It seems like just yesterday, the world stopped in response to the pandemic. For the first few months of social distancing, I lost track of the days. Before I had time to perceive it, weeks had gone by. All plans were thrown out the window, and the year that marked the third decade of my life has been nothing like I originally expected. I could have spent all of my time dwelling on the lost moments and experiences, but instead I chose to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, after giving myself time to reflect and acknowledge that my home would most likely be the center of my whole life for the rest of the year, I worked to find my motivation and passion.
At the beginning of the pandemic, things weren’t so bad, as I had school to occupy myself with. Society as a whole went on an exploration through the world of Zoom. There was frustration and even hatred towards technology, and for many learning technology has been like learning a new language. However, once we all settled into the basic framework of living in an online world, technology became the bridge connecting everyone via a virtual landscape. Lately, Zoom has been a key feature in my life. From classes to weekly meals with my friends, it seems that we are all in long-distance relationships these days. We have found a way to connect without the need for physical presence.
It’s the middle of the semester (already!) and most college students are beginning to feel the “burnout” that midterm season usually brings about. Taking classes online and being on your computer all day is causing a condition that many people have coined “Zoom fatigue”. The constant meetings and classes conducted through Zoom calls can be exhausting and leave students feeling unmotivated and unfocused. Here are a few tips on how to stay sane as we navigate this new world of online interactions.
1. Remember to take breaks
It is easy to forget to take breaks when there is so much to get done, and when there is no separation between work and home space. However, even a five-minute stretch and water break can make a big difference. Reward yourself after finishing an assignment or exam by taking the night off and watching a movie. I also suggest rotating between study spots, like your bedroom, kitchen table, or living room. A change of scenery will be refreshing and keep you motivated.
2. Go outside
Being cooped up indoors is not typical of a regular school day. Usually, we are out walking to class, getting coffee, or doing homework somewhere on campus. It’s important to go outside at least a couple of times a week and get some Vitamin D! I’ve been making an effort to study at TCC, hammock at McCarthy Quad, or go on a walk almost every day. Finding excuses to leave my apartment changes up my daily routine.
3. Make an effort to talk to friends and family
Having school and work online can be isolating and lonely. Even though you may not be able to see your friends and family in person, you can still make an effort to keep in touch with loved ones through text, Facetime, and social media. Just because we’re limited to online interactions, doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all human connection. Check in with your friends as frequently as you can. An unexpected message can make someone’s day!
Over the last few months, the world has been in a state of unpredictability – that’s no secret. International travel is shut down, stores and restaurants are only accessible online. Museums, public spaces, and universities are closed around the world. But, we’re all still here, aren’t we? Being pushed indoors or to distanced, outdoor spaces has been a challenge for myself and many others. Although we can still have picnics on the lawn and we can still get groceries, we can’t do a whole lot more. Even work and class, which are usually a nice excuse to get out and get your day moving in a productive way, are largely remote. This has caused an ongoing struggle for me of deciding what to do with my day and how to be creative. It is hard to motivate myself to be productive in both school/work and also the personal projects that I have had on my bucket list. So what can we do about it?
Be strict about where you spend your time. As humans, we are naturally inclined to interact with our environment and to respond to it through our behavior and attitudes. Therefore, by changing our environment and our attitude toward it, we can force ourselves to behave in ways that are conducive to productivity! Research shows that the places we spend our time are a critical part of our memories and the experiences we have at a biological level. So when we spend most of our time relaxing in bed or on our favorite chair, we associate these places with relaxation – just like how we may associate the classroom with focused attention or associate the kitchen with eating and cooking. So to be more productive, I always do work sitting at a table or at a place where I won’t be tempted to do other things. Avoid doing work or browsing the internet in bed at all costs and try to save getting in bed for when you actually want to sleep.
Try a new technique! Keeping a schedule is important so that we can get to bed at a reasonable time and avoid those moments of “Oh jeez, I messed up” when you see the sun rising before going to bed. For both keeping a schedule and for productivity, I recommend using the Miracle Morning technique. This technique states that if we get up early, feed our body and mind, and achieve some small things, then the rest of the day seems to just fall into place. Each morning is an opportunity to start the day with a new attitude and when I follow a routine like “Miracle Morning”, it’s easy to find myself doing work without even having to think about it because I like to keep up the “streak” of getting things done. Don’t want to start that project you’ve been putting off? Haven’t been able to start reading that book you bought? Start by giving yourself easy tasks at home like doing laundry, cleaning your room, or writing in a journal to kickstart your motivation. Making a daily To-Do list always helps me, in addition to incentivizing myself with something to get me out of bed (a cup of coffee or tea). Possibly the best advantage of this technique is being awake and productive while the world is calm. Early in the morning the streets are quiet, the weather is cool, and our mind is fresh.