By Katie Waits
Without a doubt, this year isn’t what any of us expected. The optimistic expectations of another Roaring Twenties has almost completely diminished. I also certainly didn’t anticipate finishing my final year of university at home. You’d think working from home would be simple, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s exhausting. When there’s not much else to do, it’s easy to either completely neglect your work, or find it difficult to switch off. It’s a bit ironic that I’m writing this article. During my reading week, I tried to get ahead in my modules, but really stressed myself out by overworking. Academic burnouts are the worst. Luckily, having had this happen before, I recognised that I needed to put my work away for a few days, and I felt so much better. It’s so, SO important to recognise the importance of taking a break and switching off.
If you’re a student, you’ll already have to spend a lot of time online anyway. Readings, essays, research – and now with lectures and seminars being online, it’s like we’re constantly on our laptops. When there’s so much work to do, plus restrictions in our everyday lives, it can be difficult to stop working, even if it’s just to defeat boredom. To avoid any kind of burnout, it’s good to have a balance with your work and personal life.
Something I’ve found useful in maintaining this balance is having a designated cut off time. Put your work away BEFORE you start feeling tired, to give yourself a chance to unwind a bit. Setting a specific time every day when you have to stop working will allow you time to do something for yourself. With this in mind, you could create a timetable. Assigning time when you have to do your work, and when to have breaks, will prevent you from getting too stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve even found that giving myself ‘office hours’ helps. Yes, I’m aware that sounds incredibly pretentious, but it works! I won’t look at my emails after a certain time in the evening. It means that I don’t end up getting tangled up in them, and worrying about who I need to get in touch with. If it can wait until tomorrow, just put it aside.
During your breaks, go for a walk. When my dad and I are both home, we’ll make sure to go for walks together for an hour or so. Walks are amazing for clearing that horrible fog you get from working at a laptop for hours on end. I definitely suggest slotting a walk into your day – make sure to wrap up warm though! This year, I’ve also rediscovered the absolute joy of immersing myself in a book. There are many books I’ve read this year where I’ve completely zoned out and almost forgotten the stress of working from home. If you like reading, it is certain to distract you from the need to work for a little while.
You could also write to-do lists. I love making a to-do list every day, and it’s probably one of the main things that helps me manage my time. When I neglected to write one during reading week, I really struggled to prioritise tasks. Write one up and try to stick to it if you can – it can give you a great sense of accomplishment ticking off even the smallest of tasks. Once you’ve done what you have to do, relax! We’re living in such a weird time so it’s essential that you take breaks and look after your mental health as much as possible.