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Keeping motivated while studying remotely

Check out these tips from Blair Fiander, founder of Blair's Brainiacs, on staying motivated and avoiding academic burnout while studying remotely.

Blair Fiander
Blair Fiander
Gap Year Student
Godalming College

Blair Fiander, founder and CEO of Blairs Brainiacs, completed her A Level studies at Godalming College (UK) in 2021. She is known around the world for her live-study streams, offering advice, motivation, and learning resources for students aged 13 to university level. Her live study sessions became especially popular during the pandemic, helping to keep a whole generation of learners engaged and motivated throughout lockdown. She is currently taking a Gap Year and planning to apply to university this autumn.

Blair understands the challenges students face while trying to study in remote or hybrid-learning environments. She recognizes the effort it takes for focused revisions (studies) in a world of distractions. She partnered with our Turnitin team and shared several key study tips to help inspire students to work remotely and avoid academic burnout.

Reducing distractions and setting work goals

Starting your revision is arguably the hardest part of working online, with so many distractions coming from social media, other people, and things in your home or room.

To get started, I would recommend clearing your desk space or work area to remove some of these interruptions. From here, create yourself a list of specific goals which outlines and prioritises all your tasks.

This clarity will help you stay focused and give you a greater sense of achievement when you complete your work, especially for more challenging studying. It will also ultimately help you to feel more motivated when approaching tasks as you can actively see yourself completing revision.

Creating revision schedules

Once you’ve outlined your priorities, I would recommend creating a weekly schedule. “How do I create a study schedule?” and “How much studying should I do a day?” are two of the questions I get asked the most. The reality is, the answer will be slightly different for every student. Therefore, I always suggest people ask themselves the following questions:

  • How much time do I have to spend on work and revision this week?
  • How much revision do I need to do this week for the grade I’m aiming for?
  • How much time do I want to spend on work and revision this week?

From the answers you come up with, try and find a ‘middle ground’ of time to allocate to work, leisure, extracurriculars, and any other commitments you may have. I would really recommend you leave time for socialising (even straight A* students don’t work all the time!).

During my GCSEs and A-levels, I used to see friends as a method of motivation for my daily studying. I would say to myself, “If I do my work by 3pm, I can go out and see my friends, but if not, I will have to see them tomorrow.” This was incredibly encouraging for me as it acted as positive reinforcement for my productive work. By doing this scheduling regularly, it will reduce the risk of you cramming before exams. You can find a template I created here: Revision TimeTable.xlsx.

Pomodoro Technique and motivation while working

The Pomodoro Technique is a method which helps you to balance study time and designated work breaks. It’s a well-known way to increase productivity and reduce procrastination and is something I utilise in my study-lives.

While there are a few variations, the most common version is to work for 25 minutes and then have a 5 minute break, repeated 4 times before taking a longer break.

Working in these "manageable chunks" and completing the harder tasks earlier on in the day before you get tired will help you complete more work and stay motivated longer.

The "Treat-Bowl" method

The "Treat-Bowl" method involves getting yourself a bowl of some of your favourite snacks and using them to reward yourself with them after a certain amount of time or questions.

Consider trying to use some brainfoods if you can – for example, dark chocolate (contains antioxidants which can help to reduce stress) or berries (contain flavonoids which can help your memory). This reward system has been proven to help motivate yourself and reinforce behaviours.

Working with others

A large proportion of people find it incredibly motivating to work with others. The mixture of online/hybrid learning and the increasing advances in technology have really allowed students to come together in virtual spaces.

An example of this is my study-lives on TikTok (@blairsbrainiacs), livestreams where I actively work on camera and other people watching the lives work from home.

Being able to share progress and tips in the Pomodoro breaks can help students to stay motivated and not feel as isolated. The BlairsBrainiacs Discord server runs 24/7 to keep motivating students when I’m not live. It is the largest education Discord server in the UK, with study rooms which allow you to see other students studying in real time, accessible resources, and much more.

Being kind to yourself

In my opinion, your mental attitude towards yourself is just as important as all the above. If you label yourself as unmotivated or unable to do certain tasks, it is likely that a self-fulfilling prophecy will occur.

Instead of approaching your work with a fixed mindset, try to have a growth mindset. For example, attempt to see a lower grade in a test as good feedback potential rather than failure. This will help you feel more confident in yourself when it comes to approaching more challenging tasks which often require more motivation to start.