How I'm Coping and Staying Productive as a Virtual University Student

Sunday, October 11, 2020


When I started my degree, I never expected that I'd spend my final year as a virtual student. The pandemic has caused my university to suspend all face-to-face teaching until the end of this year, meaning I probably won't be on campus until after Christmas. Pretty much everyone who I've spoken to has said that they're unhappy about this change and would much rather attend classes in person if the virus wasn't around, but I'm in the small minority of people who actually enjoy and somewhat prefer online teaching! If you're school or university is online this semester and you're struggling with this change, keep reading to hear my advice on making the most of it and staying productive in these strange circumstances.


Make a work schedule, then don't be afraid to break it

I know this sounds contradictory - why would you need to make a schedule if you're going to ignore it - but just hear me out on this one. When you're working from home, it can be easy to lounge around without getting any work done, so a schedule helps to stay on task and give your day some structure. I like to make mine based on an actual day of university, leaving breaks for meals and sticking to the average hours I'd work on a normal day so that it doesn't feel overwhelming. 

Having said that, don't feel as though this timetable is set in stone. Working from home allows you to be flexible and do things at your own pace, so you're free to do a lecture at midnight or have a lie-in if that's what works best for you. Although a schedule is a good framework to get you started, don't be too hard on yourself if you need an afternoon off or want to shuffle a few tasks around, especially when working during the middle of a pandemic.

Have a few different workspaces to switch between

Since all of your work will be done at home, it's important to have a comfortable and clean workspace that you can use without getting distracted. There are no set rules for this - I'm probably my most productive when working from my bed, despite many people advising against this - just go with whatever works for you. It's also helpful to have everything you'll need nearby so you don't feel like you're getting up every 5 minutes.

Another thing I'd highly recommend is having a few different workspaces that you can alternate between. When you think of university or school life, you're constantly moving between different classrooms, lecture theatres, libraries and study spaces, so you don't want to feel confined when working at home. Also, a change of scenery definitely helps to clear your mind and gain a fresh perspective. If this isn't possible within your house, perhaps consider working from a coffee shop or local library if you feel safe doing so.


Try and incorporate some off-screen time into your routine

This is definitely something I still need to work on, as I practically live on my laptop, but staring at a screen for long hours every day really isn't good. It's difficult to avoid it when all classes and assignments are online, but I'd encourage you to take a bit of time out of your day to do something that doesn't require a screen. I've been catching up on university reading during this time so that I'm still being productive, but you can do anything from making hand-written notes, playing with a pet or practicing a hobby.

Make time for exercise and getting some fresh air

Sitting inside all day whilst working can quickly become claustrophobic, so it's important to go outside and get active if possible. Although I wouldn't usually exercise on a normal university day, I've really found myself missing little things like my morning walk to the bus stop where I could get some fresh air and listen to music. I've made a conscious effort over the past few weeks to walk to a local park for a bit of fresh hair, even if it's only a couple of times every week, and I've definitely felt the benefit of doing so. 


Block any social media on your phone

As ruthless as it sounds, sometimes desperate actions need to be taken. If you're the type of person who knows you'll end up scrolling through TikTok all day, don't let yourself be controlled by this. There are lots of apps available that will block you from using your phone for an allotted period of time, my favourite being Flora, and it definitely makes you feel successful when you complete each task.

Although I don't always use apps like this as I'm quite good at getting off my phone and eliminating any distractions, there have definitely been days when I needed to knuckle down and this was a great way to focus without receiving notifications every few minutes. There's also an option to attach your bank account so that you'll have to pay if you check your phone during the allotted time if you'd like to make it more interesting!

Know when it's time to stop

It can be really difficult to find a work-life divide when studying from home, as there's no longer the end-of-the-day feeling where you return home and relax. It's easy to get carried away with working long into the night, but remember to take breaks and give yourself some time for relaxation as well. 

This is definitely something I need to work on more, as I'll quite often work late into the evenings, and working from home has definitely made this harder. If you're like me and struggle to switch off at night, I'd recommend giving yourself a time that you're not allowed to work beyond, or doing something else in the evening that is productive but not study-related (for me this is often writing articles or doing things for my blog).

If your university or school has also continued with online classes this year, I'd love to know what your study tips are, so make sure you leave me a comment!

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