For students who joined Imperial College Business School in September 2020, the last five months have been anything but predictable. From adapting to new environments, meeting a host of new people for the first time (many virtually), and navigating the ever-changing landscape of restrictions and lockdowns, it hasn’t been easy.
Despite the challenges, it is possible to stay both productive and happy while learning in this environment with the right combination of planning, support, and mindset management. Two students who’ve discovered just this are Stephanie Ooi (MSc Management) and Gloria Cheng (MSc Strategic Marketing). Here they share some of their most valuable tips and tricks for staying motivated and maintaining your mental health, even during the most uncertain of times.
Understand yourself and find a purpose
The My first step to defeating the anxiety of uncertainty is to take time and reflect on yourself. No matter how busy my day is, I (Gloria) take 5-10five to 10 minutes to sit in silence and go through my day in my head. By picking out my behaviours and emotions when facing challenges, I then think about what I usually need to bounce back.
Self-reflection plays a huge part in stress management because knowing how you respond to changes will allow you to understand what resources you require. One of my problems these days is the feeling of dissociation after being in isolation for too long, and I am sure this happens to a lot of us. Personally, I would take some time every weekend to meet my brother (or people in your support bubble) face-to-face as a way to connect myself back to the ‘real world’.
Being self-aware also helps you identify your motivation and drivers. There is a purpose in everything we, do no matter how mundane or frustrating it is. Take notice of what aspects you particularly enjoy or dislike, for example, when doing group work or even everyday chores. Then, align these with your strengths and weaknesses to explore your preferred work and lifestyle.
Create a space solely for work
As much as it would be comfortable watch lectures from bed, we all know that doing so isn’t the best choice. So, My a really useful tip is to create a separate space for work. Doing so trains your body to associate this particular spot with productivity, similar to how we associate libraries with studying and restaurants with eating.
Another effective habit to ensure maximum productivity is to make sure that your workspace stays neat and organised. It’s difficult to work in a messy space, so what I (Stephanie) try to do is to remove all clutter before I actually start my day. I also try to set the mood of my workspace to make it as appealing as possible. So, nNormally, I diffuse essential oils, with peppermint being my favourite.
Facing numerous opportunities at university, it’s tempting to just say yes to everything and do it all. We may also feel a need to fill up our schedule because of the extra time gained from being stuck in lockdown. As a person that is driven by meaning and value, I (Gloria) believe that quality always wins over quantity when it comes to personal growth. Being selective will let you engage and contribute to more meaningful work and in turn, translates to how much you take away from these experiences.
‘‘It’s about the journey, rather than the destination’’
Plan and use productivity apps to stay focussed
Having a to-do list allows you me to break down big tasks into more manageable ones. Writing a 1,500 words essay seems less daunting when you distil it into small responsibilities. It also lets you visualise what you need to accomplish for that day and get that satisfaction when you cross one thing off your list.
Research has also shown that people are more likely to hold themselves accountable and follow through with commitments when they have them written down. I (Stephanie) found that keeping a list with even the smallest of tasks, like throwing out trash, pushes me to do what I need to. By the end of the day, it makes me feel accomplished because I realise that all these little things have accumulated into a productive day.
Another study technique that I would definitely recommend is the Pomodoro Technique. How it works is that you go through a 25-minute cycle of uninterrupted work, followed by a short 5-minute break and then, back to work again. Using the Pomodoro technique made me realise how much I could accomplish in a short time if I gave my full concentration. There are many Pomodoro timer apps, such as Focus City, Focus Keeper and Emphasis, but my favourite is Flora. With Flora, a plant will grow every 25 minutes you stay focused.
For those who struggle to be productive alone, I suggest watching ‘Study with Me’ videos on YouTube. Their aesthetic videos consist of them doing work and being productive, which motivates me because it makes me feel like I’m working hard with someone else. There is a wide range of ‘Study with Me’ these videos on YouTube, so you can pick whatever you prefer: be it videos with ASMR pencil sounds, café background noise, or even, real-time streams.
Be kind to yourself!
Finally, we should try to be kind to ourselves. As every email and headline says: we are living in unprecedented times. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with assignment deadlines and rejection letters, but ultimately, we should all take some time to look back and see how much we’ve accomplished so far. You don’t have to be productive 24/7. If you’re tired, take a nap and rest. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t manage to tick off all that you need to. You’re already trying your best and that’s more than enough.
If you ever need extra help, Imperial has many services that you should look out for. The Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service have host upcoming workshops for on topics like sleeping well, procrastination and managing stress which can be found here,. The team also publishes weekly videos and resources in their Kind Mind Series, focussing on important issues like coping with quarantine, dealing with stress and anxiety, and building resilience; these can all be accessed here.. Beyond that, if you feel like you need someone to talk to, Imperial offers counselling support. , which you can arrange for with this link.
Thank you for reading, we hope these tips help you to study and find happiness during these unpredictable times.