Productivity under lockdown

Overseas-education | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 22 Dec 2020

As pupils face another term learning remotely or under lockdown to varying degrees, we look at what advice universities around the world are offering to keep students focused, productive and sane.

When PhD students were kicked out of their labs at the University of Birmingham this year, their lives required restructuring - particularly for those who felt that working from home wasn't really work.

They advocate the keeping of lists to avoid disappointment and frustration at the end of the day, as the very act of ticking items off a list can increase productivity (although overlong and unrealistic lists can have the opposite effect).

They also found that, unsurprisingly, keeping set working hours, remaining in contact with friends and loved ones, and taking regular breaks (with a longer rest in the evenings), also increased productivity.

Master's students at the University of Chester argue that trying new activities - including virtual choir events and growing vegetables - is the key to remaining focused and upbeat.

They made time for their existing hobbies (calligraphy, reading, listening to podcasts and music were amongst the most frequently cited) to safeguard mental health and ward off negative thoughts. Their advice: focus on activities that make you happy and relaxed, particularly those that take you away from electronic devices.

They caution against dwelling on the future and advocated remaining present.

Also, they remind students to cultivate caring networks, ensuring that they always have someone to talk to, as one of the most grounding elements of this experience has been its commonality.

Lastly, they encourage refocusing on a sense of purpose and the abandonment of multitasking. University of Chester graduate students are focused on doing one thing at a time - and doing it well.

At Royal Holloway, welfare teams encourage students to acknowledge the diversity of their feelings, and avoid comparing themselves to unrealistic examples of hyperproductivity seen online. They encourage students to preserve elements of a routine and attend to basic hygiene, nutrition and sleep.

Cardiff University says doctoral candidates should dress appropriately for better mental health and harness humanity's desire for a habit to instill one positive ritual at the beginning of the day (yoga, for example, or a very limited social media session).

Segregate space to condition the brain when preparing for activity in that area (no working on the bed, for example), and remove all objects not associated with that activity. The university also encourages the making of regular goals, but extends the task by asking students to share those goals with someone who will hold them gently accountable.

One common theme across universities is the reiteration that students take care of themselves before their work.

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