Keeping up with work – Part II

April 27, 2020

Louis Tay

This week, the entire nation will be focused on the presidential elections. 

A frequent question that Purdue students raise is “How can I continue to be productive during this challenging time?” I had previously shared three tips: establish a routine, set realistic goals, and negotiate boundaries with those you share your living space with.

This week, I share a few more tips on how we can keep up with work in a sustainable manner.

Create Accountability:

As exercise enthusiasts might tell it, accountability is an important factor for exercise adherence and seeing results. Research shows that individuals exercising in groups have better outcomes. This principle of accountability also applies to work.

How can you create accountability while being socially distanced? One possibility is to schedule conference calls with friends to do school work and learning together. Some students have shared with me that they even do this for homework assignments.

Making a commitment to study together keeps one accountable when it may be difficult to stay motivated. However, the benefits go beyond that. Working together can lead to co-learning, positive social interactions, and mutual encouragement. Not surprisingly, research shows that college students who study together in groups outside of class do better on exams than those who study alone.

Distinct Work and Rest Spaces:

Sleep researchers encourage us not to work in bed because we need to train our bodies to associate the bed with sleep. By extension, we probably don’t want to associate work with sleep either! The idea is that it is helpful to have distinct work and rest spaces.

In line with this, keep your workspace separate from your rest space. If possible, find a dedicated space in your home to do work. Try not to bring work with you throughout your home. This could also be a good time to declutter and move work to a single location.

For those in small apartments, finding those spaces can be difficult. However, you can be creative even in small spaces. Some students have shared that they have rearranged their furniture to carve out unique work and rest niches.

  1. Pairing unenjoyable with enjoyable:

    Psychologists have found that positive reinforcements, where rewards are given as a consequence of behaviors can lead to more of the same desired behaviors. This principle of positive reinforcement can be strategically applied to increase your task persistence on less enjoyable tasks (e.g., schoolwork) by pairing it with enjoyable rewards (e.g., chocolates).

    What are some of the ways you can do this? Here are some ideas: Burn your favorite scented candles while you finish a report (don’t burn the report!). Listen to your favorite music while you complete your assignments (hopefully music you can focus with!). Drink homemade mocha while you craft your presentations (watch the calories!).

Be well,

Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Check back each week for his wellness tip of the week!

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