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Campus Life

James Trumble

This whole article so far has been about creating balance and having a positive mindset.

How to stay motivated when studying from home

It is no secret that studying from home has become the new normal. Gone are the days of hanging out with your friends in the library or going straight from university to a social sporting event. This is the new normal: waking up five minutes before your lecture begins, treating the occasional video call as your only means of social interaction and barely getting enough steps for the day, let alone month. That is all there is to study at home right? Wrong!

The Other Side – A Mindset

Yes, studying from home may be a slightly different experience, but there are definitely ways to get the most out of your time in university while embracing the difficulties of online learning. It is important to maintain a positive mindset and while that may be easier said than done, I can give you a few examples of how to do just that. You can do just that by thinking about what you are gaining and not just what you are losing.

While you may be losing that physical interaction with your friends, you are also gaining the opportunity to learn more about yourself and develop a genuine sense of independence. While you are missing that noisy bus ride to university with your morning coffee, you are now getting an extra hour of sleep and noticing a visible improvement in your cognitive function throughout the day. It was not the situation or environment that has changed, but your own perspective.

The art of balance

For all of my life, I have embraced a well-known quote from The Shining that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Essentially, it is important to have balance in your life and that does not mean physical balance when walking on a tightrope. I mean a variety of activities while studying from home. In between university classes, try to go for a walk or get involved in some online card games with your friends. Studying at home takes a lot of motivation, but it is a lot easier knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, whether it be a video call, group Zoom exercise session or playing the piano. While a routine is helpful, it is almost just as important to make sure you have adequate time to do the things you enjoy. We only live once, so we may as well make the most of it. Let's look at an example of a schedule that really worked for me during peak lockdown.

I always tried to schedule my classes throughout the day so that it gave me windows of time to do the things I enjoyed. For instance, if I had a break around lunchtime, I would go for a walk in my local park or exercise in the garage during the full lockdown. Once I finished a couple of afternoon classes, I would call some of my friends or play some video games with them to keep myself engaged.  Regardless of what the task is, if you enjoy it, you need to make time for it because, by the time university is over (and it will be over quicker than you think), it may be too late. So make the most of it and draw up a schedule that works for you! One of the benefits of the university is no fixed classes, you can mix and match whatever works for you.

But what about studying?

This whole article so far has been about creating balance and having a positive mindset but at the end of the day, you are going to have to sit behind a computer and get through some work. For that, I have some study tips. There is no doubt that university requires a lot of self-studying because after all, there will always be that lecturer that you simply cannot understand well or a momentary lapse in concentration which suddenly takes you to the end of a lesson. The 50/10 rule is your best friend. Remember that spiel about balance earlier? Well turns out it is a scientifically proven method. It is quite simple: study for 50 minutes, relax for 10 minutes and repeat. This improves memory retention and creates a psychological reward system where you feel motivated to study because you are consciously aware of the reward that comes after. That reward can be anything: it could be talking with your sibling, playing the piano or even watching a YouTube video. Anything you want!

Another important study tip is to have a clean, quiet area. There is a psychology behind working in a cluttered area and having cluttered thoughts. Humans are perceptive creatures and if we are surrounded by mess, this is unlikely to have a positive effect on our work. This may not work for everyone so if you work better from a messy desk, be my guest! The baseline is that it is important to find a space that works for you and will promote concentration.

So what?

At the end of the day, it is easy to get caught up in the moment. It is easy to lament both situations in and out of your control. COVID was out of your control whereas a sports injury may have been slightly more in your control, right? That is not the right way to think. Instead, you should make the best of the situation you find yourself in because, at the end of the day, that is all that matters. Make time for the things you enjoy because there will come a time when that may not even be an option.