Before the transition to remote law school, I previously did at least ninety-percent of my schoolwork in the library. More specifically, a corner desk in the basement of the library where there were no windows, no sounds and no distractions. That was by design, because that was the best way for me to efficiently focus and manage large volumes of work. Therefore, it was a huge shock to my system to have to suddenly do everything at home, at half of my small dining room table while my boyfriend works from the other half and my cat refuses to stay off my keyboard. The learning curve was steep, but at this point things have improved a bit, and I’m learning to adjust. While this is still not an ideal situation, there are a few things that have helped me and might help you as well if you previously were a “library person.”
Keep a normal routine
While this applies generally to working from home, keeping a routine is really important, especially if you previously were used to the structure of leaving your home and going elsewhere to study. This includes waking up early, showering and eating breakfast – and trying to keep it to the same time frame you previously kept. This can be easier said than done. It can be all too easy to hit snooze for an hour when you know you only have to go to your living room, and not to actual school. But, keeping your schedule will help keep you on track, so do the best you can. If you live in a place where you can safely go for a walk outside, doing so early in the morning before you start work can help create a break between waking up and working. Normalizing your schedule as much as possible can help you adjust a bit faster.
Try to reduce noise
One of the main reasons I studied in the library basement was because it was (usually) silent, and I really needed that to focus and be efficient. Replicating that at home, especially when you live with other people, can be difficult. To the extent that you can, try to ask that others be respectful of your need to work, and keep the volume down on their voices, the TV or whatever else they may be doing. In addition, consider investing in some cheap but effective earplugs – they can be extremely helpful in blocking out noises. Noise cancelling headphones are even better, if you have them.
Keep visual distractions to a minimum
The other main reason that I loved the library basement is that I could also avoid visual distractions. There was really nothing to look at except a wall. The lack of movement around me was so helpful to my focus, and has admittedly been harder to replicate at home because I can’t move furniture to face a wall. If it’s possible for you, try to orient your workspace at home to mimic what works for you in the library, which for many people I’m sure also means limiting visual distractions. For example, face a wall if you can, and don’t face the TV or a window while you do work if you know it bothers you.
Use an app to further block distractions
Another thing to consider as you adjust to working from home is blocking websites and apps that might distract you. This may not have been necessary for you before if you could focus in the library free of distractions. However, if you are now having more trouble focusing at home, it might be worth looking into apps like Freedom to at least reduce the number of distractions around you.
Set boundaries with people you share a space with
If you live with other people, be sure to discuss your schedule and needs with them so that you can avoid miscommunications and prevent distractions. If you have certain times that you need to do work or be in class, let them know that you can’t be disturbed during those times. Further, if something really distracts you, like noises or people moving around you significantly, try to see if there is way to orient your workspace to avoid it, or see if they can avoid some behaviors during certain times. Of course, sometimes it isn’t possible to avoid when you share a space, but communication may be able to help you meet in the middle.
Be nice to yourself
Most of all, be kind to yourself during this difficult time. If you purposely avoided studying at home, this is a huge change, and you have to expect that it will be hard to adjust. It can be all too easy to be hard on yourself for not maintaining the same standard of work or schedule, but don’t lose sight of the fact that everyone was thrown into this so suddenly, and your “best” might just be different right now. Do your best to adapt, but be patient.
Transitioning to doing all of your school work from home can be difficult, especially if you aren’t used to studying there. While it may be difficult to feel focused, do your best to adapt and be patient with yourself.
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