By Jonah Vroegop
[3 ½ minute read]
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.
Lastly, organization is a huge factor in keeping your day on track. Keeping my small apartment organized and clear of clutter helps me to keep my mind focused on the things that I want to do each day. By staying organized, we can strategically place objects in our environment that we’ve been meaning to use or that are important to the day’s tasks in our view. For example, I’ve been meaning to exercise more recently so I keep some weights and my yoga mat in a part of the room where I see them often. This reinforces the goal that I’ve made to work out every day and keeps me doing productive activities rather than just browsing throughTikTok for hours (even though that still happens sometimes too). Making your bed is one of the easiest ways to kickstart organizational tendencies and I’d recommend having some live house plants to reinforce the schedule of watering, cleaning, and organizing on a regular basis.
One of the biggest keys to success is to be kind to yourself and make sure you are happy. Take an occasional day completely off work, sit on the grass with some cheese and crackers, go camping, call your loved ones, or just sit and stare at the clouds, if that’s what you want to do. Sometimes these activities can be just as valuable as doing work.
Jonah is studying Neuroscience and minoring in Spanish and UX Design. He grew up in Burlington, Vermont and has visited almost every state in the US. He speaks English and Spanish fluently as well as moderate Dutch and a few other languages. Jonah recently studied abroad in the Netherlands and has visited most of Europe and North America. Jonah hosted exchange students in high school and has extensive experience with international students both in academic and personal life. As someone who is not from Southern California, he also loves exploring LA and experiencing the many cultures of the city. On campus, Jonah does genetics research and works at the School of Architecture in addition to participating in many student organizations. In his free time, Jonah enjoys listening to music, watching movies, trying new restaurants, skateboarding, or hanging out with friends. Jonah looks forward to helping with conversation skills, essays and schoolwork, slang/idioms, and interview preparation while getting to know you in the process!