As part of South Africa’s COVID-19 pandemic response, all schools were closed on 18 March 2020 and a nationwide lockdown took effect on 27 March 2020. Consequently, millions of students have had to continue learning using online tools and other resources available in their homes, and countless employees are attempting to perform their jobs from home.

The nationwide quarantine has disrupted all our daily routines, and has required us to adjust to a new way of living – albeit temporarily.

Thankfully, there are strategies to help you cope with isolation and to keep you on track, whether at school or work.

Remote working is a dream for many; there is no need to get dressed in formal office attire, you dictate your own working hours, and there is no need to contend with traffic jams nor any risk of being stranded for hours when your train is cancelled.

That being said, working from home is not as simple as it might sound. In reality, when you work from home, it is actually very difficult to remain focused and to resist distractions like You Tube and Netflix. It is therefore important for you to set a few rules that will help you stay focused.

“It's not what you do but what you don't do - the things you postpone, not the things you accomplish - that make you tired.”

~Donna Otto

In this article, we share our top tips for staying focused, and avoiding distractions around the home. By establishing some basic rules and setting up a dedicated workspace, you will be able to stay on track with your studies and can keep ahead of your deadlines. There is so much that is beyond your control, but you do have the power to set yourself up for success.

Choose Your Working Hours

Scheduling your time meticulously is the key to successful remote working. However, sticking to a schedule is probably one of the hardest things about distance learning and working from home.

Whether you are writing your Matric finals this year or are working towards a university degree, you will need to revise thoroughly if you want to do well.

Creating a revision timetable, which reflects all the topics you need to master, is the best place to start!

Our suggestion is that you develop a customised schedule which will allow you to tick off tasks once you have accomplished them.

Choose a study rhythm that works for you. You’ll have a better chance of staying focused.

wall clock above desk
To avoid fatigue, study at the time of day when your energy levels are highest. | Source: Unsplash

For example, you may only want to revise on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and dedicate the other days to other activities.

Some of us work more effectively in the morning, while others work better in the evening or even late into the night. Figure out whether you’re a morning lark or night owl, and choose to study at the time of day when your energy levels are higher.

We recommend that you structure your days and set yourself clear, daily revision goals. Being able to tick off each goal in your planner will not only mean that you have acquired new knowledge, but will also leave you with a sense of accomplishment.

Stick to your schedule, but don’t exhaust yourself! Make sure that you take regular breaks between study sessions and dedicate time to sports, creative pursuits or relaxing activities.

Create a Comfortable Workspace

To increase your productivity levels, it is important to have a dedicated space or room in which to set up your workspace.

While your bed may be comfortable, it’s not the most suitable working environment, as you’ll be more inclined to want to “veg out” than to study.

At this stage, none of us knows when the lockdown will end, but it will definitely last a few more weeks. So, it is worth the effort of setting up a dedicated workspace, for yourself, where all your books and other resources are within easy reach. Make sure that the space is laid out well and that you have a comfortable seat, as you will be spending a fair amount of time in it.

girl using two computers
Make your learning space as comfortable as possible. | Source: Unsplash

Creating a study space in a separate location to your sleeping and relaxation space means that you will associate your workspace with serious work and revision. At the same time, you’ll be able to completely unwind in your rest space. Once you get into the habit of working in a specific space, it will become easier and easier for you to settle into study mode each time you enter that space.

You will definitely notice how much more effectively you are able to study in your workspace than on the couch or in your bed.

Think about preparing some revision worksheets. By making index cards, you will be able to categorise your subjects and revise more easily. You could either stick your revision sheets to the wall, so that they are always visible, or simply leave them in a specific section of your workspace, where you can access them easily.

Use Apps to Enhance Your Learning

We’re attached to our phones, there’s no denying it. So, instead of trying to avoid using them, we should learn to use them constructively.

There are many websites and apps that let you have fun while learning.

Here are some sites and applications you should check out:

  • Quizlet
  • Siyavula
  • Babbel
  • MathsBuddy
  • World Geography
  • Univoice
laptop, smartphone, headphones and notebook
Turn your distractions into study resources. | Source: Unsplash

Apps and online games and quizzes are a great for helping you to learn concepts and memorise course content. Turning the distraction of your smartphone into a revision tool is pretty smart, don’t you think?

Take Online Courses to Help You Learn

If you’re in need of a personalised learning plan, a private online tutor is a good place to start.

Scheduling tutoring sessions with a tutor, will ensure that you dedicate time – away from all distractions – to your learning programme.

Distance learning with an online tutor means that you will continue to make progress and complete your course content on, or even ahead of, schedule. Online lessons are more flexible than traditional classes, as you can set them up at times that are most convenient for you.

You could start your search for an online tutor on the Superprof website. There are over 1 000 subjects to choose from, and you simply need to confirm the subject you need help in. You’ll then be given a list of all the tutors who are available to assist, and you can browse their profiles, and contact the tutor you feel will be best suited to your needs.

Online learning means that you will stay on track with your study plan and be, not only ready, but also confident, when you finally sit your exams.

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A South African in France who loves to travel and discover new cultures, is passionate about photography, and who is happiest near the ocean.