Although I can’t say I anticipated completing my full-time, accelerated master’s degree online, I was forced to roll with the punches, just like everyone else in the past 18 months.
Studying abroad in London was exciting for a couple reasons. Firstly, I’d never been to Europe! I knew I was going to have a great experience; and secondly, at the time, it looked like COVID-19 was clearing up in the UK… I couldn’t have been more wrong. My courses were in-person for about a month before London went into yet another lockdown. This forced us to learn on Zoom, listening to lectures for 6+ hours a day followed by hours of virtual meetings for group work.
There I was, nowhere to go other than a little desk in my bedroom. I figure, why not pick up a part-time internship to gain some experience while I have all this time on my hands? Yeah… I’m not really sure what was going through my head. Who am I to think I would continue to have that free time? Of course, as soon as I start at Made by Chapter, uni finally picks up its pace, upping my 6-8 hour days to 10-12. Yikes.
I won’t lie, distance learning hit me like a bus. Although I’d experienced online courses before, they were nothing like this. I was ill-prepared to say the least. Through time and patience, I finally cracked the code for completing an online master’s degree while working part-time from home. Here’s how I did it.
1. Separate Work and Play (and Home)
This is one of the most difficult things about working and/or studying remotely. Especially as a student, I don’t live in a flat equipped for all this remote work. My desk is in my bedroom, and all day long I’m thinking about the laundry I have to do, the interior design ideas I have for my bedroom, and the errands I have to run when my work is complete (#relatable?). It’s hard to find a space where you can take your focus away from all of those distractions.
To do my best to separate my scattered non-work-related thoughts, I ensure a clean workspace (again, for me, it’s my bedroom). I start every morning with making my bed and putting away any bits and bobs from the night before. I also stow away anything on my desk that I don’t use for work or uni, and angle my desk to look out the window rather than face my bed. The less “home” I see, the less it consumes my thoughts.
I’d also recommend you set aside breaks for yourself if you need to take care of household chores. Maybe you give yourself a 15-minute break twice a day to get some washing done or run a quick errand. Whether you’re working on a personal or work task, shut the other one off completely to ensure laser focus. If you’re looking for a tool to help you stay on task and keep time, check out this Pomodoro timer, you can use it online, or add it as a Chrome extension. It’s so easy to use, you’ll love it!
2. Get Your Hands on Some Desk Essentials
Creating a solid workplace is crucial in maintaining focus and productivity while working and studying from home. Some of my favourite desk essentials are this planner since it has monthly and weekly layouts, perfect for marking deadlines and keeping notes of your daily tasks and meetings. This planner stays on my desk at all times so I can check items off my to-do list, make notes of my scattered thoughts, and plan for my weeks and months ahead.
To make my desk space feel more professional and a bit like a real office, I switch between my MOFT Laptop and Z Stands to adapt my workspace to cater to how I’m feeling. Both stands come in a variety of colours to match the vibe of your desk or work area. I love the laptop stand because it’s extremely easy to use. Because It adheres to the bottom of your laptop, so it’s with you wherever you go. The Z Sit-Stand Desk is great if you have longer work days, like me, and need to stretch your legs a bit. I’m not sure about you, but I could never sit for 10+ hours a day. The Z Stand folds flat for travel, but when you need it, it’ll unfold at the perfect height for a standing desk. Not to mention the other four other ways you can use it! Both MOFT Stands make for a versatile and mobile office if you ever feel like switching up your space.
3. Establish a Routine and Stick to it
I found that the best way to stay on track and make the most of my time was to stick to a routine, as if I was physically going into uni or the office. I found that waking up early, giving myself time in the morning to have a coffee, make a good breakfast, and maybe even go for a walk really helped me with my productivity. I noticed that on the days I slept late, I wasn’t nearly as focused throughout the day.
If you’re someone who likes to have everything on their phone, try a habit tracker app. This one, called HabitShare (available for iOS and Android), is great because you can connect with friends to keep each other on track. Whether it’s your peers, co-workers, or your mum, it’s nice to be able to share this kind of experience with others.
As great as it is to stick to a routine, it’s also important to not be too hard on yourself if you get out of it for a few days. Life happens. Focusing on the fact that you messed up your routine will only take up more space in your mind, leaving even less space for work and/or uni. Go easy on yourself!
When you look at your goals from a distance they can seem extremely overwhelming. If you asked me a year ago if I would ever do a master’s program online while working from home, I would have said ‘no’, no questions asked. But here we are; if I can do it, you can too!