Hello, friends! I’m glad you decided to join me again here at The NEW!

I’m not sure how the rest of you have been faring, but I often find myself struggling to find the drive to be productive while working from home. Perhaps it’s the more comfortable atmosphere, or maybe it’s my close proximity to my bed that pushes me to feel drowsy all the time. Or it could be the fact that there’s nobody to talk to, or even how I’m spending more time in front of the computer.

Or it may be because that computer is loaded up with dozens of video games and nobody would ever know if I zoned out of the lecture to play. Probably.

“Uhhh…professor, I think this is because demand for the—OH COME ON, I TOTALLY BEAT THAT BOSS!” Image by Azamat E via Unsplash.

In all seriousness, though, it’s important to resist the urge to doze off and go do something else (as difficult as that can be). Without anyone to keep an eye on us, it can be difficult to find the motivation to ensure our work is done on time. So here are some of my suggestions for keeping your head in the game (not the video game though) while you’re at home and trying to get work done.

Simulate a work environment. And no, I don’t mean go to an office building in a suit and tie and loiter in the lobby while typing away on your laptop.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve ever done that. But I had a blog article I needed to get done, and sometimes a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

R-right. Moving on then!

Often, when we’re trying to get work done in university, the go-to place would be the library. So at New College that’d mean D. G. Ivey library (or Robarts but…let’s go with Ivey). I don’t know about you, my friend, but for me, the most distracting thing by far is a ton of noise in the background. Thus it should come as little surprise that one of the biggest benefits of studying in a library is, in my opinion, the relative silence. It makes it easier to focus, and with fewer distracting things such as computers with access to all my games on them around, it helps me get stuff done.

But now that I’m stuck at home (where my neighbors’ children are running around in the backyard screaming and my mom’s watching some random Chinese soap opera on the TV), I’m finding that it helps me to simply ask for some silence and artificially create that sort of “study environment,” if you will. I politely let my family know that I need some quiet time alone to focus and study, close the door to my room, put on my headphones, and play some white noise or even some light music. I find that when I do this, it creates a certain “mood” and helps me stay on task, and thus motivates me to get work done.

Make a to-do list (or preferably a whole schedule). Seriously, this is a lot more helpful than you might imagine.

I mean, who doesn’t want to be reminded of everything they haven’t gotten out of the way yet?

No, but there is some merit to this trick. For one, it helps you stay on track because you know what you still have to do. Having a rough gauge of how much work is left on my plate is a good way to keep me on task, but more importantly, when you finish a task you can cross it off. When I tried this for the first time, I found that to be extremely satisfying.

You know, something like this list. Maybe have a little notepad that you keep with you or an erasable whiteboard that you write your list on each morning. Image by Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash.

As for a full schedule, I generally find that when I’m the one who makes the schedule, I follow it fairly strictly. But the opposite is also true—if someone imposes a schedule (or a task) on to me that that I didn’t agree to beforehand, I’m far less likely to follow through with it.

I mean, think back to the last time your mother told you to clean your room. You probably did it begrudgingly, if you did it at all. Now, in contrast, think back to the last time you wanted to clean your roo—oh, I see the issue with this example now…

That aside, I strongly recommend creating a schedule that maximizes your efficiency when working. After all, you know yourself best, and I’ve noticed that it’s much easier to get stuff done when you’re determined to meet a deadline that you have set for yourself!

When thinking about creating a schedule, it’s important to also make sure you leave some time for yourself. When I was in high school, my mom always asked me one thing: “If you have four hours in an afternoon, why not do four hours’ worth of work?”

My answer? “Because taking one hour to play video games keeps me focused. That and I’m lazy.”

Yes, my secret to avoiding procrastination is to procrastinate. Well, not exactly. I generally find that if you’ve been working for a long period of time without sufficient breaks, your mind begins to wander. It’s kind of like those “try not to laugh” videos—everything’s funnier when you’re not supposed to laugh, and in the same sense, everything’s more distracting when you need to stay focused.

“My thoughts exactly!”

I strongly recommend diverting your attention elsewhere for a few minutes in between studying or doing homework. Not only is it good for you, but it can also really help improve your precision when you return to your work.  Need an example? Just today I got a basic concept wrong during a lecture because I had spent five solid hours in a row taking notes (side note: I should take my own advice).

So yes, in conclusion being able to sit down and forget about the fact that you have a test tomorrow morning is a good thing. Err…if you do it in moderation.

So there you have it, folks: my personal tips for staying motivated and focused while you work. Let me know if any of these helped you. I’m also excited to hear about some of your suggestions for staying on task and on top of your work—if you have any, please feel free to share in the comments below!

Until next time, friends,

~ Jimmy