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7 Strategies to Overcome the Challenges of Working and Studying at Home

July 3, 2020
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By Eloïse Fairbank
Source: GradProSkills

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The COVID-19 event radically changed working conditions for graduate students, with campuses and libraries closed, working from home (#WFH) became the “new normal”. 

Here we present 7 strategies to help you adapt to a new working lifestyle and find a balance between your academic and personal life.

1. Adjust your expectations.

Remember to be flexible and cut yourself some slack! Your expectations of a productive day will be different from what they were during a regular semester and that is absolutely normal. You might be a working parent and juggling children with your academic or professional responsibilities might add an extra layer of stress. Consider setting new routines as a family to reduce conflict. Take it day-by-day and celebrate your small successes in productivity!

2. Set your routine schedule: work and relaxation.

Despite the uncertainty in our daily lives, we can still control our schedule. Based on your goals, build a detailed schedule with activities to keep you occupied throughout the day. Plan your projects with the help of an online planner, break them up into smaller steps and organize your daily tasks with a to-do list. You can use the Pomodoro technique to stay focused on your work, and schedule breaks during the day like a 15-minute walk outside, listening to your favourite podcast while preparing lunch. The morning is crucial in setting the stage for your day; get dressed – as if you were going to work or your lab – and have some breakfast, then set off to work.

3. Create a welcoming workspace.

Designate a space at home that you use to work, such as your desk (if you have one) or your kitchen table, for example. If possible, this space should only be used for work.  The key is to distinguish between where you work and where you relax. Try not to work in “comfy” areas at home where you usually hang out and, likewise, don’t hang out in your workspace. Try different set-ups for your working spot to find the most comfortable, appealing and efficient arrangement. For example, use a good chair, an ergonomic keyboard, a whiteboard, or have plants nearby!

4. Limit distractions.

Limit all possible distractions in your physical environment during your work time. Reduce the amount of noise around you by wearing noise-cancelling earphones or closing the door to your room. Turn your cell phone on silent or, put your phone in a different room so it is “out of sight, out of mind”! How to avoid the temptation to check social media? There are different applications that block distracting websites for a certain amount of time while you work like SelfControl or Anti-Social.

5. Join virtual working groups.

Join or create virtual working groups with your fellow graduate students. Work together with your cohort, your lab members or your friends! Set a time and meet on an online platform, put yourselves on mute, and enjoy the virtual company to keep you accountable and socially supported. You can also join an organized virtual working group, like Thèsez-Vous Ensemble or GradProSkills peer support writing groups.

6. Take evenings and weekends off.

It is hard not to “take work home with you” when you’re literally working from home every day. Take time off during evenings and weekends, as you would during a normal semester. Work-life balance is important especially during stressful periods, and working overtime because you are home puts you at risk for burnout. Recharge and chat with your friends and family, visit local parks, explore Montreal’s expanded bike paths, or take time to cultivate your hobbies.

7. Access Concordia’s online resources and support 

We are learning a new way of studying, working and even enjoying small things in life. The key point is to ask for help when things seem challenging.  Concordia offers online resources to provide graduate students with learning support, skills and professional development, wellness options, research and library resources, and a community environment. If you are experiencing mental or emotional distress in your new WFH routine check out Concordia’s support services and third-party resources


*Stay up to date on how COVID-19 is affecting your graduate studies.

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