Finding focus and motivation for studying

Lucy’s tips include finding a dedicated study space, communicating to others in the home when she is working, and blocking out time for both work and relaxation.

Lucy talks about the challenges of independent study and shares her strategies for making it easier.

Video transcript

Over the past several months, and now with the latest lockdown, the ways in which we study have been totally transformed. Not only have we had to adjust from the classroom to online teaching, but the studying we do on our own, which is otherwise known as independent learning, has also been totally disrupted by the pandemic.

Personally, I found it harder to adapt to independent learning, compared to my online taught sessions. I think this is because, while my online sessions provided a structure, and a chance to meet my lecturers, and talk with people on my course, when I was left on my own, my like concentration and motivation were generally a lot lower.

I think this is a totally normal response to uncertain times, because when you're left on your own, your mind can really easily wander to worries and concerns about what's going on in the world. Due to the lockdown my usual study routine where I would get out and about and do independent studying in a cafe or the library wasn't an option anymore. And living at home during the latest lockdown meant that I had to deal with family members, sometimes disrupting my work.

With all that said, I rapidly realised that I needed to adjust my independent studying to make it as enjoyable and manageable as possible. One of the first and most crucial things that I did was to really carve out an independent study space that was totally my own. So I managed to find a desk that would fit in my room. And this meant that I had my own space to really focus on my studying.Whereas before I was working at my kitchen table, so I'd regularly face interruptions from members of my family, having the space makes it so much easier to concentrate.

And I find it also really helps me to separate work from relaxation. I feel like when you're working at home, it's so easy for the two to just become blended together. And it's really hard to separate when you're relaxing versus when you're working. So having the space where I do my work means it's a lot easier for me to make that separation when it's time for me to relax.

Another thing that I do is I communicate to others in my home when I'm going to be studying. So they know when interruptions need to be kept to the minimum. So one thing that's been really helpful is writing out a schedule of when I'll be completing my most important work. And I pin that to my bedroom door, and also the kitchen fridge so the others in my house can see when I'll be completing my work. And they know not to interrupt me if possible during these times. Again, this has really helped to boost my productivity and motivation.

Although I do the majority of my work in my quiet and organised study space in my room, I have also found that occasionally moving around the house can be useful. But I tend to do this when others aren't around. So as part of this, I actually created a home coffee shop where I made myself a treat of an iced coffee, grabbed a bit of cake and sat down in our kitchen, put on a coffee shop vibe. And this helped me just really recreate the atmosphere of going out to study in a cafe or a coffee shop, because it's something that I really miss. And I found this just gave me a boost of happiness, and therefore productivity. And I feel like that's really needed during these difficult times.

Scheduling is also a major factor in making my work feel way less overwhelming. So in my calendar, I like to block out time for when I'll be completing assignments, or catching up with recorded lectures. And I also block out my relaxation time. And I treat that with as much priority as if it were a scheduled meeting, I always make sure that I leave my evenings free, so that I'm prioritising rest, because I found that my energy levels have been much lower during the pandemic, which again, I think is really normal. But it's important to make sure that we are recharging so that we don't burn out.

I also found that scheduling in little breaks to go for walks was really helpful. Because I'd come back feeling really refreshed and ready to go with my work after I'd got out for some fresh air.

Something that's been really challenging is the lack of social interaction during the pandemic. So something that I've been treating as a main priority is making sure that I'm still putting the effort towards getting to know the people on my course. So we have a group chat with basically everyone on our course. And I really make the effort to attend the social zooms that we have at least once a month. And through this, I've actually met some people on my course that I'm now quite close with.

And we communicate on more or less a daily basis just to check in and see how things are going with our work. And it's really nice. I can ask them questions of anything I'm not sure about. And it's really helped to reduce that feeling that I'm just tackling everything on my own. And that I'm not really getting to know those people on my course.

In general, I try not to be harsh on myself. I'm really realistic about what I can actually achieve in a day and I feel We accept that things are gonna feel a lot harder during a pandemic. And in the end, I think this just means will be one of the most resilient cohorts to ever graduate from university. We're in such a unique circumstance, and we're still getting through our degrees. And I think that's something that we should really be proud of.