If you're the type of student who practically lives in the library during exam time, or if you have a particularly busy home environment, getting solid work done can be a challenge. Here are some suggestions:
Setting up a "home office" gives you a good base. Ideally, this would be a quiet room, separate from your bedroom. If that's not possible, then a corner of your bedroom or the living room can work. Collect everything you need for your work (laptop, stationery, tea…etc…) and decorate a little with photos and plants, if you'd like.
A change of scenery can really help clear your mind. If government guidance permits, get outside for a little while. Even if you need to stay indoors, simply moving to a different room or a different place in the room for an hour or two can make a difference.
Get rid of all distractions. Keep your workspace as uncluttered as possible and put your phone on silent. It may help to pack up all your materials at the end of a study session, just like you would at the library.
Avoid multitasking. Try not to do chores or watch Netflix while doing your work. Instead, get your work done and treat yourself with an episode afterwards!
With so many of our regular activities cancelled or postponed, it's important for us to create good routines that keep us in shape, both physically and mentally.
Your morning routine sets the tone for your day. Try to get up at the same time as you always do. Get dressed, eat breakfast, and start work promptly. Some people find it helpful to put shoes on, or to wear professional clothes, to get them in the right frame of mind.
Set time limits on your work. You will need to work more than an hour or two a day, but it's not realistic to be at your laptop from 8am to 8pm! Try to work a "typical" 8-hour day, or aim for 4 hours of focussed work. You could also try the pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break.
Stop for the day when you've finished your allocated time or to-do list items. Shut down your laptop, clear up your space, and enjoy some well-earned relaxation!
With teaching and assessment moving online, the next few weeks will be a transition period for both students and staff. While this may be challenging, it's also an exciting time to develop new skills in the digital environment.
Familiarise yourself with online resources. At the ASC, we have both Essay Bites and Revision Bites, as well as other resources. Most library resources are available online, and they have study guides for every subject. There are also many great resources available on the internet, such as this Crash Course in Study Skills.
Explore My Dundee. Your tutors are likely uploading all kinds of helpful resources. Also, as your assessments will be moving online, it's good to familiarise yourself with the Assessment Upload section. Make sure you know what file formats you need to submit, and give yourself plenty of time for your files to upload.
Try new tools. Now may be the time to learn how to use video-editing software, explore all of Powerpoint's functions, or give Microsoft Teams a try for communicating with your peers. Be aware that, with everyone moving online, internet speeds may be slightly slower than usual.
Ask for clarification if necessary. This is a big transition for everyone, and if you're not able to find the information you need, it's likely that other people have the same problem. Get in contact with your tutor, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also regularly check the University's Student Support page.
In this time of "self-isolation" and "social distancing," contact with other people has never been more important. Exams can be a lonely experience at the best of times, but it's essential to maintain relationships with others.
Stay connected with family and friends. Use software such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom to connect with your loved ones. Take this opportunity to start a group chat with your family and reconnect with old friends. While you should avoid endless scrolling through social media and turn off notifications while studying, it's important to make relationships a priority during this time.
Designate time for work and study. While it may be tempting to spend hours chatting with your flatmates, it's important to set aside time to work in a distraction-free environment. Set "quiet hours" with your flatmates and hold each other to them. If you have children this will understandably be much more difficult, but "homeschooling" can (sometimes!) be as easy as letting them watch Blue Planet. Parent Club's Homeworking Guide offers suggestions for parents based on their children's age.
Staying healthy is always a challenge during the stress of exams, but there are many innovative solutions to try while the gym is closed, or you're self-isolating.
Get away from the screen! While there are many things you can do to minimise eye strain, the most important is to take regular breaks away from the screen. Move work off-screen if possible-- after all, taking notes by hand has been shown to improve understanding. At very least, follow the 20-20-20 rule, where every twenty minutes you spend twenty seconds staring at an object twenty feet away.
Exercise. Where possible, head outside every day. Now is your time to explore quiet local parks and trails-- just make sure to obey government rules on social distancing. If you can't leave your house, the BBC and the Guardian have suggestions on working out while indoors.
Consider your posture. One of the great parts of working from home is that you get to work from your bed or your couch… but be mindful that poor posture can have long-term impacts. Try to sit straight, stretch regularly, and check out the NHS guidance for sitting at a desk.
Make healthy snacks. It may be tempting to indulge in crisps and chocolate, but try to also find a few healthy alternatives. Vegetables and fruit are a good start, while nuts and dried fruit are long-lasting if you need to self-isolate. Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid too much caffeine.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, your mental wellbeing must be a priority at this time.
Be realistic about what you can handle. Be aware of the impact that this situation may have on your ability to work and adjust your expectations accordingly. It's important to pay attention to all the good things you are doing and to avoid self-criticism.
Take breaks! We've already discussed the need for physical breaks, but make sure to take mental breaks as well. Block off time for yourself, whether that's an hour for self-care, or a five minute mini-break for mindfulness, prayer, or meditation.
Find a study buddy to support your work. Check in regularly online with a friend who can encourage you as you make progress toward your goals. This could be a peer who's working through the material with you or perhaps a supportive family member.
Get support from the university. If you have questions about your academic work, get in touch with your tutor, or with us at the ASC (email@example.com). If you have any other concerns, contact the Enquiry Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Created with images by Marvin Meyer - "untitled image" • Avel Chuklanov - "untitled image" • Julian Hochgesang - "untitled image" • Rodion Kutsaev - "untitled image" • Chad Madden - "untitled image" • Matthew LeJune - "untitled image" • Yoab Anderson - "untitled image"