- Dress as you would for a typical day on campus.
Dressing normally will help you to feel ready to start studying, because it will be easier to draw a line between free time and university time. After all, you probably don’t associate pyjamas and sweatpants with studying.
- Set study times and stick to them.
If you can, do your university work during the day. Spread your tasks for different modules across set time slots throughout the week. People tend to be most productive in the morning; use this time for difficult or unenjoyable tasks. After taking a lunch break, which you should also use to go out for some fresh air, it is best to spend time on simpler tasks or revise material you’ve already covered. This will leave you enough time in the afternoon for private activities such as sports, outdoor exercise or running errands.
Remember: habits are like rituals – at some point we stop questioning them and they help us in everyday life. Developing new habits takes perseverance and conscious effort over a period of about four weeks. Don’t give up. Make sure that study times become an everyday habit.
- Decide where you will study.
Whether you live alone or with others, you should decide exactly where in your apartment you want to study for the time being. Lay out what you need for the task in hand – and nothing more. Clear your work area of anything you don’t need right now, even papers and folders for other modules. This will allow you to focus well on the current task.
- Reduce distractions.
The mere presence of our smartphones while we are working can affect our ability to think. Switch off your smartphone while you are studying or put it in another room. Avoid the temptation to log into social media on your computer as well. In order to pinpoint things that waste your time and distract you, you may want to try keeping a record of a typical study day. Only give those disruptive factors your attention during periods when you are not studying.
- Get active during breaks.
Go for a walk or do some exercise, go shopping or do a household chore. Spending time on your smartphone or playing computer games does not give your brain the chance it needs to rest.
- Stay in contact with your fellow students.
When you study at home, you risk becoming lonely or being left to deal with questions and problems on your own. Talking to others is a good way of digesting what you have learned in an accurate, understandable way. So it is advisable to arrange regular phone calls or video chats with your fellow students. Agree in advance on what you want to discuss or which task you will tackle together. Ideally, this will also help you to find a long-term study partner or group with whom you can prepare for exams and coursework.
- Constantly remind yourself why you are doing this.
You feel more motivated to do something when it’s clear to you what the whole thing is for. If you make an effort now, how will this benefit you in the exam period, next year, or in five years’ time? These questions can help you to stay focused, to knuckle down when things get tough, and perhaps introduce new routines.
Annett Ammer-Wies is a psychologist and offers psychological counselling for students at the Student Advisory Service and the Centre for Teacher Training and School Research (ZLS). She currently conducts consultations by telephone (appointments by email).