Staying Focused Through All the Panic

Staying on task when learning from home can be a challenge, but these set of tips can help you tune out distractions and be productive.

By Ani Tutunjyan, Executive Editor & Print Editor-in-Chief

Your books lay all over your desk and your laptop sits with a dark screen in front of you. You’re reloading your Instagram feed for the fifth time in the last 15 minutes. Sound familiar?

Schools have closed and classes have moved online, allowing us to learn in the comfort of our homes. It’s becoming more difficult to stay productive throughout the day without reaching for our phones or going off task.

Online instruction will continue for the next five weeks, so here are some helpful tips to make the most out of your day.

Make Your Own Routine

It’s important to set a designated time when you will begin your schoolwork. Your day doesn’t have to begin at 7:50 a.m., but establishing a specific timeframe in which you will complete your work will provide structure to your day.

Create a Morning Ritual

Before starting your “school day,” you need to mentally prepare yourself to work like you would any other day. This ritual is very personal to each individual. You can begin your day with a workout. Completing a workout early on in your day will make you feel like you’ve already conquered a task. You should also have breakfast and maybe even get out of your pajamas. Getting ready, even if no one else will see you, will make you feel good about yourself and create a nuance between your relaxing space and your working space. 

Have a Distinct Workplace

Another method of getting in the working zone is creating a distant workspace that has everything you need. This can be your desk, the dining room table and even your bed (as long as you rearrange the space to differentiate it from the pillows you sleep on). Make sure you have all the materials you need to work — laptop, pens and pencils, notebooks, water — to avoid getting up and getting distracted. If your current workplace is making it easy for you to get distracted, try temporarily moving to a new one.

Write a To-Do List

You don’t need a fancy $30 planner from Target, a simple notepad will do. Write what you need to accomplish for the week, and create even more specific lists for the day. Prioritize three things on the day’s to-do list that you know must be done that day. That way, if you don’t cross out everything on your to-do list, you’ll still feel accomplished. You may also want to write pieces of motivation for yourself if you think that will encourage you to complete your tasks. Make your lists as complex or simple as you need. Find what works for you.

Take Breaks

After hours of work, you usually reach an afternoon slump when you feel antsy and maybe even overworked. That’s why it’s essential to take breaks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Take short 10 minute breaks every hour or so. Try not to reach for your phone during this break and instead do something that allows your brain to relax like stretching, going for a walk or getting a snack. You can also try using the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method which breaks down your work session into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. After four pomodoros, you can take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes. This method is great for when you’re struggling to be productive, allowing you to conquer your work in shorter increments. 

Keep Your Phone Away

We are well aware of the ramifications of having our phones within reach when we are trying to work. Termed as the “phone proximity effect,” a study from the University of Texas finds that having a phone within reach reduces cognitive performance. The closer your phone is, the worse you do cognitively. So to maximize your performance, you need to silence your phone and keep it far away from you  — out of reach and out of sight.

Maintain a ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ Mentality

Work hard during the day so that you can find time to relax afterwards. Get in your comfortable clothes and watch your favorite show.