While the UK may be beginning to ease out of lockdown restrictions, the current ‘work from home’ message can feel like the world is as shut down as ever. This experience is made even worse when your home isn’t particularly work-friendly. Read these three tips for making the best out of a distracting studying environment.
I am currently living and studying at my family home, which is a good two-hour drive away from campus. This means my usual routine of writing essays at the library or cafes on campus is out of the question, and I’m having to work from home – along with several other noisy family members! If you’re like me, anything but complete silence poses a distraction, and this past year has been an uphill struggle to stay focused from my childhood bedroom. My working environment still isn’t perfect – as I type this, I can hear my brother singing loudly from the next room – but here are a few methods I’ve learned to stay concentrated.
Small, Achievable Goals
Although the phrase ‘small goals’ doesn’t feel particularly helpful when you have a huge essay due, sometimes it really is those little wins that can keep you going while working under tough circumstances. At the start of the day, I’ll normally write down one goal that I want to achieve on a post-it. This is usually something relatively small, like ‘300 words written’, even if I need to write far more than 300 words per day to meet my deadline. Then when I meet this goal, it feels like I’ve hit my target for that day, meaning any extra words I write after that are a cause for celebration! These small goals can really help in a distraction-filled environment – if your workspace ever becomes too noisy, you can easily pause work for that day without feeling guilty. It’s important to remember that these are incredibly challenging times, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be constantly productive. Achieving small goals in a difficult work environment is a tough thing to do and should be celebrated as such.
Create Clear Boundaries Setting boundaries for myself (and others) has been the most important thing for me during lockdown. When my day can consist of moving from my bed, to my desk, to my bed, it’s easy to feel like a pacing animal in a zoo! To make sure I don’t get stuck in that rut, I’ve found that establishing clearly what I’m going to do in a day can really help. If I achieve my small goals for that day, often I’ll force myself to take the afternoon off – even if I know I could be getting more work done. This helps to prevent that dreaded ‘burnout’, and helps life feel bigger than that circuit around your bedroom.
Boundaries have also helped me in preventing distractions from other people. If I tell my brother I’ll chat with him in exactly one hour, he seems to find it easier to leave me alone for that time than if I had just told him ‘later’. By setting that clearly defined boundary, both he and I have an end goal to work towards: my gossip break in an hour. Not only does this help him understand that I need no distractions for that hour, but it also motivates me to get as much done as possible in that timeframe. Somehow, an interrupting housemate becomes a motivating reward!
Find a Quiet Time to Study
Noise can be the biggest killer of focus – even hearing someone move about the house can make me want to stop working! This may be controversial, but I’ve found waking up early to work straight away can really help with getting stuff done. Rolling straight out of bed and going to your workspace might seem painful, but while family and housemates are still asleep the house is lovely and quiet! It can be great to tick off your small goals early, so when your house gets noisier you no longer need that intense concentration. I’m not much of a night owl, but exactly the same works in the evenings, too.