“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” said William McRaven, US Navy Admiral. He delivered a speech about the importance of doing the little things like making your bed, embracing the fears of life and changing the world for generations to come. This is particularly pertinent given what’s going on the world at present. We're in lockdown, in most unusual times, so it's important to adjust in order to be able to study and work from home efficiently. This takes a lot of discipline and a strong will, but it can be done!
We are all going through a massive cultural challenge, but try to see this as a great opportunity to rethink everything we do, making the most now of our home environments as living/working spaces. As with most things, planning is everything. You’re going into battle, so preparation and a plan will enable a strategy that will fall into place — having a structure from the outset means that you can gauge what you can achieve within a given timeframe and without access to learning centres and libraries.
If you have a diary or wall planner, then make the most of it. There’s a dictum in marketing: “Plan what you have to do the next day, the night before”. Lists of to-dos are good things to have, so sit down and spend time going through the tasks to be completed and make a day-by-day plan of your work, covering everything that you need and the best order in which to tackle it. Allocate time well — you don’t want to study just one thing all day — the variety will keep you alert.
Of course, the other famous dictum is “Eat the frog for breakfast” which doesn’t mean plundering the aquarium, but simply do the worst job of the day first.
It’s easy to forget, but it is essential that you have regular breaks (if working at a computer, you should take a small break every 20 minutes) and allow yourself to rehydrate every couple of hours. Let’s not forget that making a cup of tea gives you a moment to consider what you’ve been achieving, and remember to take an hour away from your laptop or computer at lunchtime — looking out of a window is good for reducing eyestrain. Equally, rest will help your brain recharge.
Once you have a plan, make sure you adhere to it and make notes as to your progress. If you stick to a routine, this will increase efficiency. You may have to be firm with family and friends (and pets) but they'll soon appreciate what you’re having to do and why.
Keep a clean desk. Clutter is a distraction, and I remember my best studying times were when I sat at a desk in front of a blank wall! It sounds monastic, but it gives you focus. Silence, too. Yes, I agree it’s great to have music playing (especially when painting or drawing) but don’t underestimate the value of silence. And move that phone away. Eat your meals at regular times, since it’s vital that you maintain a healthy diet and have a consistent sleep schedule. And don’t forget to exercise — crouching over a computer all day isn’t good, so remember to stretch and keep a straight back with arms sloping down to the keyboard.
It’s important to acknowledge that you can only do so much. Spending too many hours in front of a computer each day for a couple of weeks won't help you as much as a well-planned work schedule. There’s a reason most work schedules start at 8 or 9 am and finish at 4 or 5 pm — it works! So it makes sense that the best technique to employ is to have a strict finishing time each day — use this, then reward yourself, and enjoy the weekend wisely.
Finally, these are extraordinary times and increasingly worrying for many. Discipline is important for yourself, but also vital if working with others.
So, in a nutshell: