As the coronavirus pandemic continues, students are still required to do distance learning. And while this works great for some of us, for a large majority of the students, this negatively affects our productivity as well as our grades. A way to prevent this from happening is by learning to use new habits to help us throughout the year. Here are 5 tips to integrate into your routine:

Have a designated area for work only

We associate our physical classrooms with work/class, so do your best to create an ONLY work/class environment wherever you desire. Try to avoid working in places that will tempt distractions. Instead, reach for a place that to you signals “it’s time to work,” and consider it your at-home classroom

Attempting to mimic the well-structured school feeling will be beneficial to you because according to AISB Learning Support Teacher Sean Whitney, “Just like reading in your bed is apt to bring on sleepiness, and spending time in a kitchen will make your mouth water for salty-sweets, creating an environment where you can peel off the layers of academic challenge creates ideal conditions for calm, alert learning sessions.”

Your chosen environment doesn’t even have to be from the comfort of your home; in fact, AISB Journalism Teacher Jennifer Stevens says that, “When I worked from home as a writer, I would often take my laptop and notes to a coffee shop. I find that when I’m able to work in a public space with headphones on, I get work done faster because the deadline seems more urgent. Wherever you decide to work, make sure it’s a space where you only do work.”

Organize an effective routine

Although it’s tempting to attend class in pajamas or sleep all day and only work through the night, students show to be more productive if we treat classes like we would a regular school day. This also means to include all the necessary breaks. 

Try to start off the day with your regular personal routine. Imitating your old “school day” routine tricks your mind into working like you would on an old school day and helps you be more focused and energetic throughout the day. We often struggle to stay focused for long periods of time, so make sure not to forget to give yourself the beneficial breaks as you would have in school. 

Stevens, who has been freelance writing for 15 years, says, “I found for me, it’s really important to establish a routine and follow it every day. I wake up at the same time Monday through Friday, then sit at my desk and make my to-do list for the day. The to-do list is essential, and I would recommend that students spend 10 minutes every morning before advisory looking at their calendars and writing down what they need to do for the day. Plus, checking off that list feels so satisfying at the end of the day!”

Stevens’ strategies are ones used worldwide; in fact, a paper written by the University of Berkeley and Cornell University states that people who have well-developed strategies (in this case “to-do lists”) are more effective in task-completion. 

Avoid/eliminate distractions

Without a supervisor making sure we are on task at all times, small distractions become more relevant and small interruptions become more impactful. According to an article from the Association for Psychological Science: “Plenty of research has shown that distractions cause people to take longer to complete a task, but now a team of psychological scientists from George Mason University has found that interruptions don’t just take up time, they also degrade the overall quality of people’s work.” 

A very common and effective technique to help focus is the Pomodoro technique, where you choose one task to work on, and focus only on that task for 25 minutes. While you’re working, write down any distractions that might occur during that 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break, then repeat the cycle again three more times.

Using this type of technique could completely change your work quality and efficiency, especially when you note distractions. I personally used these techniques halfway through writing this article and noticed baffling results. It took the same amount of time, but the quality of writing was much better. If you want to find more techniques and get more results, check out this blog: Study Hacks to Avoid Distractions.

Reach out

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re falling behind, don’t understand the work, or simply just want to maintain communication. All of the staff members from counselors to teachers etc, always have their Zoom chats and emails open. The longer you wait, the further behind you’ll fall, and therefore are more likely to perform poorly. 

If you want to try to tackle things on your own, you can look into additional sources such as Chegg Study, Khan Academy, or Crash Course

Another angle is to reach out to your classmates. As stated in an article written by the Gateway to Mental Health Services, “Online learning can be socially isolating in general. Instead of being in a classroom, surrounded by friends and classmates, we’re at home, either alone or only surrounded by our families… Don’t underestimate the power of a video chat when people are feeling lonely and isolated during this crisis.”

Try not to procrastinate

While it’s normal to give yourself breaks, it’s wise to schedule a time for your distractions, especially during the busier times in your life. “The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisurely activities happen at times when they are not supposed to be happening It’s a mess, and with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground.” Because your time in this place is unearned, “the air is often filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread.” While some of us work well under the pressure of a deadline, frequently the panic caused by this situation has other negative consequences.

Studies from the Frontiers in Psychology show the negative impact of procrastination on learning outcomes. Online classes invite extreme procrastination, and trust me (as I ironically write this article a day after the deadline), having to do everything at the last minute is not something to enjoy.

According to James Clear’s “Atomic Habits,” the first step is to make your “new habits” as easy as possible.. Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. Clears says, “This is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.”

While implementing these tips can improve your overall academic success, it’s important to remember that we’re living through a pandemic, and it’s okay to have ups and downs. It’s normal to have days when you’re unproductive and unmotivated, then other days when you’re over-productive and spending all your time on classwork. Remember that we’re all learning to cope and adapt to these strange times together.