Students are more mobile than ever before which means they aren’t tied to working in the computer lab or library. In the current crisis, this mobility has enabled everyone to keep working and this is definitely true for universities. The majority of students have laptops which means your work world can be practically anywhere and of course many lectures and other sessions are now online. But your choices about where you work will have a major impact on your effectiveness and can impact on your learning. So here are my tips:
- The library. The great thing about working in the library used to be that you could be sure that at least you would have to be focussed on work. These days there are areas for groupwork and cafes so you could be distracted. At the moment (autumn 2020), ,ay libraries are closed or only have limited capacity. Personally I still sometimes go to work there as a change from other places I work. The difficulty I used to find at university was seeing other people working away apparently knowing exactly what they were doing whereas I didn’t. This significantly dented my confidence. Maybe this was just something I used to feel but so much of academic work is about confidence, if this is you as well, then you probably don’t HAVE to be there. Journals are online and you can take books to use at home.
- In your room. There are many plusses to working in your own space. You can set things up the way you like them and leave your work out so you can carry on where you left off. As long as you don’t have difficult flatmates, you’ll be able to work whatever hours you like undisturbed.
- Also, you can find a comfortable working position – this is really important! Scrimp on everything else but make sure you have a comfortable chair and a good sized desk to work at. On the down side, it could get a little lonely if you work alone for too long.
- In a café. Coffee culture has really taken off – in the UK the number of coffee shops has exploded over the past 10 years and this is mirrored in many countries. Some even seem to be aiming themselves as places for students to work with tables where you can work and good wifi. As a matter of fact I am writing this blog in a café so clearly it isn’t only students who are attracted by this. Sometimes it’s good to be out and about and the general hubbub around can be helpful. But it is definitely distracting and not the place to spend all of your time
- On the train. I spend quite a lot of my time on trains and find that they are actually useful places to do work. But it has to be a certain sort of work. Although you can get access to the internet, it will be a very poor connection and you will waste loads of time if you try to do work that needs the web. However, it also means you are potentially less distracted by social media etc so for reading text books, papers and the actual writing of essays, it can be a great place to work. Bad for revision, research and practising presentations!
Perhaps you want to mix things up a bit so work in your room for a while, then pop out to a coffee shop. But where ever you decide to work, don’t fool yourself that you are working when you are not. It is fine to have breaks, changes of scenery, chat with friends, check your social media and be comfortable. But academic work requires sustained, focussed effort and there really aren’t any shortcuts to this. Do make sure your seating position is appropriate – there is great advice here from the NHS on how to make sure you don’t end up inured because you have the wrong working setup. My advice is work intensively. When you are working, focus 100% on your work. Then enjoy yourself. And focus 100% on enjoyment rather than partly feeling guilty that you really should be working.
This book has more detail on everything you need to know in order to do well at university: