In these unprecedented times, more students than ever are finding themselves social distancing and learning from home due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Beyond COVID-19, as our world becomes increasingly digitized, working from home or other remote locations could become a much more frequent occurrence.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.
As a student, you may be used to busy campus life, roommates, sports, and other extracurricular and social activities. It might be disappointing to not attend events and see your friends, but social distancing is an important step that will help “flatten the curve” by slowing or stopping the spread of coronavirus.
It can feel isolating, and working while social distancing can sometimes be frustrating, but there are ways to make the situation work for you. If you are struggling with writing essays while working and learning remotely, I hope these tips help during this difficult time.
1. If You’re Feeling Isolated, Use Technology to Connect With Friends and Classmates Who are Also Writing the Essay
Brainstorm together and share notes. Also share tips with one another about how you are staying productive during this time. You never know—your social distancing tip could make all the difference for one of your classmates! You can do this over email, text, video chat, social media, or other platforms that your class uses.
Check in with your friends and classmates and be supportive of one another. Hearing a friendly voice or seeing a familiar face can go a long way to helping you feel more connected and grounded. For information on how to manage stress and anxiety about COVID-19, visit this page on the CDC website.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Reach Out to Your Professor, Too
If you have questions or concerns about your essay, shoot your professor an email or give them a call, or reach out to them via whichever method they have put in place during this time. It is important to stay connected with your professor, especially when you need clarification about a specific topic or task. And the sooner you bring up your concerns, the better. In order to get the most out of these interactions, take a look at tip #3, “Talking to Your Professor,” in this blog.
3. Find a Dedicated Spot to Work That Minimizes Distractions
This might be challenging, but do your best to find a place where you can work with relative quiet, minimal distractions and any supplies that you need (e.g., computer, notebook, pens, pencils, books, etc.). If possible, leave these supplies in place when you are finished working so that the space is still set up and ready when you next return to it. Try to work in this space consistently, which will send a signal to your brain that it is time to get some work done. No matter how tempting it is, do not work in bed! You’re likely to get cozy, fall asleep, or get distracted by a favorite show or social media.
4. If You are Living With Others, Let Them Know Where and When You Will be Working
Set boundaries to help minimize distractions. Let others know that while you are working, you might need extra quiet. If they are working from home as well, they will likely ask the same thing of you! Sit down and hammer out a plan that works for everyone. You may need to compromise on space and time, and that’s okay.
5. Set Limits on Television and Social Media
If possible, set up your workspace away from the television, and put your phone away. Set timers to take breaks and allow yourself to watch a favorite show or scroll through social media. You don’t have to give them up completely—it’s important to relax during this time, take in some entertainment, and connect with others. But minimize it as much as possible while you are writing your essay in order to increase focus and decrease procrastination. Use it as a reward for when you have accomplished a certain task, or use it in conjunction with a chore, like doing laundry or working out.
Bonus: Play music if it helps you focus! Experiment with different kinds: classical, rock, pop, instrumental, cover songs, etc. If you like more chatter while you work, consider putting on a podcast. You can also choose tracks that feature nature sounds or the ambience of a cafe.
Also, make sure you are getting your COVID-19 news from reputable sources, and limit the amount of news you read to 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. Allow your brain to take a break from the news and reboot with something else, like a good novel.
6. Stick to a Routine, and Learn Something New
Wake up at the same time every day, shower, get dressed (even if you change from one set of pajamas to another!), eat proper meals, do a little exercise if you feel like it, and go to bed at the same time. Giving your day structure can help you feel centered and more productive.
Now is also a good time to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, try a new hobby like knitting or painting, go for a walk (as long as you maintain social distancing!), call a loved one, or learn a new language. If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do for a long time and are now able to do it, try it out now! You can even try it with your friends virtually if they have similar interests or hobbies.
It’s important to unwind when you are not working so that when it comes time for you to write, you have the energy and headspace to do so.
Bonus: I recommend showering and eating a meal before sitting down to write your essay. You will feel refreshed and energized!
7. Break Your Essay Writing Tasks Down Into the Absolute Smallest Steps Possible
If you’re struggling with writer’s block or procrastination, identify the absolute smallest step you can take. This might be identifying one primary source you want to use, writing one citation, making a bulleted list of topics you want to cover, etc. Think small, and don’t forget to check it off your list once you are done. Celebrate! This may mean walking away from your workstation for a few minutes after you have accomplished a task. When you’re ready to resume work, return and work on the next absolute smallest step. Think of it like building a house made of bricks—lay one brick at a time. Soon, you’ll have a foundation, and then an entire house (essay)!
8. Embrace the Comforts of Writing, Working, and Learning Remotely
This might include drinking your favorite tea or coffee, wearing your favorite slippers, enjoying the company of a pet, or having the freedom to create your own schedule. Look for the silver lining in working remotely and incorporate as many of these comforts as you can, every day.
This is a difficult time, but you are strong! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and know that we are all in this together. Take each day one step at a time, do your best, and remember—take time for YOU!