We've all seen articles and posts on social media seeking to rescue us from the jaws of social isolation-induced boredom by offering up suggestions on what books to read, shows to watch, and games to play while we're all stuck at home. But as a university student whose heavy course load recently transferred to an online format, I frequently find my schedule just as packed as it was when physically at school.
What am I doing wrong? I wondered. Amid this COVID-19 chaos, I had hoped at the very least I might be able to take some time for myself and my family - yet here I was, sitting alone in my room and engaged with homework whenever I wasn't sleeping. I knew other people were suffering far more severe consequences from the pandemic, but I couldn't help but feel exasperated at myself for falling into my old, workaholic habits.
When times are tough, it's comforting to fall into routines and activities that seem familiar to you. If you're like me and having trouble managing your time at home, here are a few suggestions:
Find the time of the day when you're most productive.
I'm somewhat unusual for a college student in that I become nonfunctional at night, and I constantly frustrate myself by postponing important assignments until the evening, when I'm least able to complete them effectively. However, I've found that I get much more done early in the morning - as such, I've devoted that time almost entirely to schoolwork. That doesn't necessarily preclude me from studying the rest of the day, but it does allow me to make sure I'm maximizing the time I have available to me. Observe when you tend to be most productive and make sure you concentrate on getting what you need to done then.
Forgive yourself for getting distracted.
After setting aside the morning for schoolwork, I've found it much easier to cut myself some slack when I get distracted or fail to accomplish as much later in the day. Being at home isn't always conducive to focus, and it's important to respectfully acknowledge that you may have gotten off track rather than automatically assuming it's a lost cause and sinking the rest of your day into something that you know you'll regret later. Forgiving yourself for allowing your thoughts to drift will help you reorient and recommit to whatever you happen to be working on.
Build in breaks.
I've mentioned this in many articles before, but taking intentional breaks (especially to engage in physical activity) is an excellent way to rejuvenate yourself and improve your productivity. Online classes do not have to be a test of endurance - you'll get more done if you spread the work out rather than attempt to complete it in one fell swoop. Plus, it makes it easier to avoid distractions when you know that a diversion of some kind is already on the way.
Make time to do things you love.
Not only should you take breaks, but if you truly want to read a new book, watch a new show, or embark on a project while you're stuck at home, you should set aside time every day to accomplish it. Many of us (myself included) tend to stretch out our work to fill all of our available schedules, and the best way to evade this is to treat these aspirations as if they were official commitments, just as important as any other.
It's alright not to be to be hyper-productive.
Everyone's situation is different, and even for the most fortunate, transitioning to online coursework can demand a lot more of your time than you anticipate - especially when the world around you is so chaotic. For that matter, feeling simultaneously busy and bored isn't unreasonable either. It can be difficult to stay engaged with what you're doing without a commute to class to break things up or face-to-face interaction to keep you grounded.
We're all in an incredibly unusual situation, and it's not a requirement that you "make the best" of your time at home by improving your study habits or getting in shape or creating the next great work of art. First and foremost, we have to take care of ourselves and each other - and if that means you need to opt out of your elaborate self-improvement scheme, that's perfectly okay.