With a certain virus going around, we all have been told to stay at home. Studying from home can be challenging–the environment is far from ideal. But is there a way we can achieve good results in these times of social isolation and still keep our sanity? 😅
The current healthcare crisis has turned our lives upside down. Both on a personal and on a professional level, we all need to make adjustments to our lifestyle.
Software developers are particularly lucky from this perspective: they can take their laptop home and continue working. Our students are equally privileged: they can keep on studying from the comfort of their own home.
But is it really that simple? For some, yes. Remote workers have learned to balance personal and professional chores throughout the day. Others may be new to this and need some support.
We have put together a list of tips to help you figure out what working in isolation is all about.
1. Establish a routine
Establish a daily routine and stick to it. Find your own rhythm and enjoy the extra time freed up by the commute. Working/studying from home comes with a lot of flexibility. This allows you to adjust your schedule to what fits you best.
If you’re a morning person, start early and enjoy an early leisure evening. If you work best with an afternoon nap, split your work into a morning and afternoon shift.
It takes some experimentation to find your preferred schedule, but in the long run, there are great advantages. You will be able to tap into your creativity and productivity at the moments when you need them the most.
2. Separate the workspace
Create boundaries around your workspace. If available, turn the extra room into the “work only” area. If you have no separate study, set up a unique place to work from, and keep it consistent day after day––be it the kitchen or the living room.
Keep the laptop away from the bed (yes, we know how tempting that is). Studies have shown how working from your bed may affect your sleep. If necessary, convert your workspace back at the end of the day and remove all work-related items. This allows you to completely disconnect and enjoy your free time.
3. Remove distractions
Turn off all potential distractions. If possible, allocate dedicated time for emails and chatting (e.g. 30 minutes in the afternoon). Resist online temptations: turn off notifications and stay away from the alluring social media. Ignore offline temptations, which show up all over the house: the sudden urge to clean, cook a new recipe, or visit the snack drawer.
A common recommendation is to have your desk facing a window. This keeps (distracting) house items outside of your range of vision. Being aware of the different distractions can help you focus throughout your day.
4. Take regular breaks
Plan and take regular breaks. The most efficient way is to set up a schedule with blocks of tasks (e.g. 2 hrs each), separated by breaks. Figure out the ideal block size and how long the breaks should be. This gives you the chance to also practice your estimation skills and the regular breaks will bring a flow to your day.
Use an online tool and set up a reminder (such as the well known Pomodoro tool) so that you can stay focused on your tasks. Once the breaks are over, both your body and mind will be in better shape to move on and get back to studying.
5. Take restorative breaks
Not all breaks are created equal. Learn to take restorative breaks. Stand up, take a walk to the kitchen and grab a snack. Keep yourself hydrated in the process, do some light stretching. Take a nap if you are feeling brave! All this will give your body and mind a chance to replenish and you will feel more energized.
Unlike the restorative breaks, the Instant Gratification Monkey wants to trick you with internet surfing breaks; you know, when you keep scrolling through cat pictures and Wikipedia pages. When you do that, your eyes are not taking a break. You are still sitting and staring, not even blinking. That’s a trap, don’t fall into it! The surfing break is NOT a real break!
6. Stay in motion
The importance of exercising cannot be overstated. Integrate your favorite activity into your daily routine. Do it in the morning, in the evening or while taking a restorative break - whenever it fits you best. Join online challenges (such as #see10do10challenge) if you need an external reminder.
Take advantage that you are not in the library (or office): you can practice the funniest things, like handstands or juggling. When at your desk, pay attention to your posture and release the tension in your body with some light drills. The health benefits are priceless and your body and mind will be thankful to you.
Keep in touch with your peers! Especially when learning something new like coding, communicating with others is important. Share your screen and talk to your friend through a debugging session. Call a classmate to let him know what cool shortcut you’ve discovered in your favorite IDE. Schedule pair programming sessions and hack together on a common project.
The students of our Full-Stack Program, for example, are working together in an online study group, where they help each other and share progress. The benefit of camaraderie is priceless. Find what works best for you and don’t forget: we are all in this together and we need to stay in touch with each other!
Getting used to the isolation work routine needs patience and practice. Like programming, it gets easier with time! You only need to figure out which is your ideal working style. The rules above are not set in stone, you can use them as guidelines to discover your own style!