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In this article Max, a postgraduate International Relations student, shares five key techniques that have helped him to beat the confusing lack of structure in lockdown and make study days more productive.

I have found that in lockdown, often days can be hard to tell apart. The weekend can feel like any other day, and motivation on a Monday morning, when you don’t have the commute to the library or seminars, can be very hard to find.

At the start of my Master’s degree at the University of Portsmouth I found it hard to sit down and study all day, in the same space that I relaxed and watched TV. So I decided to create a morning routine for weekdays that provided a clear difference between my study days and the weekends. Here are my top five tips:

1. Wake up at the same time every weekday

It can be very tempting to wake up late in the morning, telling yourself when your alarm goes off at 7am that we’re in lockdown and you don’t have anywhere to be so you might as well sleep in. However, I have found that if I stick to my alarm and force myself out of bed, then I feel that not only have I ‘overcome’ the ‘lockdown blues’ but also that once I am out of bed I have achieved something, which is a great platform to build on. Having a set time each week that I wake up simulates a working environment and helps to build a feeling of structure and routine which helps to push away the ‘lockdown blues’

2. Have a proper breakfast

I don’t want to sound like your parents here, but eating a proper breakfast is so important to building a good routine. When I say a proper breakfast, I am not talking specifically about the food, but about taking twenty or thirty minutes in your morning to sit down, with the news, a podcast, a book and to enjoy having your first hot drink or meal of the day. It is something to look forward to (especially if you’re a big coffee drinker like me), and a chance to ease yourself into the day.

3. Go for a walk

This tip is perhaps the tip that has helped me most, to recreate a productive ‘non-lockdown’ weekday. After my breakfast, I go for a twenty minute walk, just around my house and back, every morning as this helps me to create a ‘fake’ commute to work. You can listen to music, or just listen to the birds or the rain, and just walk in a big circle leaving your house as your home and returning to your workplace and your bedroom as now you new library or office. I just find putting on my coat and my shoes and leaving the house really helps to create that going to/leaving the library feeling that I associate with a good day of studying.

4. Avoid using your phone the second you wake up

It is no secret that the news this last year hasn’t always been good news. This is really something that can get you down, and whilst it is of course important to keep up to date with the news, I find that giving yourself a bit of distance from it in the morning is really helpful. This makes your morning yours. You don’t need to worry about what’s going on in the world but instead just worry about yourself and what you’re going to achieve today.

5. Remember it is ok to have time off

You won’t always wake up on your first alarm, or your second, sometimes not even your third. However, this doesn’t mean you need to give up on working on the day. At the moment everything is very much uncertain, so sometimes it makes sense that your days will be uncertain too. But the key to still being productive, for me, is being able to accept time off every now and again, accepting that you haven’t been as productive today as you wanted to, but this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next week is a fresh start. This is very important at the moment, as being able to overcome unproductive mornings, or lazy afternoons, and to carry on working towards my studies has both helped me to be productive but has also helped to keep me focused and happy with a routine.

Hopefully these five tips have helped you and encouraged you to utilise the power of routine in lockdown. These are my personal tips and there are hundreds of different ways that we each individually enjoy our mornings, but I hope they have offered an insight into just some of the ways a productive morning routine can help you achieve your study goals.

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