Studying in lockdown is a huge challenge, particularly with young children around. The experts at MOL Learn have some advice on how to get through the next weeks.
Balancing your work-study life is hard on any given day, yet add kids into the equation and it is even tougher. When your children are safely tucked away at nursery or school, you can give your studies your complete focus. But in lockdown it is much more difficult.
So what can you do? To be honest it is going to take guts, perseverance, an ability to adjust and great management skills. But as you’re a parent already you’ve already perfected a lot of these skills. But learning and development provider MOL Learn has come up with some suggestions that may help.
By being upfront and honest with your family about your schedule, you can escape the guilt of trying to please everyone. Instead, everyone will be able to see where you’re free and when you need to be left undisturbed.
As much as possible plan in advance what you want to achieve during this period. Do you need to finish a certain amount of reading or assignments? You need to consider what you need to complete to keep yourself on track, and how long you realistically need to finish it.
1. Be realistic – the reality is, you won’t be able to get as much done as you normally would when the kids are at school. Your productivity and free time will be less, so you need to be realistic about what you can get done and not be over ambitious.
2. Spread out your studies – don’t go allocating it all for the day before your deadline. Instead, spread them out so you don’t feel overwhelmed but can chip away at it steadily.
3. Plan study time in a calendar – a good tactic is to use a calendar, planner or scheduler to help outline your day-to-day plans. This will highlight your best times to study, as well as act as a reminder so you don’t forget. They will also help you to get into a regular routine, so you’re mentally prepared to study when the time arrives.
4. Plan around your kids – try to look for times when you know they’ll be occupied. Whether that is waiting until they have gone to bed, before they get up in the morning or when they go out for exercise with a partner, if you have one; save these times to stay in and study.
5. Do lots of short study bursts – aiming to do 20-30 minutes of study at a time will be easier than trying to study for solid blocks of a few hours at a time, especially as it is likely that these sessions will get interrupted.
6. Create a schedule for the whole family – don’t just put your own plans into this calendar, but the entire family’s plan, too. This will make it easier for you to identify good times to study and where you can enlist your families help to help occupy/entertain the kids.
Now, we aren’t suggesting that you skip out on your chores as that will just leave you with a bigger job later down the line. What we are suggesting is that you look for ways to save time so you are free to do other things.
Take the following.
1. Meal prep – prepping food in advance will reduce the amount of time you spend cooking. So if for instance, you can prepare a meal capable of feeding you for more than one session, make it and then freeze the rest ready for another day. Similarly, you can cook large batches of vegetables and meats, and separate them into smaller portions which you can use the following day.
Taking a further step back and creating a meal plan before you go shopping can also help you save time in the long run, even if you face a long queue to get into the supermarket.
2. Get your family to help out – if your family aren’t already helping you with the chores, then ask them if they’d be willing to help out so you’ll have less to do. You can even offer rewards to inspire your kids into helping.
3. How clean does the house really need to be? – this is a serious question.
If you haven’t already got one of these, we recommend making one as this will soon become a place where you can retreat, study and get all of your work done. More importantly, once you’ve created a study space there will be no need to keep setting it up. Instead, it will already be arranged exactly how you want it to be, saving you time in the long run.
1. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room, we suggest nabbing it. Otherwise, pick a room that the rest of your family doesn’t need or won’t use regularly, ie your front room or dining room. NOTE: it is important that your kids are aware that this room is off-limits when you’re studying, so they won’t be tempted to pop in or disturb you (unless it is an emergency). Instead, let them know when you’ll be free again, so they’ll be more willing to wait.
2. Choose somewhere secluded, quiet and free from distractions – in other words, don’t pick somewhere with a loud ticking clock or anything on the walls that will disturb you. It is vital that you find this space peaceful, quiet and relaxing, so you can easily immerse yourself into your work. Ideally, this space will be situated away from the most used rooms in your house so you won’t be tempted to join your family.
3. Keep away from distractions – these can come in many forms. Even a radio or a TV could prove distracting, as you could find yourself spending ages selecting some ‘music’ to listen to.
