5 Tips to Boost Your Stay-at-Home Grad School Productivity

Grad school can be a challenging experience even without the added stress of a global pandemic. For many, the abrupt transition to remote grad school life brought with it a host of new difficulties and pitfalls. Now deep into this crisis, many students are still engaging in remote grad school. That’s why I want to share 5 tips to boost your stay-at-home grad school productivity that will help you maintain your academic momentum.

Tip #1: Make a Workspace

Having a dedicated at-home workspace will help you focus by acting as an environmental cue when it’s time to work. If you already have a desk at home, that’s great! Just make sure that it’s ready for full-time use.

Is your desk chair uncomfortable? Try swapping it out for an exercise ball. Do you have any personal decor you don’t want visible in a video call with your adviser? Do some rearranging or find a virtual background to help you maintain a professional appearance.

If you don’t have room for a desk at home, find somewhere that can become your new “work zone.” It might be one end of the kitchen table or a mobile lap desk on the couch. Creating a dedicated workspace, no matter how small, will help you focus and boost your stay-at-home grad school productivity.

Tip #2: Establish a Routine

It may be very tempting as a remote grad student to roll out of bed and start working in your pajamas. But, you will likely find that maintaining a similar routine to your normal, non-quarantine life is more motivating and will help you focus when you need to work.

To boost your stay-at-home grad school productivity, establish a routine that has clear work vs. personal hours. Need more structure to help you focus during the day? Try out some productivity apps that have built-in timers for work and break periods—the Pomodoro technique is a popular one (there’s an easy online app for that).

Scheduling dedicated work and personal hours into your routine will make you more mindful of your actions. You’ll be more motivated to focus when you’re supposed to be working so that you can clock out on time (instead of mindlessly checking social media or the latest news).

Tip #3: Respect Your Work-Life Balance

As a stay-at-home grad student, it can be easy to become overworked. Without a clear division between working on campus and relaxing at home, you may not realize how many extra hours you’re logging until you start to feel sluggish and unproductive.

Don’t believe me? A recent survey found that people reported working 3 more hours a week from home than they did at the office. Add to that the additional stress of caring for children and family at home, dealing with roommates full time, or navigating spotty wireless internet, and you have a recipe for becoming overworked and unproductive.

To maintain your stay-at-home grad school productivity, schedule those all-important breaks throughout your day. Try to find a new balance between your work and personal hours in order to stay mentally energized.

Tip #4: Set Reasonable Goals

A big part of maintaining your stay-at-home grad school productivity is setting clear goals. Just remember to keep your goals reasonable considering the current limitations you may be facing.

For senior grad students, working from home is valuable time to focus on writing and making dissertation progress. Set concrete and achievable writing goals, like completing a certain number of pages per day. Organize a virtual writing group with fellow students to hold yourself accountable for meeting those goals. If you find yourself needing additional help or guidance, consider meeting with a dissertation coach virtually.

Junior grad students can also use this time to set themselves up for success. Become familiar with the graduation and thesis requirements of your institution. You might even set a goal to read one or two research papers in your field every day and begin compiling the relevant citations that will form the backbone of your future thesis or dissertation.

Tip #5: Be Kind to Yourself

Maintaining stay-at-home grad student productivity is important, but so is your mental and emotional health. Mental health in grad school is a concern in normal times, and we are certainly not in normal times.

Regularly reach out to your support system, both personal and professional. Talk to your mentors, friends, and family to stay grounded and supported through these stressful times. Take advantage of any free and low-cost mental health services offered by your institution and try out some mindfulness techniques to alleviate stress. Show yourself some kindness in order to stay mentally healthy and productive.

Stay-at-Home Grad School Productivity is Possible!

Just because your plans may have dramatically changed for the near future doesn’t mean you must lose academic momentum. Follow these tips and I hope that you’ll find your stay-at-home grad student productivity increasing and keeping you on track to reach your goals.

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