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Surviving Lockdown, Surviving Online University

I know that most of us have been ‘attending’ university online for months now, and that, compared to the real thing, it’s difficult and strange. But with the most recent government and university announcement urging students to not come back to campus until further notice, I think we all need some motivation. 


Here are some tips that I’ve personally been trying out for the past few months; these have really helped me knuckle down and do some work whilst my energy levels have been a big fat ZERO! I know that lockdown is already mentally straining and trying to complete a university degree all through your laptop is a challenge and a half!! So, these are some of the things I’ve been trying to help me feel better about it all and be a little more productive! 


1. Get ready for the day. I get it, I struggle a lot with this one myself; it’s so tempting to just stay in pyjamas! However, if you make the effort to get dressed as if you were actually going to campus, this works wonders for your mindset and you’ll actually feel in the position to do work instead of having a lazy day. Establishing this routine will reinstate some normality in your life, plus, you won’t be as tempted to get back in bed- it’s a win, win situation. Another thing that helps me get out of bed is to write out my to-do list or goals on my notes app the night before. This way, I know roughly how my day's going to go and can wake up feeling refreshed and ready. 


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2. Music for productivity. I’m sure we’ve all seen the TikToks of people listening to Mario Kart theme tunes to study. Although I love them, personally, they’re a little too repetitive to listen to for hours on repeat! I’ve found that there are lots of types of music that can really boost productivity! Instrumental songs work best for me (music with lyrics might be distracting), such as classical piano or orchestra. There’s also lots of studies into the benefits of Lo-Fi music in studying and deep focus! Listening to these has really helped me tackle big tasks such as writing essays, you lose track of time and get lots done! Here are some playlists to get you going:                   







3.  Light a candle. It might sound crazy, and please tell me I’m not the only one, but I will light a candle to keep me company while I’m doing work. As well as being relaxing to watch and calming (especially if it’s scented), there’s something about having it there that just helps me! This is especially good for those dark winter days, and if you’re a night owl! 


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4. Find what works best for you. Staying productive is difficult at the moment, so try out a few methods and see what fits your lifestyle and schedule best. The Pomodoro method has raving reviews and is known to get even the worst procrastinators out of their slump (Check out Megan Clayton’s article on this here). I’ve also found that doing zoom study sessions, where you each tell the group what you want to achieve by the end of the hour and then study together, have been great! Working around other people makes you want to get more done, and you can motivate each other to keep going too! 


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5. Break your phone habit. This one’s a killer. I find myself reaching for my phone more often than ever now, only to spend hours on TikTok or doom scrolling my life away and then feeling awful about it. Rather than stressing about your screen time, eliminate the problem. You're being your own worst distraction at this point! Either turn your phone off, turn on flight moder or put it in another room altogether! You can even try the Forest app to beat that phone addiction. Leaving the app to go on your phone will kill the tree that you’ve grown, and no one wants that! You can even plant real trees around the world with the credits you earn from not going on your phone- it’s worth it! 


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6. Go to your classes. I know that at the start of term when I found out all my learning was going to be online, I definitely thought ‘there’s no chance I’ll be turning up to half of those seminars now’- the pressure that comes with face to face meetings just isn’t there, who’s going to have a go at me for attendance in the next session if I just don’t turn my laptop on? Virtual classes seem intense, everyone’s staring at you and you don’t have the benefit of scanning the room for body language to know how everyone else is feeling! But, instead of letting my anxiety get ahead of me, I went to my first few introductory sessions with an open mind and turned on my microphone AND camera. Honestly, I’m so glad I didn’t shy away from those Blackboard lessons. It might be so easy to just switch off and hide in the background but actually trying to engage will do you so much good!  And it was worth it just to see the delight in the tutor’s face when they see that they aren’t just talking to a group of blank boxes with initials in them! With the lack of face to face contact in all facets of life at the moment, really take what you can get! After having a genuine chat with my classmates, I felt that I had got so much more out of my lessons because I was trying to engage, instead of being passive! I actually came away feeling great and knowing that I had learned something. I think it’s important to maintain these relationships and conversations even if it is virtual for the time being. 


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7. Get to know the people on your course. This is important particularly if you’re in your first year and haven’t had the chance to meet anyone properly yet due to the pandemic. Everyone’s in the same boat and will really appreciate a message, so don’t be afraid to reach out! Group chats are everything! If someone’s not made a group chat for your subject/module yet, consider making one yourself! They’re helpful under normal circumstances, if you’ve forgotten a deadline date or need some notes from a lecture, but now they have an added socialising benefit that you otherwise wouldn’t get at the moment. Also, if you’ve found that you really get on with your seminar group or you’ve clicked with someone you’ve been chatting to in the dreaded breakout rooms, send them a message! I promise they will appreciate it and you can look forward to the future when one day you can actually meet in person! 


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8.  Don't feel guilty about taking time to yourself. We’re all living through a pandemic. We’re all living through lack of support for our online degrees. We need to prioritise our mental health and take the time we need when we need it. If you have a day off from doing uni work, have a self care day! Take yourself outside or start a book you’ve been meaning to read. It’s important to take breaks and not put too much pressure on yourself, remember, everyone’s in the same situation as you! If you’re stuck at home, learn to separate your workspace from your leisure space. As you would normally go to the library or campus to do work and then come home to chill, try to adopt this routine! This way, you won’t feel guilty when you do take time off, but when you’re working you’ll feel like you’re actually getting somewhere! Self care is not selfish, and you can even try new hobbies while you're at it. Recently, I've become invested in house plants and spend most of my free time trying to keep them alive. When I'm convinced my Monstera isn't going to die on me, I have also been religiously finding new and exciting (but easy) recipes to try to cook


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9.  Make that 9k worth it! Since we’re not getting any face to face time with tutors, do not feel too shy or awkward to email/message/ask them anything and exercise your right to your full tuition- you’re still paying for it so you should strive to get all the resources you can get! You may have seen this open letter going around within the University of Leeds and then resulting in a uni-wide blanket extension that has been dubbed as a ‘week of no late penalties’, subsequently encouraging students not to take it. Students definitely deserve more than this with the rollercoaster of a year we’ve all been through, so don’t hesitate to ask, email, campaign, demand more!  


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I hope that some of these tips are useful to you and hope that everyone’s staying safe, healthy and happy. Good luck with exam season!



Words By: Dasha Pitts-Yushchenko

Edited By: Alice Colton 


English Literature graduate, Her Campus Leeds Editor in Chief 2020-2021 :)
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