The Bartlett


Studying online: how to stay productive

by Kelvin Saddul

We can all relate to the experience of studying from home, whether you are a university or college student, we find ourselves taking regular trips to the fridge or laying on the couch procrastinating rather than working.

Now, I do enjoy a great ‘power’ nap (which actually lasts a few hours), but a nap should be a break, not your default method of working. 

Studying from home blurs the boundaries between work and personal life – if you work too hard, you will have no personal life. So, how do we stay productive and at the same time stay sane? Recently graduating with a First-Class Honours BSc and currently halfway through my MSc all through studying remotely, I have had to adapt and implement new ways of working to stay focused. 

I have compiled some methods which I implement on a day-to-day basis which directly affect my productivity but also focuses on well-being and will give you the opportunity to implement them all or select a few in your day-to-day endeavours. 

Start the day properly

Wake up early, shower and get ready for the day ahead by having a fulfilling breakfast and quiet time to settle your thoughts. Spend time alone, allow your mind to wander and think positively. Personally, praying helps me keep belief and regardless of the upcoming endeavours as long as I do my best then I can live a life without regret. 

Pomodoro Technique

This, without a doubt, I regard as the most beneficial technique I have integrated into my way of studying. It is a time management technique which breaks work down into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length which are separated by short 5-minute breaks. These are the essential steps I take:

  1. Choose a task 
  2. Set the pomodoro timer to 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task
  4. At the end of 25 minutes, pause your work and have a 5-minute break
  5. After 4 Pomodoro’s, take a longer break of 30 minutes 
  6. Repeat the process by going back to step 1 

There are a plethora of apps available which facilitate the pomodoro technique and this technique particularly helps when reading papers as it enables you to break it all down. The app I use which has particularly been effective is called ‘Flow’ from the Apple App store. 

Flow app

Fruit smoothies

Feeling hungry can be the greatest distraction, especially when doing work because it tends to end up in you focusing your energy on fulfilling that hunger rather than work. A fruit smoothie helps me get through the day and facilitates this feeling of hunger. I tend to blend 3-5 fruits together and add water or apple juice which integrates all that goodness together. Its versatility coupled with it being specially made to your diet enables you to hit those 5-a-days in one sip. 

Fruit smoothie

Study music and noise cancellation headphones

What gets me through all the work I do? Study music and headphones. Study music can be easily accessed on YouTube and provides the benefits of releasing pleasurable emotions and increases dopamine levels thus putting you in a positive mood to solve problems. It also provides the benefit of lowering cortisol levels. Study music uses alpha waves and binaural beats which boost concentration, brain power and provides stress relief. 

Setting boundaries

Giving yourself regular breaks enables your mind to digest and reflect what you have just learnt thus improving the quality of its effect. I never work late into the night as I set defined times to do work and once those times pass, I stop. Of course, you can have a bit of leeway, but it is imperative you ensure that you don’t end up letting work run your life. Placing boundaries will keep your mental health in check but will also motivate you to get more done during the hours that you are studying. 

Implementing some of these steps will improve your productivity and help you to become efficient in various ways. These principles can be applied to life, in general. We are living in incredibly hard times at the moment, feelings tend to feel amplified which is why setting boundaries and hitting targets can be the ultimate positivity boost to you. I have learnt not to take things to heart, life goes on and just remember your current situation is not your future destination so keep working hard and understand that life goes on. 

About the author

Kelvin is currently studying Construction Economics and Management MSc at The Bartlett. Being the Lead representative for all the schools within The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction and a student ambassador, he enjoys interacting with prospective students and improving learning experiences. In his spare time, you will catch him eating food in and around London. 

Kelvin Saddul