The day had begun so nicely. As you rolled out of bed and donned your favorite hoodie, you held high hopes for the day. “Today will be the day I finally have the breakthrough I need to finish calculus,” you proclaim. You smile to yourself as you pour coffee into your oversized mug.
Three hours later, you’re staring out the window and realize you haven’t accomplished anything.
Well, that’s not entirely true. You’ve refilled your coffee twice, answered the phone, checked Facebook three times, and finally replaced that light bulb in your closet. Sighing, you flip open your textbook for the millionth time. As you find the correct chapter, you hear your Labrador barking frantically at the back door.
While it may sound nice to stay in your pajamas all day, studying at home is not without its pitfalls. But it doesn’t have to make you crazy. Here are 13 ways to avoid just that.
Set a time you wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and begin studying. If you don’t set a routine for yourself, you may find your breakfast break stretch into... lunch. A routine provides a structure to get things done, keep the little things (like showering) from falling through the cracks, and frees you to plan for times to not study as well.
I know it’s tempting to wear pajamas all day or neglect brushing your hair for 15 days in a row. After all, you’re not planning to leave the house except for picking up emergency Doritos. However, you’ll feel much better about life and your studies when you take care of yourself. Make it a point to get dressed, brush your hair, and look presentable every day. (You might end up feeling a bit more motivated, too.)
Discover a good coffee shop (and learn to like the house brew), grab a blanket and take your books outdoors, or scope out your local library to provide a change of scenery when hitting the books. Even moving to a new location in your home can work wonders.
If you have a set routine, but find yourself in a rut, switch your schedule around a bit. Often, a bit of variety is all it takes to restore enthusiasm. If you generally stay up later and get up a bit later, try an early to bed/early to rise routine for a bit. Perhaps slipping in a few hours of study before anyone else in your house is up will transform your study process.
Or, if you’re a night owl, try taking a longer break in the morning or mid afternoon and getting a few hours of work accomplished at night when the rest of your family is asleep. If you’re trying to get 4 hours of studying in each day, try working in a 4-hour block with only short breaks, or four 1-hour sprints at various points during the day. There are no hard and fast study rules—mix it up and see what works best for you.
Shutting down your computer will give you a sense of closure. Set a “quitting time” for your day, and get away from the screen. Take some time to play a board game with family or friends, read a good book, or take a walk. By shutting down your computer, you’ll ensure your work is saved and you won’t feel like you are in eternal study mode (plus, regularly shutting down will help your computer will run faster!) Since you may not be able to change locations when your study day ends, it’s important to use other means to create a sense of closure to your studies each day.
This one is more important than you’d think. First, a clean space helps you think clearly and focus, but that’s not all. When your study space is clean, you can find the supplies you need, when you need them. Nothing derails a study session like spending 15 minutes looking for that pencil you know you saw somewhere yesterday….
Random, I know, but having a low-maintenance “study buddy” can be a fun way to perk up your study space. If fish aren’t your thing, find some way to make your study area fun and interesting. Try a lava lamp, silly putty, a Rubik’s Cube, a coloring book and crayons, or a stress ball to help you stay focused or challenge your brain while at your desk.
No matter how excellent your focus, if you study at home it can be virtually impossible to tune out the noise around you. Dogs, younger siblings, and ringing phones are all very distracting and difficult to avoid. A good noise-canceling headset will be a huge help in this regard! You’ll be able to preserve both your sanity and your love of those around you.
It’s tough to stay focused on the Battle of Waterloo or that tough statistics problem if you’re distracted by your aching back. Invest in a chair that is comfortable and promotes good posture. You’ll be able to focus more and be healthier along the way!
Your bed is comfy. The pillow WILL beckon to you. And if you’re sleep deprived, the temptation just may be too much to bear. But that’s just one of your concerns. Sitting on your bed when studying also promotes poor posture—which will decrease your focus and cause long-term health problems. Not to mention, crawling into bed at night won’t provide the same sense of restful relief if you’ve been using your it as a study station all day.
The beauty of studying at home: you have a kitchen and fridge at your disposal. The downside of studying at home: you have a kitchen and fridge at your disposal. Even if food is plenteous (and your mom’s peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are legendary), resist the urge to constantly snack. You’ll feel healthier and avoid the dreaded “freshman 15.” Stock some healthy snacks—carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, nuts, and hummus—for those times you simply must munch... and the Oreos are calling.
Maintain your relationships while working on your degree. If you don’t have regularly-scheduled social events (like volunteering or study groups), this will require creativity and effort. But good friendships are worth the investment. Allot time for 15-minute calls just to catch up, and schedule the occasional coffee date. By carving out time from your schedule now, you are solidifying lifelong friendships.
Of course, you’ll have to block out time to study, and you won’t be able to participate in every activity you’re invited to. And you’ll probably need to kick a sibling out of your room from time to time for some peace and quiet. Your family is making sacrifices to allow you to be successful—so show them the same consideration you would to receive.
If you have been studying for a few hours, and your sister needs the room to make a personal phone call, take a study break to let her use the room for a bit. Help with household chores, and do little things to make each family member feel special.
Studying at home doesn’t have to equal hours of mind-numbing solitude! Give a few of these solutions a try and watch how your study time (and life in general) benefits.
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Rachel Novotny is a Paleo foodie who's passionate about helping people achieve their potential. When she's not writing or adventuring, she's enjoying home life (and coffee) with her husband and their dogs.