, surely: the temptation to slack off. After all, Netflix is right... there... But be strong!

Think about the challenges you'll face. What will be your biggest hurdles? Are you expecting to get sucked down a TikTok rabbit hole? Do you feel you'll be bored tackling coursework without your friends and classmates around? Everyone will face different challenges, but at the same time, we're all in this together.

Think about some strategies for getting back on track, too. You'll occasionally lose focus. It's inevitable! The real test is what you do when those focus losses occur. How do you cope? How will you return to the task at hand efficiently?

Consider a productivity app for your phone and internet browser. These will automatically block distracting sites like Instagram and YouTube. You can set them up for certain times of day, so you won't be able to use these services while the block is active. Bingo: one less thing to worry about.

Don't turn on the TV in the background, either. You may feel like you can work or study while your favourite show plays in the corner, but we humans aren't very good at multitasking, so you're getting the worst of both worlds. Not only are you at a disadvantage when trying to learn your required material, but you can't even fully enjoy your show! Just save it for after your school hours are up.

Get motivated

First, you need to recognize your challenge, here. Without an authority figure looming over you, can you stay on top of your own desire to get your work done? This is a skill that can be built up and trained, so think of this pandemic as the perfect opportunity to test your willpower muscles.

You won't be 100% motivated all the time, of course. Still, with effort and practice, you can improve your focus — and you should, because even though you're in school during the great coronavirus pandemic, you still need to get a good education so you can proceed onwards and upwards in your career. (At which you may end up working from home a lot, too.)

Practice your confidence. Tell yourself that you CAN do it! A healthy attitude towards effort and, yes, failure, is important to your willingness to take risks. This pandemic is bizarre, sure, but if you tell yourself you're going to succeed and get through it, you'll be in a better mental place to double down on your responsibilities and make the most of the outbreak.

Ask for help. Your parents might be working from home, too, and struggling just as you are. Certainly your friends are in the same boat. Now, it can be tempting to opt for fun over work, but if you need help or guidance, don't be afraid to reach out. Sometimes just sharing your story with a sympathetic ear can be enough to shake off the pressures and renew your enthusiasm.

Take healthy breaks

If all goes according to plan, you'll be working hard for most of your school day — which you've scheduled and planned out, right? You'll still need to take breaks, though. Make them frequent but short. Stand up, stretch it out, take a quick walk around the block, or have a healthy snack. When the school hours you've set for yourself have elapsed, you can get into other, more entertaining activities, guilt free!

Try not to stay locked in the same position all day. Get up and move around if you can. Sitting is a pretty unhealthy practice, so take advantage of being out of classes to inject some activity into your day. You can even do some light housework to break up your study blocks. Lucky you!

Stay engaged

Absorbing lectures online can be tough without a live human to connect with. When watching lecture videos, be sure to take notes. Yes, this is basic stuff, but most of us don't have the instinct to grab a pen & paper when we're watching YouTube, so it bears a mention.

Feel free to stop video playback, too, and even rewind and watch certain parts again. This is one of the biggest appeals of video lectures — regardless of any current social distancing — so take advantage of the platform's positive aspects. Pause the lecture, reflect on what you're learning, make some notes, and carry on.

Take part in classroom chats and discussion boards. Bouncing ideas off your classmates will help you absorb and retain the material you're learning. Committing your thoughts to text in a chat or forum can be intimidating, so be bold!

Remember also to seek out feedback from your teachers. You should be able to reach them directly via email, or with a private chat. You have to take ultimate responsibility for your learning, but staying in touch with your instructor will help keep you on track and ensure you're not missing out on important nuances.

Be ready to stop

You might not have a hard time with this one, but for some of us, putting a solid cap on the workday can be difficult. Remember, you've scheduled your day, so when the appointed time finally comes, call it off. Resist any urge you may have to power through and keep going — unless you're late for a deadline, in which case, may we suggest this article on how to pull an all-nighter?

You're in for the long haul, with potentially two or more weeks of work-from-home time, so cut yourself some slack. Use the very same discipline you needed to get started to draw down for the day.

Of course, be sure to be back on time tomorrow!


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