Structuring or managing your workload when studying at home can sometimes feel challenging. There are so many familiar habits and quick-fixes to fall into. Drifting away to that podcast while sifting through case files may be as tempting as hitting your desk without a plan for the day. We’ve researched some of the best workload management tips so you don’t have to.
Try and envisage what your workload might look like for the coming day. Will you be responding to anything in your environment or outside of it? Will you need to work through a pile of reading while someone is exercising to loud music in a nearby room? Think about what activities you will need to cover and what times of the day will be best to achieve these in. If it helps you to get creative and colour-in blocks of a timetable – go for it. You might want to colour-code different types of study from consolidation notes to case-reading, to essay-writing and test practice. See yourself doing it in an order that has some flexibility depending on how the unpredictable parts of your day unfold…
The ‘bullet-journal’ has been the most fashionable method of chunking and listing work in recent years. Breaking down life, including work and study/self-development into different journal areas with specific, measurable goals and as many motivating illustrations as you like, has become a small revolution in planning. Alternatively, there is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned lists. Further breaking down lists into compartments for different strands or categories of work is a fail-safe technique that many professionals use. However, our brains don’t always work in one way and need different kinds of memos. To keep ideas/tasks and goals that can fall to the back-shelf of your brain at the front of your awareness – try arranging bright post-it notes or flashcards in spaces that you regularly look at. Some experimental students/home-workers like to place memo-objects in strange places. Would a Bookworm on the fridge remind you to do the next day’s tutorial reading?
If you are learning online, you will probably be aware of the catalogue of apps and project-management tools that are available to help you manage your schedule in the cyber-space. Apps for individuals include ‘Rescue Time,’ ‘Remember the Milk’ and ‘Focus Keeper.’ If you don’t want to use something new, try putting alerts in the digital calendar connected to your email account. These could be as simple as alarms for when it’s time to move on to a different activity to a reminder that you have a piece of work due for submission. Scheduling alerts on your phone for when you are due a screen-break could be one of the best wellbeing boosters you discover this year.
Limit email intake
Many people misinterpret Mann’s famous ‘in-box zero’ technique as clearing your in-box so that there is nothing left to be seen. However, his actual intention in coining the phrase was to encourage people to limit the times of the day at which they check their emails. Having ‘zero’ visual presence of your in-box will help you designate key times to check your mail. Decide these based on your other tasks.
Knowing when you work best/routines
Being aware of when you are most alert and productive will help you shape the course of your day. Try ‘eating the frog’ and doing the most difficult task during these optimum periods of time. Are you a: morning/mid-afternoon or tea-time person? Do you find drafting long pieces of content easier in the early evening? Get into a good sleep and eating rhythm and find out when you are on good form. Importantly, reconnect with the outside world by taking lunch and engaging with something completely different – such as music, sport, nature or a newspaper. Your brain will appreciate the change from computer or textbook work and feel restored when you return to it.
Say no and delegate
Being confident that you can say ‘no’ and delegate actions to fellow team-mates, whether in a society, club or study-group can be a powerful but tricky habit to get into. Only do the things which you feel you can do without it jeopardising your learning.
Goals can be incredibly motivating. They can also be benchmarks of failure if you don’t reach them at the first attempt in the way you expected. We suggest setting small, manageable, realisable goals, in the short term, as steps that can lead to larger milestone goals in the future. But don’t shy away from having some ‘blue-sky’ life goals stuck to boards, doors and walls so that you can turn to them when in need of motivation and inspiration.
If you are concerned about your wellbeing while studying at home or would like more advice about studying from home, you can talk to the ULaw Wellbeing Service.