Studying in your own time, in the comfort of your home, surrounded by your favourite things may sound like a beach-holiday. But in practice, finding balance between work, rest and play while studying online can be a fine art. We’ve gathered some invaluable tips from people who are experts at working from home.
By Elena Carruthers. Published 21 June 2021. Last updated 11 January 2023.
This might seem obvious but it’s amazing how a fresh T-shirt and pair of joggers can put you in the right mindset for the task ahead. Treat your body like a friend who responds positively to pampering and encouragement.
Write a list
With all the distractions in the world around you, including Google, TV, and your fridge, it’s important to set out an agenda. There’s little more satisfying than ticking-off a realistic set of goals for the day. Some of these should be self-care as well as study milestones.
Set-up your workspace
The key word here is ‘you.’ What makes your desk/office a pleasurable space to be in? For some, burning essential oils and looking-up at a vision-board makes for a perfect workspace. For others, simply having each reference-book and piece of stationary in the right place creates a sense of harmony and comfort. Preparing your workspace the evening before is a top tip for building a sense of enthusiasm around work/study. A tidy desk is a sight for sore eyes in the morning...
Access your workstyle
What do we mean by ‘work-style?’ Well, everyone works to a different rhythm, at a different pace, don’t they? Knowing things like whether you work best between 8am-10am or between 3pm-5pm in the afternoon could be an indicator of when you should knuckle-down and focus harder. Having periods of intense activity mixed with tasks that require more of a gentle flow-state could be the key to your productivity plan. Alternatively, some students like to power-through revision/reading/writing activities with regimented breaks every hour. Discovering your workstyle could turn out to be a personal revolution.
Take regular breaks
We can’t emphasise enough that taking regular breaks is important for your mental and physical wellbeing. Your body needs to keep mobile in order to function and your mind needs time away from the blue wavelengths that come with a screen. Taking regular breaks enables your body to restore itself and reset for the next period of work.
As with any plan – a studying from home agenda can get derailed. It’s good practice to accept this rather than work against it. Instead, setting-boundaries can help to ensure that your studying time is protected and that you and your support-network value it. Useful boundary-setting can include: sending a message to friends and family to say that you will be unavailable at certain times during the week, disconnecting from the internet for a set number of hours each day or only working on your other commitments during designated times. As a rule-of-thumb, make people aware of your intentions and hold yourself accountable to your agenda.
There is nothing more powerful than a ‘can-do’ attitude when faced with multiple commitments and limited time. This extends to being positive about taking a break if you need to or rearranging your day. The way we think about work will shape our choices, so being in a positive and calm mindset is likely to achieve better results.
Again, we don’t wish to be obvious, but eating, sleeping and playing well can ensure that you are doing your best work and that your mind is set-up for the challenges of each day. These things can look different for each person but it’s worth asking what makes you feel energised, inspired, and relaxed as well as organised, prepared and informed. This may mean playing volleyball for thirty-minutes every lunchtime, gardening or reading in the bath – whatever works for you.
Leave the house
We’re all human. So be sure to get your daily dose of fresh-air, sun-light and gentle exercise. If you can be in nature and soak up the sights and sounds of birds and beasts, this will change your thought patterns and reduce any residual anxiety from work or the juggle.
Find a friend, coach, mentor or family member who you can reflect on the progress your work/life balance with. Talking about how we meet commitments to ourselves and others, especially while tackling a busy schedule, can clarify the what, how and why of our daily experience.
Find out more about the academic, social and wellbeing aspects of studying online at ULaw.