Distance learning during this very time of coronavirus must have impacted our learning experiences in various ways. Love it or not, we have to admit both the freedom and inconvenience brought by coronavirus that some people have unwittingly encountered. Study has shown that about 30 percent of American work remotely. Do you feel distant learning/working less productive? Here are 3 tips you can follow to master your study.
Why studying remotely can be unproductive
Undoubtably, the learning cultures at home can be completely different than at school. Anti-productive bombs are constantly detonated by life interferences:
- Messages from teams
- Uncountable emails yet to read
- Barking puppy as if it’s the end of the world
- Your mom asking you to have dinner
It’s human nature to be distracted because that’s a way to be vigilant and have our curiosity satisfied, but as we become more self-aware of ourselves, it’s undesired to face these ‘obligation’. Working means working, but sometimes your environment doesn’t seem to match your ideal place for productivity. Working at home can be detrimental to your productivity. Thinking about people that study with you, it’s not hard to believe how a home office full of distractions can come even close to old-school classrooms or dorms for learning.
Lack of Networking
Have you ever realized you’ve got unhanded homework until the deadline passes? You’re not the only one! A sense of connectivity and networking could be one of the reasons why most people prefer offline school or office to digital ones. Not only because you feel alone and unconnected, but the lack of communication and inability to discuss plays another big role to make people unproductive.
Lack of Self-management
As someone who identifies himself as an early bird than a night owl, I even find working in the morning in adversity at home. During offline working, you could have teachers and classmates to remind you about your assignment deadlines, but it’s not the case now as no one will actively alert you to complete tasks even if you don’t do them at all.
3 tips you can follow to master your study
Wikipedia defines a ritual as:
A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to set sequence
The aim to ritualize study is to draw clear demarcation of when you are studying and when you are not. As distractions are everywhere at home, confirming the time when you are at working mode indirectly sets you in a distraction-free environment. Imagine you have Xbox and Switch on your desk when you’re studying, paperworks and used tissues everywhere on your desk. Don’t all of these crank up the possibility to hit up League of Legend and relax?
The word Ritualization simply means to tell yourself when you’re ready for study/work. Here are a few steps you can follow to set up your own work mode:
- Think about what you really need when you do the task;
- Get rid of everything else on your desk;
- If you are working on your PC, switch off apps you don’t need;
- Tell yourself that you’re ready for work. It may seem inessential but just being respectful towards your study actually works effectively. It’s not necessarily an action of ‘telling yourself’. A small habit like making yourself a cup of tea could stimulate your productivity signals.
Why your current TIMETABLE doesn’t work
Manage your time slots using Calendar App
An Calendar App is the most accepted way to manage time, while it goes fairly ineffective when you take task management seriously. Since calendar directly reflects how your day is spent by visualizing time-specific task blocks, it creates an illusion that your days are spend exactly that way no matter what your actions are.
Manage your time using a Todo List
With these being said, I believe many of you have tried a todo list to organize tasks that don’t fall into specific time blocks, all of which are mostly inspired by David Allen’s famous GTD® methodology:
GETTING THINGS DONE® is a personal productivity methodology that redefines how you approach your life and work.
STEP 1 CAPTURE
Collect what has your attention — Write, record, or gather any and everything that has your attention into a collection tool.
STEP 2 CLARIFY
Process what it means — Is it actionable? If so, decide the next action and project (if more than one action is required). If not, decide if it is trash, reference, or something to put on hold.
STEP 3 ORGANIZE
Put it where it belongs — Park reminders of your categorized content in appropriate places.
STEP 4 REFLECT
Review frequently — Update and review all pertinent system contents to regain control and focus.
STEP 5 ENGAGE
Simply do — Use your trusted system to make action decisions with confidence and clarity.
This methodology clarifies what tasks to do and what tasks you have done and it’s a great start for beginners. However, such a robust system doesn’t address the very basic problem — When you should do your task. Because after all, we judge productivity based on how much you have accomplished.
Use time management to manage your tasks
A quick resolution is to combine your Calendar and Todo List. Here are a few steps I find useful to compensate GTD system with time management:
- Clarify the PRIORITY of your tasks
Almost all the basic todo list apps have an option to specific tasks that you find important, and there are various ways you can choose to do so; no matter it’s flagging, tagging, rating or starring, you can always find your way to prioritize that you feel most comfortable with.
Effective use of the priority system helps you choosing the right task to engage in by filtering tasks. Modern Todo List apps like OmniFocus or 2Do have complex filtering systems called ‘Perspective’ or ‘Smart List’ which takes GTD to a next level.
- Identity your AVAILABILITY
It’s not surprising to see someone quit the GTD system since they tried to track their every single minute using a calendar. A calendar can be a good way to visualize tasks by timeline but it’s definite NOT a good way to schedule all your tasks:
- You easily get frustrated every time when you couldn’t complete your task within time slots;
- A calendar full of schedules is merely idealistic, no guarantee of your availability;
- It makes you feel you can’t accomplish one basic thing, and end up with giving up.
Instead, what you can do is to give yourself time blocks when you have free time to get thing done. You can keep your fixed-scheduled meetings or classes where they are, but when you have a ton of assignments to finish, you never know how long they are going to last or when is the best time I should start one task.
It is also suggested to tag your available time blocks with your energy level to match priorities of your tasks, all of which give you a general idea of the task to start with.
Calendar that doesn’t work
Calendar that does work
I know many of you have ever complained how laggy and irresponsive Microsoft Teams is. Yeah, I know. MS Teams is definitely not the only or the best choice of communication on the market, but either switching to another platform for your project or diving deep into how to enhance your MS Teams experience.
If you have a team for your project that requires not teacher involvement or no real-time feedback, here are a few tools you can try to resolve the dis-connectivity encountered in distant learning.
As the most famous Kanban tool on the market, Trello has served as a standard of project management for more than 50 million users, which also helps MIT team to organize tasks. But power users aren’t limited to simply visualizing tasks. With strong integration with Slack or MS Teams, you could create tasks, assign to others and mark as complete directly from the communication app you like. If you are serious about project management or even personal task management, you definitely need to check it out.
Being a powerful communication app, Slack takes management and integration to the next level. You want to keep updated with edits in Notion, collaborate on Trello and start a Zoom meeting from one single app? Slack is the only possible solution you can have. As distant collaboration is becoming a general trend of the future and a necessity right now, Slack becomes more and more popular among projects from small startups to giant tech companies.
Online documentation collaborations have never been so easy until the MiT switched to Notion. Seamless synchronization and nice interface are not the only reasons why MIT members chose Notion as a place for notes. With powerful database feature and integration of other apps like Slack or MS Teams, Notion really takes productivity to the next level.
With all these powerful apps recommended, it’s needed to be reiterated that app choice is NOT the philosophy of productivity, orientation is. A tool can be helpful for you but not for others; a tool can be suitable for this task but not for another. Sometimes it’s easy to dive too deep into which app to choice and we tend to try them all, but we sometimes forget what our ultimate purposes are; we’re merely being productive to look productive but not being productive to produce. — Anonymous
Please keep in mind that these apps mentioned are of MIT team own selections and are no way in connection with the school. For technically issues of MS Teams, please email [email protected] instead.
Pictures and screenshot in this article are from various authors. They may in whole, or in part, be subjected to copyright protection. Before sharing them, always try to contact the author first.
Creative Common (CC3 BY) — written by Charles Ji, MIT team with love and passion for technology.
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感谢阅读！作者 @Cheng Ji