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How To Maximize Productivity and Well-Being at Home

We all waited so long for 2021 to arrive and here we are… still in lockdown. A lot of students are tackling this year entirely from home in different parts of the world, and some first years are beginning their university careers having never even set foot on campus. With the second wave prevailing and lockdown being extended, a lot of us are at home with our families way more than we thought we’d be this year. Working from home can be tough – just ask any parent trying to juggle childcare and a job while not being able to leave the house. But teaching ourselves an entire year of university online, at home, poses a whole other challenge.

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Online learning on its own is no walk in the park – in fact, many students have said that this has been the toughest year of university yet. Combine online learning with living with your whole family, taking Zoom classes with barking dogs in the background, and feeling more isolated than you’ve ever felt in your life, and there you have online university! But there are some proactive and preventative measures you can take to make online learning at home more bearable and, dare I say, enjoyable. Here are some tips that have helped me learn how to get into the groove of doing my first year of university online.

Set Up Your Own Space

When I find myself overwhelmed with work and rushing to get things done, the quality of my work often depreciates. However, when I take the time to set up my desk, get a warm beverage, light a candle, and get all my work set up, I feel calmer and more productive. You know what they say – a clean space creates a clear mind!

Block Out Distractions

Your learning environment needs to facilitate concentration, whether that means tuning out your annoying little sibling, letting your parents know you need a couple hours to focus, or (yes, I’m going to say it) putting your phone away. Hear me out; I know you’ve heard it so many times that you’re permanently desensitized to this piece of advice, but turning your phone off and putting it out of sight is one of the best things you can do for your productivity and happiness. You don’t realize how attached you are to your phone until you put it away and notice that your notifications aren’t pulling you away from your work every five minutes. Just try it, even for a day; whether you put a screen time limit on your phone or simply leave it in the other room, you’ll watch the tasks on your to-do list be checked off faster than ever before.

Take Planned Breaks

I don’t want to stress you out by insinuating that you should plan out every moment of your day. However, taking intentional breaks to eat meals, get some exercise, go outside, or talk to a friend can give your brain a well-deserved break. Rather than pushing through fatigue and handing in subpar assignments, taking these breaks will clear your head and ensure that what you are working on is completed to the best of your ability. Remember that your brain needs fuel to work, and there is no shame in taking a well-deserved break to fill your cognitive tank.

Get Ready in the Morning

It may seem counterproductive to waste time getting dressed and doing your skincare routine in the morning if you aren’t going to be leaving your house. However, taking time to get ready as if you were actually going to class has been shown to set your day off on the right note. Picture how you feel on the days when you stay in your pajamas all day: breakfast blends into lunch, your workspace is barely distinguishable from your lounge space, and you can’t remember the last time you brushed your teeth. Conversely, when you put on a cute and comfortable outfit, you feel clean, and you take the time to take care of yourself, you are set up for a much more productive and successful day. 

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It's important to keep in mind that we are collectively going through a tough time right now, so there is no reason to put pressure on yourself to have the perfect day, nor the perfect routine. Whatever you need to do to get through a day of online university is valid and acceptable, whether you follow my advice or stick to your own routine. Most importantly, remember to celebrate your accomplishments, whether they are as big as getting an A in one of your online courses or as small as getting out of bed in the morning and walking over to your desk to start working.

Alex Ugolini

Queen's U '24

Psychology major, actress, lover of the earth. Find me on Instagram @alexugolinii
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