How to stay productive when you’re studying at home

Olivier Guiberteau
Olivier Guiberteau

9 July 2020 • 6 min read

Our old routines of sleepily stumbling into a lecture hall are gone (for now at least). And while many might rejoice in such freedom, staying productive is much harder than it seems. Here are seven ways to help you stay productive while studying at home. 

1. Find your routine (and stick with it)

For many, studying at home can turn into a blur. Late nights lead to sleeping late. Followed by that nagging feeling as you eat lunch that you should probably do something with your day. 

When you finally get started you aimlessly flip through a few chapters, then put the book down. Too many days like this will not do wonders for your studying.

Decide what you need to do during the week and create a routine. It really doesn’t matter when you start or finish, but be honest with yourself about how many hours are needed.  If you work well in the morning, study in the morning. If you’re a night owl, then study in the evening. But go to bed and wake up at the same time. 

2. Writing lists

Our brains are constantly in operation, with thoughts and emotions working in overdrive. It can be easy to feel like you’re drowning in it all. The truth is that in the 21st Century an enormous amount of information is fed into our consciousness at a relentless rate. We are usually trying to juggle so many things it can feel overwhelming. One proven way of helping this is to write to-do lists. 

Breaking down everything you need to do for your studies - and in life in general -  into manageable chunks on a daily basis can do wonders for your productivity. Lists are a wonderful way to be concise with exactly what you need to do, then make sure you cross them off as you go. Looking at a completed list at the end of the day is a sure-fire way to give yourself that feeling of accomplishment.  

And it doesn’t need to stop with studying. The psychology of the to-do list is a fascinating topic, and just like a good routine, its benefits go far beyond just education.  

3. Be distraction-free (or as close as you can)

We live in a world of distractions. From our mobile phones to Netflix. So it’s important to make your environment as distraction-free as possible. 

Very few people study well in front of the TV, even if you are not actively watching it, with countless studies backing this up. If possible, use a space that is calm and quiet. If quiet is not an option, think about using certain types of music to study with. Music without vocals are best, and there are countless videos available on YouTube. 

4. Breaking up your Time

Remember, you are not in prison. You should not have your head stuck in a book for 9 hours straight. It’s not healthy, and in all likelihood, you will come out of it a bit of a strange person. 

There are now numerous studies out there that show that breaks are absolutely vital for recharging your body. 

Studies have shown that the human brain only concentrates at full capacity for an average of 45 minutes until it starts to wander off. You might think that prolonged learning is useful, but the way you are doing it, and indeed how we have thought for many years, isn’t optimal. 

The Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management method, has become increasingly popular and with the app on your phone, it’s incredibly simple to segment your study time into smaller pieces. Give your brain the best conditions to work in, and you’ll never look back!  

5. Move your body & eat well

Breaking News. Exercise is good for you. In fact, it’s absolutely vital for maintaining productivity, as it is quite literally changing the brain. 

Do you ever notice how smoothly the day seems to go if you have exercised in the morning? That’s the endorphins and serotonin flooding your body, making you relaxed, focused, and more productive. 

Yes, we know, on a cold morning the last thing you want to do is put on those trainers, but this is simply a short term blockage in the brain. You know full well that it is worthwhile, but too often we allow laziness to take control.  

But this isn’t just about exercise. How well you take care of your body has a direct effect on your mood, emotions and well-being. If you feel horrible after a period of prolonged junk food, the last thing you want to do is study. Feed your body well, and the brain will respond.   

6. Reward yourself

When you’re staring down at your list in the morning, you might be tempted to wonder, what’s in it for me? Now, the logical answer here is education. However, this answer does very little for us on a daily basis. It’s almost impossible to use an abstract, distant reward as daily motivation.  

If you complete everything you have set out to do in the day, then you deserve a reward. You need to be really honest with yourself here. Don’t choose things that you think you should, choose what you really want to do.

Maybe it’s playing computer games, watching a movie, reading or sitting in the park with some friends. This is how our brains work, so why fight it? Do the hard work, and enjoy the rewards after. 

7. Form a virtual study group

Humans are social animals and we often thrive when surrounded by others. This isn’t necessarily the case for everybody but for many, the lack of human contact can lead to problems. 

A virtual study session can be a wonderful way to add that feeling of normality. 

It can be a great way to generate ideas for a topic through discussions, or perhaps simply to just sit quietly together studying. We need to remember that we are all different, and we need different things. If you study great on your own, wonderful. But if you feel that you work better in a group, then the occasional virtual study group might well be the way forward.

Studygroup is an excellent website that connects people from all over the country. Many universities are incorporating study groups into their online platforms, so check out your own university to see what they are doing.

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Olivier Guiberteau
Written By
Olivier Guiberteau

Oli lives in London and is a writer and photographer.


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