Study at home tips – key skills and behaviours

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By Anne Langford 

The Old Vic wants to share some tips to help you study at home more easily. You’ve probably worked some things out for yourself, but we hope there are some new ideas here to inspire you. While this time is hard for many of us, there are also opportunities to learn more about ourselves, and develop skills and behaviours that will help us in all areas of our lives. 

CREATIVITY

  • It can be really easy to feel defeated by the challenges we face. Get curious about the problems you encounter. Try to practice creativity,  coming up with lots of possible ways to face a challenge before trying some out
  • Creativity needs us to try things that don’t quite work, to make discoveries and learn. Try to explore working out if things are good enough.

EMPATHY

  • Everyone is under stress – it makes people behave in strange ways. You never really know what is going on for someone else. Try to practice kindness and imagine the person who you are finding difficult is doing the best that they can at this moment. This does not mean that you should accept people harming you.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

  • Miscommunication is at the heart of many conflicts. Practice being able to describe how you are feeling, and be clear about what you need and would like to happen. This takes courage
  • Practice really listening to other people. To what they are saying, what the tone of their voice and their body language is telling you. The more we can listen to each other and be honest, the less we will miscommunicate.

MOTIVATION

Finding the motivation to study – especially if it’s not your favourite subject or it’s something that you are finding difficult – can be tough. Connecting why you are studying now to a longer term goal can help.

TASK: Get a pen and paper and spend five minutes making a list about all the reasons you study. Select the one or two that you find most motivating and make yourself a sign to put up where you are studying. Some examples are below.

  • ‘I want to study engineering at university – studying now will help me get the grades to go to university’
  • ‘I want a family of my own – studying now will help me to provide them with the best life I can’
  • ‘I want to get a job to earn enough money to buy a great car– studying now will help me get that job’

GET ORGANISED

Learning how to manage tasks and your own time is a useful life skill. Your teachers are probably setting you work, and you are having to adapt to working in a new way. Keeping a good, up to date list of what needs to be done means that you don’t have to remember everything, which will reduce your stress levels and the risk of missing some important work.

TASK

Make a list – you can use paper and pen or a tool like Trello. If you are creating a written list, draw three columns – what needs to be done, what resources you need to do that task, and the deadline. At the start of each day check the list and highlight that day’s goals or make a new daily list. Make time at the end of each day to update the list with new tasks that have arrived.

TIMETABLE

You may be able to organise your own timetable in conversation with the other people in your household that it may affect. Maybe you can study at times that suit you better, maybe you have to fit your study around other responsibilities or access to shared computers.

Top Timetable Tips
  • As much as possible try and keep a regular routine – starting and finishing at the same time each day. Establish a routine to follow before you start each day, maybe change into study clothes or do some exercise, ‘walk to school’
  • Try and study for five to seven hours each day – the same time that you would spend in school and on homework
  • Write a timetable for each day, or week. Remember it might have to change and that’s okay
  • If you can, mix up your tasks each day so that you do a range of activities. Don’t forget to include art, music, drama and PE and things that interest you in your timetable
  • If you are struggling to get started on a task try setting a timer to do 20 minutes, then choose to carry on or take a five-minute break before starting again with another 20 minutes. Remember to set a timer for your break too
  • Plan break and meal times – this will help your focus.

DISTRACTIONS

Studying at home, under stress, it’s very easy to get distracted. Social media is an important way for us to connect with friends, express ourselves and discover new things. It’s designed to keep our attention – neuroscientists work on the best way to do this. That’s why when we quickly check Instagram we suddenly lose an hour. You may be facing other distractions, caring for younger siblings or sharing space and resources like a computer.

TASK

If you use a computer, tablet or phone look for tools – like the Self Control app – to stop yourself checking social media or websites during study time.

TASK

Talk to your family and teachers about what’s happening and how it’s impacting your study – for example if you are helping look after younger siblings or don’t have access to a computer. Be honest about your situation and ask for help so that you can focus on completing the most important study tasks.

WHERE TO STUDY

You might be sharing a table or a sofa with parents and siblings who want to work in different ways at different times or you may have to study somewhere new each day. Creating a comfortable environment will help you focus. 

TASK

Take 15 minutes to create study space (or spaces) that keep you comfortable and help you focus. If you are working at table try to make sure that

  • When sitting on a chair with your elbows bent at a right angle your forearms rest on the table. You can use cushions to raise your seat
  • Your feet are flat on the floor, or use something like a box 
  • If you are using a computer, ideally the top of the screen is level with your eyes.

Is there an inspirational quote or a photo that will help you to focus and feel relaxed? Put your daily goals somewhere you can see them. Make sure that you have everything you need – maybe use a box or your school bag to keep books, pens. That you can then pack away at the end of the day. If music helps you focus, find or make a study playlist.

REFLECT

Self-reflection is an important tool to help us learn about ourselves, what we enjoy, what we are good at and what skills or behaviours we can develop. At the end of each day spend a few minutes to reflect on 

  • What did you do well?
  • What did you learn, notice or discover?
  • What mark would you give yourself for effort?

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