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How to remain productive during 'Quarantine'

5 Home Office Tips for Academics

If you are a student, researcher and/or lecturer it is likely that you are currently facing unprecedented times due to the home office regulations in times of Corona. If you are like me, chances are that your 'productivity' curve is significantly influenced by your learning environment. In my case, the curve shoots up when I work from home (especially during winter), but other times I prefer working in the library ... you can literally hear a pin drop. Plus it is comforting to know that there are plenty of crazy individuals like me that chose to pursue a career in academia. It is satisfying to know that I am not alone in the struggle. But what to do when the library and/ or your favourite café is closed? I'll share a few tips that have helped me remain productive on my PhD journey during the COVID-19 'quarantine.'

1. Declutter - make your study (corner) appealing

Many people seem to agree on the fact that they actually work better in a clean and tidy environment. It does not matter whether your Home Office is an entire study or just a corner in your bedroom. Remove unnecessary clutter from your desk. Rearrange some furniture to make room for your books and other literature. It helps to always have these within reach. Plus a flower, plant or other decor item(s) could add some spice to your study (corner).

2. 'To-do' lists and prioritizing tasks

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of to-do lists for keeping track of important tasks, deadlines and preps for important appointments. One hack is that sometimes we do not prioritise the tasks on our regular to-do lists. My go-to method, that I have now internalised, is the Eisenhower Matrix. It certainly helps me sort out which tasks I need to do now and which ones to attend to later and/or delegate.

3. The pomodoro technique

The pomodoro technique has been a life-saver on days that I feel like not doing any reading or writing despite having pressing deadlines. Basically, this technique helps you break up your tasks into short time intervals of 20-25 minutes each with breaks in between. Set a timer and only concentrate on a particular task during the 20-minute work interval. No distractions allowed. It certainly helps to alert your loved ones at home to respect these intervals too. When the timer goes off, make sure to take a break and/or do something not related to the task. These rounds can be repeated ad infinitum.

4. Take occasional breaks, reward yourself

You know what they say; All work with out play makes Jane a dull girl (feminist version). Whether or not you choose to use the pomodoro technique, always find ways of occasionally switching off from your daily tasks. Take a walk outside with your spouse and/or kids, do some cooking (I guess this is a no-brainer during 'quarantine'), do a mini work out ... anything with a reward factor after a long day of reading, writing and/or arithmetic.

5. Keep a 'done-list'

Have you written a to-do list, then it only makes sense to keep a 'done-list' as well. Since getting into the writing phase of my PhD journey, I feel it is necessary to track my progress and milestones. I do this by journaling my list of done tasks. It also helps me restructure my time-plan, if I find out that my prior plan was quite unrealistic. Looking at my milestones helps me feel accomplished.

I hope these tips can be helpful for your productivity while working from home this semester. Comment below if you have some more tips you would add to the list.

Mariam (Germany)

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