It’s not easy working in a new environment. Even before teaching I was used to doing my university work in the library as I found that working at home left me more open to distractions. As a stereotypical student my room was naturally very messy, full of posters, and not in the quietest of areas, so you can imagine it didn’t have the best atmosphere for working. The library, on the other hand, was tidy, quiet, and full of books, making it an ideal place to get work done, so you can imagine that being forced to work from home in the current situation made getting work done considerably harder. However, this was not the case.
The first thing I did was create a timetable for myself and stuck it on my noticeboard. It divided my day into work periods and allowed for short breaks every hour and a longer break for lunch. I used an app called Engross (iOS/Android) which would time my work and break periods, and even switch off the Wi-Fi connection on my phone to remove any distractions. Having breaks every hour is essential to avoiding burnout as it divides the day into more manageable chunks; if I’m tired of working, I know that there isn’t much time until my next break and once I’ve made a cup of tea and sat down for a while I feel much more refreshed.
Secondly, I did a little research to find some pleasant lo-fi music, several YouTube channels stream lo-fi mixes and there are plenty of playlists on Spotify that fulfil that purpose as well. Additionally, video game tracks are also very helpful – their main aim is to keep players focused on the task at hand, so they’re a great way to help you concentrate. A personal favourite of mine is jazz remixes by an artist called insaneintherainmusic. He plays excellently and his smooth tones are ideal for a long working day, especially if the weather outside seems particularly chaotic!
Not only did having a more structured working setup help me work more efficiently, it also helped me value my free time more. As an unmotivated student I would often waste entire days watching TV or playing games because I didn’t value my free time at all, but now I when I work I’m also looking forward to my free time as I’ve often planned in advance how I want to spend it. This is partly because now that it’s restricted I know I have to use my free time more efficiently, but also because I don’t feel so bad about not working because I know that it’s free time that I’ve earned.
One more pro tip – tidy your room. A messy room is much more distracting than a clean and tidy one, and there’s a wonderful refreshing feeling from having cleaned your room, especially when it’s on your own terms, rather than from having been told to.
Staying motivated isn’t as hard as you might think in the end. Of course, you need to put some effort in to get started, but once you’ve done so it pays tremendous dividends. It was my key to achieving a first class degree at university and is just as useful now with everyday work. A place once full of mess and distractions became an ideal working environment on par with a library or an office.