A Survival Guide to Studying at Home

If you are struggling to study from home and/or you have finally decided that it’s time for you to finish your bachelor’s/master’s/PhD thesis, let me give you some advice.

I am a PhD student who works mostly from home. With the recent recommendations of studying from home and keeping social contact to a minimum my routine has barely changed. I realised that for many people it may not be that easy to stay at home and work. During the last three years that I’ve been doing my PhD, I’ve learned a couple of things that have helped me to manage the situation without going nuts.

Have a proper breakfast

Now that you are at home you should enjoy the luxury of a long breakfast. Use this time to read the news or do whatever you like doing in the morning. Squeeze some oranges if you like fresh juice, let the butter melt on your toast while the coffee brews and eat at your own pace.


Take off your pyjamas

I know that the idea of working on your pyjamas sounds tempting, but if you do it for too long, your body and mind won’t be able to tell the difference between chilling and working time. The best way to tell yourself that it’s working time is by doing the things you’d do if you were to go outside to study/work. So, change your clothes and get ready to work.

Get your working space running

Get your working space ready, grab a good chair and a good spot. Working in front of the window sounds like a wonderful idea but if the sun shines, you won’t be able to see the screen and you will tire your eyes. Arrange your desk so you have the things you need at hand (pens, papers, a lamp, a bottle of water, and the books you need) and take away anything else that you don’t need. Put it where it belongs, so if you need any of those things it won’t take you long to find it.

Find a good posture, it can be standing or sitting. Make sure it’s comfortable for you, so you don’t destroy your back. I’ve recently bought a foot rest because I’m not good at keeping an ergonomic posture. You don’t need to buy one if you don’t want to, you can use your yoga-mat rolled as one or can make yourself one with a box or a pile of books.

Reading corner

Create a schedule

Working at home is difficult because all the temptations and distractions are around you. It’s easy to procrastinate by doing something else. So, create a schedule and be strict! If you start at 9 and end up at 5, stick with it. Set a time and do not work long hours.

Lunch break!

Eating is very important, but cooking can be time-consuming. For lunch, I try to spend as little time as possible cooking lunch. I usually eat things like laatikko, soups and curries that can be prepared in advance and only need some heat up, or things that are quick to make like salads and pasta. For dinner, I usually cook more elaborate meals because I have more time and I enjoy cooking.

Time off

Relaxing is as important as working. Make sure you take small breaks while you work and that once you are done, you disconnect from work E.V.E.R.Y. D.A.Y. What do you like doing the most? Watching TV or playing PlayStation? Then, do it! Listening to music? Singing? You like knitting? Do it! Sports? Well, if your gym is closed there are many online platforms that offer different trainings and classes. Some are broadcasted live (see one here) but there are many that you can adapt to your needs and schedules.

I have recently been using a free app called Nike training that has programmes that can be done indoors with no equipment and no previous experience. It has instructional videos useful to learn the movements you are supposed to do. If you, on the other hand, would like to disconnect but you don’t like sports, many meditational apps can show you how to give it a go.

If you, on the other hand, would like to disconnect but you don’t like sports, many meditational apps can show you how to give it a go.

If you would like to have workout apps/platform suggestions, or have your own marvellous ideas, write in the comment section below! Let’s help one another!

Spoil yourself

…but use your head. You feel like eating a snack, do it! But do not eat the whole bag of chips at once, set some limits for yourself. Buy healthy snacks; for instance, buy black chocolate instead of milk chocolate or nuts instead of candy. When you face the temptation, you have no other choice but to eat healthy.

If you are hungry but it’s not lunch or dinner time yet, you can have a piece of fruit or a sandwich that will fill you up and away from the candy closet. You can get creative and think of alternatives! For example, if you love popcorn, but it has saturated fats, why don’t you make it yourself? It’s super easy and more fun. Hummus or guacamole? The homemade versions always taste better and are easy to make.

Be social

Social interaction is essential for any human being. You may not be able to talk to your friends face to face, but you can still use the traditional phone call or video call. Call your family and relatives! They will appreciate it. No time? Too shy? Why not texting? Options are limitless.

Call your family and relatives! They will appreciate it.

Enjoy your weekend!

When you work from home, Mondays may not feel different from Saturdays. It’s up to you to make them different. Do not come near your desk and the computer. Do not work unless it’s indispensable! Let your brain take a break. I’m sure there’s a long list of things to do somewhere. Now’s the time. In my case, I have some Christmas presents I never had the time to make.

I also like painting with watercolours and charcoals, and I need to sew and fix a couple of things (like that shelf I bought a month ago and it’s still waiting for me to assemble it). On the weekends, I also do house chores because I don’t have time during the week (can you believe it?). I do the laundry, clean the apartment and cook some meals for the next week. What about you?

Sewing machine
How about sewing and fixing things, now that you have the time?


There are many platforms besides Netflix that offer video streaming. If you are a student at Tampere University, you can try Kanopy. It’s a streaming video platform that offers films and documentaries (more info here). It also has all sorts of courses; you can start learning Spanish or French if you wish.  YLE areena has many shows, movies and documentaries, in Finnish and other languages such as German, Swedish, English, among others with subtitles mostly in Finnish and Swedish.

If you have been thinking of watching Aki Kaurismäki’s films but you haven’t done it so far because you haven’t found them with subtitles in English, worry not! They do have them with English subtitles! If you need some recommendations, I’ve recently been watching Paratiisi. It’s a Finnish TV show filmed in Oulu and Spain that was done in English, Finnish and Spanish.

If you would like to read something and you have the local library card, Tampere’s Library offers online books and audiobooks as well. They are mostly in Finnish, but you can find some in English. If you would like to access the classic collection you can find it here and a list online resources here (also in Finnish). If you are looking for a wider English collection, although you may also find titles in other languages, you should check the Gutenberg Project. It is an online library of over 60,000 free eBooks. You can choose among free epub and Kindle eBooks, download them or read them online.

During the pandemic, there are other streaming services that are becoming available free of charge to make the quarantine and the isolation more bearable. For example, Audible is making hundreds of titles available for free (more info here). You can also go to the theatre without leaving home. Broadway is online streaming their shows for a week for free. If you speak Spanish, the Teatroteca offers comedies, kids shows, Spanish classics such as Don Juan Tenorio and not-so-Spanish plays such as Romeo and Juliet, among many others.

If you struggle, let someone know

Working from home is hard and isolation even more so. If you feel like you can’t cope, tell someone. Call your doctor or someone you feel close to. The University-wide guidance and counselling services are available remotely to all students regardless of their home faculty (student counsellor, study psychologist, career counsellor). Contact at opiskelijanohjaus.tau (@) tuni.fi, opintopsykologit.tau (@) tuni.fi, careercounselling.tau (@) tuni.fi.

If you feel like you can’t cope, tell someone.

I hope some of you find this useful. Let’s take care of ourselves and one another!

– Mónica

Photo of Mónica
About the writer: Mónica is a PhD student from Spain. She’s researching linguistic sexism in English, Finnish and Spanish. She went abroad the last year of her BA studies and has lived in places such as Newcastle, Vienna and Joensuu before moving to Tampere in 2016. During her free time, she loves doing nothing and being lazy.

Keep reading