SAE’s top tips to help students work remotely

04 May 2020

We understand that the current situation with COVID-19 has meant that a greater degree of emphasis has been placed on self-directed study. Working from home can be fun (so many snacks), but that doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges, too. We’ve put together this list of tips for remote working to help you be more productive, healthier and happier. We hope you find it useful: 

Figure out how you work best 

It’s useful to figure out which conditions you work well in and try to simulate these each day. If you normally enjoy the chatter of a classroom then consider using white noise apps like Coffitivity. If you like working with music in the background, get Spotify fired up. If you prefer total silence and you’re sharing your working space with housemates or family members, then it could be a good opportunity to justify those noise-cancelling headphones you’ve had your eye on for a while! You know yourself and how you work best, so before you start working remotely, think to yourself what tools you need to succeed. 

Get dressed as you would normally for a day of lectures

Some people relish the idea of working from home because it means they can stay in pyjamas all day. But if you’re already dressed ready for bed you’re more likely to be tempted to have a nap or pick up your PlayStation controller than if you went through the motions of getting ready to work. It’s not for everyone, but having a wash and putting on clean clothes can be the boost you need to get going for the day - and besides, your flatmates/family members will thank you for it too! 

Restrict your social media use 

When you’re sitting at home without anyone judging you, it’s quite easy to waste two hours scrolling through TikTok. But you need to keep on top of your workload and so if that means you need to restrict your social media use to get stuff done, do it. There are lots of useful browser extensions such as Simple Blocker on Google Chrome which can help you blacklist websites for a set period of time (e.g. 1 hour), to help you get stuff done. 

Divide your work into small, manageable chunks 

If you are finding it hard to concentrate, consider using the Pomodoro time management technique.  This is when you decide on the task you want to do, set a timer for 25 minutes, working on the task until the timer rings. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break - go to the loo, make a drink, check social media etc. and then repeat this process four times. On the fourth time, you should take a longer break of 15-30 minutes, before starting again. The idea behind the technique is that the timer instils a sense of urgency, which can help you get stuff done if you are feeling unmotivated. 

Find somewhere to sit that isn’t your bed 

Not everyone has the luxury of a spare room they can use as an office, and if you’re living in student digs you might feel like you don’t have anywhere to work other than your bedroom. But whatever you do, you should make sure you are sitting in a chair with back support rather than sitting in bed on your laptop. This will prevent you from hurting yourself in the long run, but also can also stop you from developing difficulties sleeping - which can often arise when you don’t draw a clear line between your working and relaxing space. Which leads us on nicely to our next point… 

Take breaks 

During your typical day at university there are natural breaks between lectures for lunch and to give your brain a rest, and a chance to process new information. Make sure you keep this structure, giving yourself a set period of time to eat a proper meal in, and a chance to digest any new information you have learned that day. Don’t just sit in front of your computer screen all day if you can avoid it. 

Go for a walk or a run 

Although the UK Government has advised us all to stay home and practice self-isolation until further notice, they have made it clear that one valid reason for leaving your home is for exercise. Make sure you get outside each day, even if it’s just for a 20-minute walk, as this can help break up your day and give you a much-needed Vitamin D boost. Some people find it useful to mimic a commute to university, starting their day with a walk to help them wake up and get going. If you’re not usually an active person, try the NHS recommended Couch to 5K running programme, aimed at novice runners. As well as releasing endorphins that make you feel happier, exercising will also help you feel more prepared to sleep at a regular time each day. 

Switch off for the day 

We don’t just mean literally remembering to switch your computer off to save energy - when your workspace and your home space are the same, you can find yourself spending more time in front of a computer than you usually would. It’s important that you put in the hours to stay on top of your workload, but at the same time you shouldn’t be burning yourself out. Try and switch off your screen several hours before trying to sleep. Here is a list of 100 things you can do under lockdown instead.

We hope you have found these tips and tricks helpful! If you have any advice for remote working that we’ve missed, tweet us @SAEInstituteUK!