Week six of term – universally the week of the sickening recognition that we have more summative deadlines than weeks of term left before Christmas. This prospect is sufficiently sick-making normally; when we have pubs in which to procrastinate, unlimited library access, and weekly ventures to Wiff-Waff that allow us to switch off. But how do we stay productive in lockdown? How do we remain motivated in amongst these endless empty autumn afternoons? It’s not easy, but these five tips may help…
1 Plan of attack
First, note down all your deadline dates to establish the order in which they need to be completed. Contrary to popular cynical opinion, laying this out in a four-week calendar is not a waste of time – it allows you visualise what needs to be done when and, in doing so, soothes the feeling that you’re completely swamped. You do have time to get everything done.
Secondly, allot timed working slots for each day of the week – concentrated hours when you can be at your desk without distractions. I find two and a half hour slots work best. When you come to input work tasks into these slots, choose things that are reasonably obtainable in this amount of time (e.g. Two and a half hours to do a reading and make notes) and don’t overrun. This way you know at the start of each day there is a list of things you will definitely achieve. Any more is an added bonus.
2 Pyjamas are a no go
If you’ve happened upon a certain recent Bubble article, you’ll know all about the importance of being dressed. Grace Jessop notes how the unconscious association between pyjamas and relaxation can undermine any attempt at effective activity, while being dressed puts us in a productive frame of mind. If rigid rule and routine sounds unpalatable, the establishment of daily rituals like getting dressed, making the bed and a brewing a little pot of tea with which to sit down at your desk, are tangible ways to set yourself up for success.
3 Power walk
Being semi somewhat adults now, out in the big wide world, we have all come to the realisation that the sophistication of adult life is an illusion and really just comes down to a ceaseless supply of tedious admin tasks. Also, in the current climate, a socially distanced stroll is the closet you can get to human contact outside the house. So, for the sake of your sanity, I advise you take it. Combine a trip into town to boots and the bank with a take-away coffee and catch-up stroll. Novel company, fresh air, and caffeine – a delightful threesome.
4 Proper Breaks
Being housebound all day can make it really difficult to switch off. Before, we could trek to the Billy B for eight hours. While it is highly likely that a large part of the day would be taken up by trips to make tea and gossip around the hot-water tap, upon returning home we congratulated ourselves on our long working day and dedicated the evening to drinking. Now we don’t have the luxury of work-life separation, but it is important to find the balance. So (if it’s not too much of an oxymoron) plan some fun into your weeks. Whether it’s a night filled with poker, or cake and The Crown, it’s a night well spent as it will allow you to rest, rejuvenate and have a renewed sense of urgency tomorrow.
At this point if you still feel like screaming at your computer screen “I simply do not have enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done!”, you’re probably right. You probably don’t. But, instead of flailing into full meltdown mode, let’s re-examine what you mean by ‘needs to be done’. Most likely you are including all lectures, lecture reading, seminars and seminar prep, as well as various summatives and formatives with their respective reading lists, oh and don’t forget exams and so too, exam prep. Well, when you put it like that, of course you can’t get all this done! But neither do you need to. If there is one silver lining of the pandemic it is that the university online facilities are considerably less sub-par than they may once have been – all lecture recordings and readings are fully available online. So, if you need to, save some until the holidays. While a backed-up list of unwatched lecture videos may not be top of your Christmas list, it is better than having to surrender yourself to essay extensions at 11:59am on the 11th of December. Be wise, prioritise.