How to study from home like a pro

University of Leeds
University of Leeds
5 min readFeb 25, 2021

It’s over a year since our lives changed, and many of you will have been studying from home on and off in this time. We all read the articles last March and April about setting up a home office, and yet the reality is that for many, where we work isn’t a beautiful space overlooking a peaceful garden or lake, with a fluffy cat on the window ledge.

With the library and other study spaces only available for essential visits, inside coffee shops closed and other inside spaces not available at the moment, let’s evaluate how home studying is going, and make some changes if necessary. Just like a car needs an annual check, let’s have a look at how we’re doing with home study.

We’ve done some research —and asked for your tips and advice to find out what works for you. Whether you’re working in your Hyde Park bedroom, your parents kitchen or are constantly picking up your laptop, books and papers to move because someone needs the space, here’s some ideas to help you get on.

How are you currently using your time?

You’ll have heard those irritating people who say “you’ve got the same amount of hours in the day that Einstein had”, while you sit in jogging bottoms with your head in your hands.

Do you actually know what your average week day looks like when you’re studying? Below is a grid with 24 squares. Draw it out and fill in what you’re doing each hour of an average day.

Now you’ve got some idea of where your time is going. Is there anything that stands out?

Each of these squares represents an hour in your day. What have you learned by filling them in? Are you using your time well, or could you re-plan what you’re doing?

Know when you study best

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Maybe you’re neither! Here’s a quick way of working out when you’re most productive.

Draw a quick line graph and plot a line about when you’re most focused. On the one below, this person is a morning person, is less productive (before meals) and has another good focused block of time in the evening.

By knowing your most productive times, you’ll know when to do important tasks, and when not too!

Remember that these can change too — and if you add in things like mealtimes, exercise, disruptions in your house, online activities with friends etc onto the timeline, then you might find that by making some simple changes can make a big difference. Moving your exercise forward an hour, or using times when you’re less productive study-wise to do other tasks like preparing tea, playing music or doing a new hobby can make all the difference!


What’s your biggest distraction? Is it your phone? An app like HOLD gives you rewards for not using your phone.

Maybe it’s notifications on your computer — those annoying pop ups that say you’ve got a new email or Teams message.

Have you got a decent laptop or computer to work on? Speak to your Academic Personal Tutor or your School Student Support team as there are a limited number of loan laptops available.

If there’s a lot of noise in your house or flat, then there’s some things you can do to lessen the distraction

  • Tell people when you’re working — and get a sign for your door or chair
  • Headphones — noise cancelling are even better!
  • Identify when the noise is — and work around it — by doing important work at quieter times.

Take lots of breaks

We asked you what top tips you had for successful studying. Amanda suggested “Work till I break down then work again”. This wasn’t quite the insight we were hoping for. However, Abby came up with some excellent advice:

At the moment, I’m finding giving myself small breaks during the day helps to break up time spent just sat at my desk. Stepping away for a bit also aids in refocusing on a task when I find my concentration waning.

Taking breaks is important — which is why, in the late 1980’s, Francesco Cirillo invented a time management technique that is used globally now. The Pomodoro technique is about working interrupted for blocks of time — any distractions are written on a piece of paper to respond to after the 25 minutes.

25 minutes of uninterrupted work can make a big difference

Study somewhere new

It’s not easy to find new places to work, particularly if local or national restrictions mean alternatives to home are closed, and it’s too cold to work outside.

First, learn where the best wifi is in your house. Moving rooms can make a big difference.

Walking can be a great way to exercise and work too. If you have sessions that only need you to listen, have related podcasts to support your study or audiobooks — then get your coat on and get out.

Do you live with someone on your course — or are they in your household? Why not speak together about your subject while out walking together? Having focused time away from the screen but discussing topics is a great way to consolidate learning and make sense of things.

If you don’t live with a course mate, why not arrange to speak when you’re out walking? 25 minutes of talking through a new concept or consolidating on a topic can make a big difference, plus you’re out and about!

This is something that Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman developed — a four step process of explaining a concept to someone. It’s perfect for doing away from your work set up.

The Feynman technique can be done anywhere, perfect for combining exercise and walking.


Now you’ve evaluated what you’re currently doing, when you work best (and worst), what (and when) the distractions are, and have some good productivity and learning techniques in the bag — it’s time to make a plan!

Good planning is never wasted time — what are you going to do, and when? It helps routines form, gives us a sense of control in times when we can’t control much else and helps us with a sense of achievement. Don’t forget to plan in speaking to friends and family and rewards for all your hard work.

After a week, what’s working? What needs tweaking to make it work better for you?

Studying from home in the future

With the library currently only open for essential visits, and restrictions on travel in place around the world, then being able to successfully study from home is still really important, and will continue to be.

It’s likely that over the next few years, employers will increasingly be looking for people who are able to work from home, certainly some of the time. These skills aren’t just something that you’ll need for a few months — someone who is flexible, can work successfully in challenging circumstances and has the creativity to think and do things differently will be in a strong position to succeed.

It’s worth putting in the time to get it right. What’s been your biggest discovery in how you study at home?