4. Create storage – this technique is important if you haven’t already got a designated space in your house where you can consistently study. By having somewhere where you can safely put all of your study materials, ie a box, a drawer or a cabinet, you can easily collect them when you’re next ready to study. Plus, you’ll know that there is no chance of your family messing with your work/notes.
Harnessing technology is one easy way of doing this. For instance, you can caste recorded lectures to your TV whilst playing with your kids.
Similarly, you can do the following.
1. Study whilst cooking food – as your meals are on the hob or in the oven, you can quiz yourself on a topic you’ve recently read. This repetition will help to fix this information into your head and make it easier to recall.
2. Set reminders on your phone – these mini alarms will help you to stay on track and remember important events.
Easier said than done we know; however, occupying them with fun activities will enable you to study without the guilt of worrying that they are bored.
Try these tactics.
1. Get them to do chores or a fun activity at home – in terms of chores, give them an incentive to get them done. The more appealing you make the award, the more effort they will put into completing the chore. This is especially helpful if you’re delegating some of your usual chores, as they’ll be saving you even more time which you can use to study.
Similarly, giving them something fun to do will keep them occupied and less likely to come pestering you. Just make sure it is something fun that they’ll all enjoy and will keep them busy for a fair while ie making something.
2. Study when your kids are out for exercise – if you can get your partner to take them so you can stay at home, great. If you’re the only one who can take them, try to find ways to bring your studies with you.
From reading/listening to your notes on your phone, to watching a webinar, to typing notes on your laptop, to browsing through flashcards – use whatever is easy to cart around to keep up your studies.
Your kids will naturally be curious about what you’re doing, so try to make a game of it. If they’ve got homework, why not suggest that you all do your work at the same time?
This will kill two birds with one stone. Not only will this ensure that they aren’t doing any reading, projects or worksheets at the last minute – adding to your stress – they will feel included in what you’re doing as you will all be doing it together. This will also prevent them from distracting you, as they’ll be too focused with getting their own work done.
NOTE: this tip works best if you know that they’ll sit quietly and get on with it, and won’t mess around or keep distracting you.
If you know that they won’t stay quiet, get them involved in a different way. For instance, you could ask them to quiz you. Again, by letting them feel involved and aware that they are helping you; they’ll take this role of quizzing you more seriously.
In fact, you might find this technique helps you to better absorb the information, as you’ll be making a conscious effort to answer them clearly, concisely and in a way that your kids will understand.
Surrounding yourself with a strong and positive support network of friends and family, even if it is only virtual, will help to strengthen your study sessions – and keep the stress at bay – as you’ll know that you have always got someone there to listen and help.
You’ll be able to bounce off ideas, vent and support one another, whilst saving time as you can speak to them from the comfort of your own home.
With the pressure to complete assignments or prepare for exams, it can be easy to fall into the trap of letting them dominate your life. At the back of your mind is the constant awareness that you need to get it done.
To combat this, we ask that you remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and you need to relax and do things for yourself. It is essential that you make time to look after yourself (mentally) and relax. This means, alongside finding time for your family, you should also make time to do things for yourself.
Look after yourself physically – there is a common misconception that exercise will wear you out and make you feel tired. Now, whilst there is no denying that it will help you to sleep, eating well and doing a little exercise can actually help to invigorate and elevate your energy levels. This is because it will jumpstart your body – including your metabolism and heart rate.
To start off with, incorporate a little stretching into your wake-up routine and take your daily opportunity to get outside and breathe some fresh air to help you to feel more energised. Likewise, make sure you start your day with a healthy breakfast.
REMEMBER: If you’re emotionally and physically drained, you won’t be able to study as effectively – nor can you be there for your family.
The truth is studying and being a parent is hard work, particularly at this time. But don’t give up and don’t let competing commitments sway you from not studying. Embrace all of the tips listed above and your kids won’t even realise what you’re up to.
Remember – you’ve got this!