In the course of a few short weeks, the lives of millions of Americans changed drastically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of us found ourselves juggling a lot more responsibilities under our own roof — either because we’re telecommuting for the first time or we’re trying to balance work and kids now that school and home have become the same place or because finances are weighing extra heavy on our minds as wages and the economy take a hit.
But there is life on the other side of quarantine, and we all want to be ready to embrace it once the clouds lift. We know so many Vista College students who are dedicated to staying on track with their diploma and degree programs, even during these troubled times, so we’ve got seven ways for you to boost your productivity and help you focus on your online career education during quarantine:
The brain is a machine that responds to repetition and certain triggers. The trick with Pavlov’s dog? It works on us, too. Try to find a small space that you set aside just for studying, even if it’s just one particular chair in one spot at your kitchen table. Develop a short routine before you sit down to study: get a glass of water, line up your notes and your laptop, do a quick breathing exercise. It doesn’t have to be long or involved — just a way to signal your brain, “Okay, it’s time to focus on studying now.”
Having kids at home who might usually be at daycare or school or with a family member can add extra pressure when it comes to getting everything done. They’re confused and stressed, and you want to be there for them but still hold up your responsibilities. It can help to set aside a chunk of time solely dedicated to them — no phones, no computers, just complete focus on playing or doing an activity or just sitting and talking with them. They’re more likely to feel better about entertaining themselves while you’re studying if you’ve spent time together first.
Trying to keep track of everything with the constant buzz of what’s happening in the world filling the back of your head can be overwhelming. There’s no way to hold it all in your head and remember what you need to do. Sitting down and making a comprehensive list can make your to-dos more concrete, and once you have everything down, you can try “batching” — selecting several small activities that are similar, like paying the bills and sorting the mail, and packaging them together so you can knock them out in one quick block of time.
The Internet itself can eat up so much time, whether it’s on our laptop, our phone, our tablet. Social media, breaking news, quick phone games — they all pull at our attention when we know we ought to be tackling our to-dos. Productivity apps like Freedom and Forest can be installed on a wide range of devices and adapted to block our most distracting Internet vices so that we don’t wander into the wilds of Buzzfeed and lose an hour or two out of our day.
There are a lot of productivity methods out there, but one of the most popular is something called Pomodoro. Created by Francesco Cirillo, it involves breaking things up into 25-minute segments called Pomodoros. You set a timer and focus on your goal for 25-minutes straight, and then you take a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break. Millions of people have found Pomodoro helps them manage distractions and maintain a better work-life balance.
It’s become a bit of an Internet joke — #selfcare — but there’s still meaning behind the meme. We can set ourselves up with dozens of different techniques and methods to boost our productivity, but none of it will work well if we’re burned out and suffering from a stress overload. It is worth it to set aside time in your daily and weekly schedule to care for yourself: take a long hot shower, do some yoga or take a walk in the sunshine, or even engage in some meditation to clear your mind from all the clutter. Don’t listen to that inner voice that tries to tell you it’s wasted time. Remember you can’t help anyone else if you’re running yourself into the ground.
Nothing is going to come out perfect. Even the most meticulously coordinated schedule isn’t going to as planned every single time, and there will be days when things fall apart. Recognize this upfront, and try to be gentle with yourself when it happens. It doesn’t do you or anyone else in your life any good to get upset. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that we’re all doing the best we can and that tomorrow is a new day.
Lastly, but most importantly: If you are struggling right now to keep up with your online diploma or degree program, remember that Vista College is here for you. You can call us, and we’d be happy to talk to you about how classes are working, how we can support you during these uncertain times, and what financial aid might be available. We may all be at home right now, but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We’re in this together.