In light of MSU’s recent move back to online learning, many students are transitioning back to coping techniques they developed during last year’s virtual school year. It can be difficult to work up academic motivation in the online setting, and doing all your schoolwork from a small dorm or apartment can be draining. Here are some tips that students submitted on how to stay motivated and sane during online learning.
1. Try to keep some level of work-life separation, even in your shoe-box living space
One of the tried-and-true recommendations from both mental health professionals and work-from-homers is to keep your work area separate from where you sleep and relax. This can be harder for college students who don’t have a designated home office, but the advice still stands – try not to do Zoom classes from your bed, make a habit of working solely at your desk or table so your brain can process that there’s a clear difference between work and relaxation. If you don’t have a good work environment at home, try to find a place on or off campus to study consistently so that you can develop a routine for yourself.
2. Create a routine for eating, studying and sleeping
This will start to feel repetitive, but routine is everything. On weekdays, try waking up and going to sleep at a consistent time so you can maintain a somewhat reasonable schedule. Having a consistent lunch or dinner time can help break up the monotony of spending a whole day studying or in classes, and knowing your schedule makes it easier to plan things out of the routine, like hanging out with friends or venturing outside.
3. Take a break, even if you think you don’t need one
When you’re spending a whole day on Zoom calls, it’s important to carve out time to spend off your screen. Take a few minutes every hour to get a snack, step outside, or get some movement in. It’s often said that by the time you start to feel like you need a break, it’s probably past the point where your brain and body should have had one. Even if you feel fine, it never hurts to take ten minutes so that you don’t have to get to the point of full burnout. Too often, we push ourselves until we can’t function anymore, instead of making time to ensure we make it through the day or week without that end of the world feeling.
4. Do small, happy things to improve your mood
This is the part where we talk about spending money. Yes, we’re all on a tight budget, but doesn’t that $6 coffee make you feel so much more productive and ready to face the day? If that’s what boosts your mood during Zoom school, then it’s probably worth it (all things in moderation, of course). Maybe it’s not something you have to spend any money on, but having a surefire way to feel good is always something you should prioritize. Spending time with friends or pets is always good, but there’s no shame in your feel-good thing being an iced coffee or a snazzy breakfast sandwich.
5. Stay occupied while you’re on Zoom
Never underestimate the power of a fidget toy. Humans aren’t meant to spend hours at a time sitting, staring at a computer screen, and it’s easy to feel restless or bored while you’re in class. If you don’t need to take notes, try occupying yourself with something that’s not doom-scrolling on your phone, whether that’s doodling on scrap paper or messing around with fidget toys. Not only will it keep you entertained, but scientists say it’s good for our brains to spend time engaging our fine motor skills.
6. Don’t underestimate the value of mornings
Sleeping in is fantastic. Sleeping in is delightful. Sometimes, though, a morning of productivity is exactly what you need to kick-start your mindset and your day. If getting up with the sun isn’t your thing, that’s okay –- it’s not a requirement of a productive morning to completely mess with your sleep schedule. Sometimes it’s just about shifting the focus of your morning from being a time of flopping around and avoiding the day to facing it head on and getting things done. Getting up and getting ready right away, instead of sitting around in whatever you slept in can be an easy way to get moving and a good segue into your next thing, whether that’s a walk, a class, or getting a bit of extra work done so your evening is freed up.
7. Make stuff up
Sometimes the best motivators are the things we create in our own brains, regardless of whether or not they make sense to the outside world. Maybe your driving force is having the best upper body outfit so you can be the most stylish rectangle in your Zoom class. Maybe having a good semester is an excuse for you to reward yourself with something fun, like concert tickets or a spring break trip. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to dangle the proverbial carrot in front of yourself to make everything feel worthwhile. Online school is hard, and it can be difficult to actualize your achievements in a way that makes you feel like all of the stress is worth it. There’s nothing wrong with inventing ways to validate yourself when you’re coming up short in other areas.
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