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!

Writing articles is something that is slowly taking over my life, but honestly, I absolutely love it! I really want to mention my writing and journalism on my blog more often, since this has become a huge part of my life over the past few months and I dedicate a lot of time towards it. So what better way to do so than by starting this new series? Every month, I will be uploading a round-up post of all of my articles so that you can see what I've been writing and give some of them a read if you're interested! Without further ado, let's dive right into it!

The Mancunion

5 unexpected fashion trends to hit the streets of Manchester this autumn

The ever-adapting nature of the fashion industry, from high street to high-end luxury has always had the potential to throw a curveball and strange cut into the fabric fancy and Manchester is no different, particularly in our new socially distanced scenarios. Perhaps its lockdown-induced boredom causing us to be more creative with our outfit choices, or could it be an eagerness to venture out of sweatpants? Either way, there’s no denying that this season is bizarre and filled with unexpected trends, and some of our favourite Manchester-based brands are embracing the wondrous and wild side of the ready-to-wear. Read more...

As most of you already know, I am this year's Fashion Editor of my student newspaper, The Mancunion. This is such an exciting opportunity that I'm honoured to have, and so I wanted to kick off the year with a bang with my first article in this position. I feel as though there are lots of autumn trends posts online and sometimes it can become quite generic and predictable (we get it, berry tones and plaid are in style this season!) I wanted to create something a bit more adventurous and daring, so I decided to look at styles that are unexpected and bizarre, yet have been frequently spotted on catwalks and the streets of Manchester this season. This was a really fun article to create and it also allowed me to feature some of my favourite Manchester boutiques whilst creating it.

The Manc

Manchester's best vintage boutiques and thrift stores that you need to visit

The Northern Quarter may be a hub for vintage aficionados, but there’s actually much more to Manchester’s second-hand scene than meets the eye. Read more...

Although secondhand shopping has gained more popularity recently, a lot of people still struggle with vintage shopping and figuring out where to begin. Manchester has a diverse range of thrift stores, vintage boutiques and secondhand shops, so I decided to create this informative guide to help people discover which ones will be the best for them. It also allowed me to spotlight some amazing Manchester boutiques, which was an added bonus!

Meet the radical Manchester boutique fighting for change through fashion

Not all clothing lines are created just for style. Some have particularly ambitious aspirations. Take Hoyden, for example. This feminist boutique, whose name means 'boisterous girl', sells clothing that turns heads for two reasons. One, it's fashionable. And two, it's rebellious. Read more...

Hoyden is an empowering, radical brand that isn't afraid to speak its mind, so I was eager to find out more about this boisterous boutique. It was very interesting chatting to Olivia about her store, which can be found in Afflecks in the Northern Quarter. I really admire what she's doing and the pro-active messages that she's spreading using her platform, so it was very rewarding being able to showcase her work and give it more attention!

Beloved Manchester vintage store Retro Rehab is closing its doors with a big sale

Retro Rehab, the beloved local vintage store, is ending its 15-year residence in Manchester's Northern Quarter as it begins its transition to online shopping. Read more...

Retro Rehab is one of Manchester's most popular and renowned vintage stores, so to hear that they were closing their doors was a huge shock. It definitely puts into perspective the effects that the pandemic is having on smaller businesses, although it's not all negative as they will still be continuing their vintage journey as an online store. I reported on this for The Manc as it felt like a shocking and momentous event within Manchester's vintage community, but I'm still excited to see their future online!

The best independent clothing stores in Manchester that match style with sustainability

You don't have to choose between being stylish or sustainable anymore. These Manchester-based clothing brands are both saving the planet and your wardrobe. Read more...

Sustainability was a topic that was hot on everyone's lips earlier this year, but it seems to have taken a backseat with the virus. I'm a firm believer that this isn't something that we should be ignoring and so I decided to write this article to bring more attention to eco-friendly fashion options. I wanted to prove that sustainable clothing doesn't have to be bland or stupidly expensive, and you can actually find some really stylish and trendy pieces that are also ethical. There are so many Manchester-based boutiques that create gorgeous pieces that are sustainable and I wanted to showcase these, and hopefully, it's something that more brands will get on board with in the future.

This Stockport clothing boutique is offering a 'mystery bag' of clothes for £20

Susie's Boutique is Stockport's source for the latest styles - but their newest launch offers customers a blind date with a brand-new wardrobe. Read more...

I love the concept of a mystery bag of clothing - I think it's so exciting yet equally nerve-wracking to see what items you can get without choosing them, and it's a great way to try pieces that you wouldn't otherwise pick. I wanted to bring attention to a local business who are offering this, and they're also a really trendy and well-priced shopping destination with new styles being added to their range every week.

The Manchester fashion brand born in lockdown is launching a second collection

Grey Milk, the Manchester-based independent clothing brand born in lockdown, has launched a second collection just in time for autumn. Read more...

I became obsessed with Grey Milk since I first discovered their launch during lockdown and I greatly admire what Gwen has managed to achieve in such a short space of time. Her designing and creation of garments is incredible and deserves so much recognition, and it was really interesting delving behind the scenes of her new collection. This is autumn style reinvented and like you've never seen it before, but all of her pieces are absolutely stunning and I highly urge you to check them out!

I hope you enjoyed getting a sneak peek into all of my articles that were published this month - make sure to let me know which is your favourite!