Essential Tips for Studying at Home

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  • To study effectively, you need a quiet study space, a calm atmosphere, and a working surface.
  • Writing out goals and intentions is the first step in achieving good study outcomes.
  • Keeping a study schedule requires effective time management, but it takes practice.
  • Practicing self-care will ease your anxiety and promote mental and physical wellness.

Campuses around the world are closing temporarily to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and an increasing number of students are being forced to continue their studies remotely.

During these challenging times, it can be hard to stay motivated and focused, particularly when world events and news headlines seem to demand your attention from moment to moment.

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It's important to remember that, for right now at least, the only thing you can control is what is right in front of you. You might not be able to alter world events, but you can create a calm, conducive atmosphere that will help you move forward in your studies and career planning.

To help students stay productive while studying remotely, we've compiled some essential tips for staying focused at home.

Create a Conducive Study Atmosphere

An empty chair and desk sit positioned before a large window; plants nestle in pots here and there, and an open book lies on the desk

You can't begin studying or planning unless you have a quiet space to get work done. First, identify a space that works for you and find a working surface, like a desk. Your bedroom might work as a study space, but don't work on your bed — this is important for good sleep hygiene.

Next, create a calming atmosphere that will help you study with minimal distractions and anxiety. Put your phone away, and maybe light a candle or incense. If you want fresh air, open the window and let in some natural light.

The cooking concept of mise en place, meaning "everything in its place," is also instructive for good study habits. Be sure you have everything you need, including things like a snack and beverage, a calculator, a countdown timer, a pen and paper, and noise-canceling headphones. By having these items in place in advance, you can stay focused and avoid getting up and procrastinating on your work.

TIPS FOR A GOOD STUDY SPACE

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    Find a quiet space to get work done and establish a working surface, like a desk.
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    Avoid working or studying on your bed, as this can confuse your body's sleep schedule.
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    Create a calming atmosphere with scents, fresh air, and natural light.
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    Gather everything you will need in advance, including tools, snacks, and study materials.


Write Out Your Goals and Intentions

A young woman in a wool sweater sits cross-legged on the floor and smiles as she writes in a small journal

First things first: Make a list of everything you aim to complete. Are you striving to pass a test? Do you need to outline a research paper? Do you want to research career opportunities? Make sure you list your goals so that you can create a study schedule that will support them.

Once you set your goal, you can write out the steps you will take to achieve it. A good formula is to make goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. You can also write down subgoals and subtasks that help you define measurable outcomes.

While writing out your goals on a computer is great, sometimes it's helpful to have a physical connection to what you're doing. Journals like Moleskine or Passion Planner are stylish ways to stay organized. Or, you can use online tools like Habitica, which offers a way to "gamify your life."

TIPS FOR ORGANIZING GOALS

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    List your broad goals first, then define specific, measurable actions in your subgoals.
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    Consider defining goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
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    Using a pen and paper is a good way to establish a physical connection to your work.
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    Online tools like Habitica can also help you with task and time management.


Create a Study Schedule

A woman sits at a dining table next to a window and consults her notebook and laptop

After you write down your goals, you need to commit time to achieve them. You should plan to create a study or work schedule. How many minutes will you spend reading? Taking practice tests? Searching for sources? Writing? You need to figure out what your end goal is and then create a schedule that matches that.

The most important thing to keep in mind when allocating time to complete tasks is to be specific. For example, for a given window of time, you might write, "30 minutes to complete part one of biology homework."

Until you are disciplined in your time management, you might also consider using a countdown timer. This will help you stay committed to your work without distractions. For more tips, you can watch this YouTube video that explains how to create a timetable that will work for you.

TIPS FOR CREATING A STUDY SCHEDULE

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    Define an achievable timeframe and tie it to a specific task (e.g., "30 minutes to research primary sources").
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    If you are unused to time management, start with small time increments and work your way up to larger ones.
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    Using a countdown timer can help you stay focused on your task.


Employ Self-Care Techniques

A woman sits in lotus position on the floor, surrounded by plants and facing an open window, her back turned toward the viewer

Especially when you're stuck at home, it's important not to be too hard on yourself with a rigorous study or work schedule. Ensure that you take time away from your books to exercise good self-care.

Self-care consists of a variety of techniques and practices, but all of them generally address physical and mental wellness. To encourage wellness, you first need to take care of some fundamentals, like healthy food and exercise.

You should get at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity a day, which might include running outside or vigorous activity like jumping jacks. For food, make sure you're eating a balance of nutritious vegetables, proteins, and fats. The temptation to eat junk food while studying is strong, but these foods can drain your energy, and certain stimulants can also cause you to "crash" once their effects wear off.

Aside from healthy food and exercise, you can also explore other self-soothing techniques, like a hot bath or listening to calming music. Meditation is also a good way to reduce anxiety and hone your focus. Several apps are available that can help, such as Headspace and Calm.

TIPS FOR PROPER SELF-CARE

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    Eat nutritious foods and avoid ingesting too much junk foods and stimulants.
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    Plan to get at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a day.
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    Try self-soothing techniques after you're done studying, like hot baths or calming music.
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    Experiment with meditation using popular apps like Headspace and Calm.

In addition to the study tips outlined above, be sure you have a healthy support network. Reach out to friends and parents if you are struggling with anxiety and uncertainty, and also ask them for help if you are finding it difficult to remain self-disciplined.

Friends and family can also help you stay accountable with your studies along with your instructors and other school professionals. Particularly if you're studying remotely, it's important to know you're not alone and that everyone can help support each other.


Feature Image: Dougal Waters / DigitalVision/ Getty Images

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