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6 ways to increase productivity when you’re studying at home

So we’ve all been there – sat at a desk staring longingly at a screen hoping that words will appear. But what is it about being in your own environment that makes it impossible to get work done?

Now, if you’re reading this and you happen to be one of the lucky ones that thrive in their own surroundings – then I applaud you.

But in a world where Facebook can inform you that you’ve forgotten a friend’s birthday, LinkedIn can show you who’s been monitoring your career moves, and BBC News can update you of a global crisis, all before your first sip of coffee in the morning – it’s no wonder we’re getting distracted.

We’ve listened to our students and compiled a list of our most effective hacks to ensure that studying from home is as productive as can be.

1. Switch off

Now this is a big one, and one that we find so hard to do. There’s nothing worse for productivity than being half way through an assignment and being interrupted by a ‘bleeeeeeeeeep’.

It may just be a quick message from a friend seeing if you’re free to go gigging with them on Friday night, but the next thing you know you’re booking a train, looking at hotels and BAM – you’ve lost the hour that you set aside for your studies. Easily done.

Digital distractions are everywhere and to make sure you get the most out of your time, you need to switch off.

The pomodoro technique advocates frequent breaks and a lot of self discipline. Essentially, you work solidly for 25 minutes and follow it with a five minute break. By repeating this strict cycle, it allows you to get a tonne of work done without losing focus .

To make things easier, Chrome and Firefox have some great browser extensions that block social websites during study time, and allow you back on them during your breaks. A great way to make sure your mind doesn’t wander.

Stayfocused is based on a similar concept, but instead blocks sites at particular times of the day. So if you’re a night owl and most productive between midnight and 02.00, you can disable certain sites during those hours to avoid temptation.

2. Respect your time

When you’re at work, it’s easy to tell a loved one that you’ll call them back later because they’ll naturally respect your daily schedule. But when you’re on the sofa in your pyjamas revising for an exam… it’s not so easy.

It’s important to set boundaries and occasionally say no. People will respect your study time, but only if you do first. Set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ and try to focus on the task in hand, most other things can wait.

Tools like Asana and Trello are great for helping you plan your revision schedule. They can allow you to organise your tasks and meetings to keep you focused whether you’re working alone, or in a group.


3. Break things down

Big dreams are good – no one aspires to be average. But when you’re tackling a piece of work it’s important to break it down into segments. The purpose may be to pass an exam, write a persuasive essay or wrap up a complex project, but if you solely focus on the end goal you’ll set yourself up for a fail.

Giving yourself daily objectives helps you stay on top of things whilst making you feel awesome as you complete each task.

A great app for this is any.DO. It allows you to create tasks and assign them to today, tomorrow or in the future. At the end of the day, if you were over-ambitious you can quickly reassign anything left over with a swipe of the finger.

4. Mix things up

Now this won’t work for everyone, but when you hit a wall and feel like you can’t focus anymore, a change of scenery may help. Take yourself to a café or library and try a different approach.

If it works and you think being outside of the house helps you focus, then sites like worksnug.com will help you find quiet places with free Wi-Fi to avoid that awkward… “Oh you don’t have internet, don’t worry about the coffee” conversation.

If changing the environment doesn’t help you focus, then try studying at a different time of the day. Sadly there isn’t a quick fix to make you more productive – it’s about trial and error and finding out what works for you. Small changes can make a big difference.

5. Make time count

Ever finish up a day and wonder where the time went? If you’ve got a busy lifestyle and you’re always on the go, it’s important to savour every minute.

Tools like RescueTime allow you to change your daily computer use to see how much time you’re spending on what sites, how quickly you process words and how much time you spend on social media – you’d be surprised just how much of your day can be eaten away replying to emails.

You can even alter the settings so that it sends you daily and weekly reports. This allows you to see if your habits are changing and what time of the month you’re most productive, so you can plan your work around it.


6. Take a break

Wherever you’re working from, breaks are important. You need them to reenergise yourself for the rest of the day. Have you ever said no to going to the gym or lunch with friend because you’re just too busy?

Chances are that very same day you spent ages browsing Reddit, watched a bit of TV, chatted with a friend on Facebook, bid for something on eBay…maybe even cleaned the house.

Busy breaks aren’t going to revitalise you. Get outside, take a hike, get your heart beating – you’ll be happier, healthier and ultimately, more productive.

Any suggestions?

As I said earlier, everyone is different. There isn’t a quick fix to becoming more productive. There are however, loads of free tools out there that are designed to help you – so take advantage of them.

If you’ve got any top tips on keeping productive, we’d love to hear from you – comment below or tweet us.