Our tutor's top tips for getting out of the lockdown motivation slump
Working from home on the face of it seems like a fantastic idea. You can work in your pyjamas, with your snacks, in the garden if you want to. You can listen to your music choices. And there's no commute.
But there's also no accountability, no routine, and if you're in a full household there's no peace and quiet.
For many having to work and study at home since the COVID-19 lockdown, the glow wore off quite quickly. It can be a challenge to get anything done, and motivation can drop so that you no longer want to.
Running a business means quite frequently working from home, so these are challenges I and my team have encountered before. Here are our top tips.
Alejandro's top tip - Set up a designated work space
Tempting as it may be to work in the garden one day, on the sofa the next, or from your bed, it makes everywhere your work space, and can mean that you find it difficult to switch in and out of work mode.
Ideally you'd need a workspace with as many as possible of the following.
Quiet and away from distracting TV, family, phone, pets
Comfortable seated position
Clear work space like a desk or a table
Removed from where you go to relax, so not in the bedroom or the lounge
It might be hard to find somewhere that offers all of those things in your home. But the closer you can get, the better. Even if you have to share that workspace with other home workers, going in to that workspace will mentally switch you in to work mode each day.
Luke agrees: “Online lessons or lectures are easy to zone out of and no one can really pick you up on it, so having a designated work space really helps (mine has to face the wall or I just stare out of the window all day). This helps me plan out my day on post-its and formulate ideas and schedules on the walls.”
Irene's top tip - Set clear goals for the day
It's tempting to blindly power through the inbox or deal with what's in front of you each day without making a dent in the bigger picture.
If you're studying at home, make sure that you're getting the most important things done first. Make sure the work you're doing is aligned to your goals. Aesthetically, it's nice to have a pretty binder for your notes, or a colourful bujo page for the week, but it isn't as important as getting coursework in on time, or revising for your exam. It's probably your brain's way of putting off the hard things.
The priority is:
Homework due in
If you're working at home, you might like me find that you can easily spend all of your time in your inbox and get to the end of the day having done nothing. Turn off your desktop notifications, and use a focused inbox setting if you have one.
If you set specific goals at the beginning of each day, and big picture goals for each month, it is easier to stay focused. When you find yourself distracted by the interesting emails, realise that they aren't relevant to your goals, and pull your mind back on track.
James' top tip - Take regular breaks
At a certain point, when you're just sitting at the desk staring at a computer screen, there's no benefit to forcing yourself into work mode. You're not a machine. You can't be productive all of the time.
Take breaks throughout the day. Have at least a couple of hours to unwind at the end of the day. Take at least a day off at the weekend.
During the day, get up and move around after you've been working for an hour or two. Try to stick to a normal routine of breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Naumaan's top tip - Have a reset
You'll find sometimes you can be doing everything right and it just doesn't get your anywhere. You're drawing a blank. Sometimes you just need to step away from what you're doing and have a reset. Take your mind to something else, get on with your day, and come back to it later. You might get a sudden moment of clarity once you've given yourself space to relax, or you might find it makes more sense when you come back to it.
And of course if you really can't get to grips with something on your own, you can always book a session with one of our tutor team.
Making an effort to include the fun things you have planned into your routine. It's easy to miss off "Zoom call with the family" or "baking a cake" etc from the schedule but these are things to look forward to and can motivate people quite well.
Don't worry if you have an unproductive day. Quite often getting the procrastination out and learning how to focus yourself is more valuable in the long run than a couple of hours work or revision.
Luke’s top tip - Exercise and meditation to balance the mind
I've heard some weird and wonderful tips from coworkers recently. Some people are going on a walk in the morning to simulate their journey to and from work and others have even been packing their lunch the night before. Whatever helps keep a routine I suppose. I've found that just getting out of PJs is the most helpful thing, getting in the mindset of having a productive day.
I find that exercise is really important right now. I always thought "Healthy Body, Healthy Mind" was a load of old rubbish, but when quarantine started I really struggled. I wasn't tired when going to sleep as I'd done nothing and then that threw my whole day out as I was mentally tired all the time but physically alert.
When it came to exams and revision, I really struggled to focus. I was sitting there trying to read a book, but often the content just wouldn't go in or I was distracted thinking about other things.
I found a list somewhere where people listed their best ways to spend 5 minutes of your day. I'd say every day people have 5 minutes to kill and using them productively is quite valuable. Some people suggested DuoLingo and learning languages etc, but one that stood out to me was meditation.
I'm not spiritual in any way at all and dismissed it as hippy nonsense at first - but then I tried it. I put on some relaxing beach sounds (or whatever relaxes you, dealer's choice) and then just spent 5 minutes concentrating on my breathing. After that, I did the most productive revision I've ever done and I have been doing it ever since when I really need to knuckle down and focus.
I also recommend it to students when they're taking their exams, just to spend a few minutes concentrating on their breathing when the whole exam spiel is being read at the beginning. After they've heard it 2 or 3 times, they know what it says anyway so they should use that time to benefit them by relaxing and oxygenating their brain.
Georgina's top tip - Notice what you always put off
When you repeatedly 'don't get around' to the same things each week, there's usually a reason for that beyond what we've covered so far. We will always put off the things we're less comfortable with. If you're always putting something to the bottom of your list, notice that and address it.
Do you need to do it, or are you deferring it constantly because it just isn't important? If you don't need it, take it off the list entirely. It's just a source of stress.
Do you lack confidence to do it? Find someone to support you. Reach out to your classmates, your teacher, or find a tutor to guide you through it. Most of the time, you just need a little boost.
Do you just not want to do it? If it's something you need to do, and you can do it but don't want to, unfortunately you just have to bite the bullet. But your can make it easier if it's a daunting task by breaking it down into smaller chunks. So the hefty task of 'complete business coursework' becomes 'create proposal for business coursework', then 'draft plan', followed by 'research', 'write up', 'review with tutor', etc. Each individual task is more manageable, and once you've made progress on step one you're motivated to carry on.
If you find yourself regularly struggling to get through your school work at home, get in touch to see how our tutor team can help you.