This week we bring you an article from our welfare officer Victoria Saris that is all about working from home! It was first published in our October newsletter.
So if you’re anything like me, studying from home with the new online format has been a bit of a rollercoaster. When we went into lockdown at the start of the year there was panic, disruption to routine?! How will I survive!? After the intiial panic came determination to own studying in isolation, watch all the lectures, do all the things. As semester 1 came to a close, things started getting back to normal. At least that’s what we hope for.
When uni started back up again; things had changed. With the new online format we started to settle and let things slide a little bit. After all, working from home can be hard for maintaining a good routine. Which leads me to the current stage of ‘new uni’, a stage that has triggered the writing of this piece; the burn out.
I’ve heard a lot of friends and colleagues saying that they have now reached the extreme point of burnout and lack of motivation. This isn’t the best thing considering it’s nearing exam season. To help with this, this piece holds some tips and tricks to surviving the exam season and hopefully regaining some motivation to study.
1) Rules for Developing a Routine
Rule 1: Wake up around the same time each day
That’s right, set an alarm and drag yourself out of bed, even though it is difficult when you know you don’t need to be anywhere. One of the key issues of studying from home, is that your sleep wake cycle can go pear shaped if you get too comfortable with the idea of sleeping in. Developing a routine will also help with your mood, and levels of productivity. Condition yourself!
Rule 2: Have some breakfast
Or a morning coffee… or whatever it is you consider breakfast. You’ve undoubtedly heard it a thousand times before “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” Whilst this may not be strictly peer-reviewed, there is some logic behind it. Building a breakfast into your routine aids your routine. You need energy for your brain to function, and that requires fuel, i.e. breakfast. You’ll also feel much more productive if you actually do things before you sit down to study.
Rule 3: Do some exercise
Fitness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but some form of exercise will increase oxygen to the brain, give you a hit of adrenaline and a sense of focus. It need not be intense exercise; do what you can do. Personally, morning yoga creates an immense sense of relaxation and focus whilst also being physically beneficial. Your exercise could be anything from a walk or run around the block, to a full blown HIT session in the lounge room. Either way; healthy body, healthy mind. Add it to the daily routine.
Rule 3: Get dressed for the day
And I don’t mean changing from your night PJs to your day PJs. Getting properly dressed as if you intend on leaving the house can help you to feel more professional and focused. Your subconscious thinks that if you’re dressed, it’s important, and that you’re meant to be going somewhere or doing something. Getting dressed to sit down at your desk in the spare bedroom kind of emulates getting dressed to go study in the library at uni. Sounds silly and baseless, but just give it a go. Trust me, it works.
Rule 5: Set breaks and a time to stop
The key contributor to burnout is overworking yourself and trying to get everything done in one day. Set a time to stop for the day; be it whatever time you would usually leave uni or the time your partner/family gets home. If the end is in sight, we tend to push ourselves a little bit to reach a milestone before closing the books for the day.
It is also important to take breaks throughout the day; listen to your body’s needs, eat lunch, drink water, go for a walk to clear your head. Setting times for breaks is a good way of doing it, but consider basing breaks on when you complete a task. This acts as positive reinforcement, if you finish the thing, you get the reward of chilling out for 20 minutes. You’d be surprised how much quicker things get done if you set your mind to it this way.
2) Look after your mental health
Whilst yeah, developing routine and studying hard for exams are important, so is your mental health. Being in a good headspace isn’t just good for you, but also good for your study. Especially in the spirit of Mental Health Month, it’s super important to check in with how your brain game is going.
If you can, make the time for some of the following things.
- Take some down time
- Spend some quality time with your family, friends or partner
- Find the time for some meditation or mindfulness; you could even keep a diary or gratitude journal.
- Know when to stop. If you’re getting too worked up, that’s usually a hint
- Maintain a healthy diet, drink lots of water
- Use the tips above to create a routine and stick to it
- Get on top of your sleep-wake cycle with a roughly set bedtime and wake up time
- Spend time with your pets if you have any
- Spend time doing something you enjoy
- If you need help, talk to someone. Be honest with those around you, or go talk to a professional.
I mean, now that you’ve got the rest to try and do, let’s have a think about actually studying. We know from cognition research that learning styles are debunked, however I think we can all agree that we still have our own preferred study method. Regardless, here’s some general tips to apply to your study, whatever that may be.
- Ensure you have a designated study space, if possible separate from where you sleep or relax.
- Be active in your study, consider what everything actually means and how it all connects. Don’t just forcibly memorise, build understanding.
- Don’t think that you know something just because you look at it and it’s familiar (aka hindsight bias)
- Test yourself. Without the textbook. This helps overcome the above mentioned hindsight bias.
- Connect personal relevance to things. It’s easier to remember things with personal relevance, and it is encoded more deeply. This is known as the self reference effect.
- Take smaller breaks more frequently as opposed to a big break less frequently
- Take notes on textbook chapters AFTER you’ve read them. It encourages you to consider key information rather than just mindlessly copying notes.
So now that you’ve got some key tips and tricks up your sleeve to get a handle on your end-of-semester / too-long-studying-from-home suppressed motivation, go forth and study! Develop your daily routine and stick to it, do positive things and support your mental health, study hard and survive exam season. It’s been a long and tough year, but you should be proud that you have nearly reached the finish line despite it all!
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Author: Victoria Saris, FPSA welfare. Edited by Rosie Coleman