April 3, 2020
As I woke up Monday the 23rd for my first day of online classes, I felt refreshed and ready to conquer the day. Up until that moment, I’ll admit, the idea of getting back to work after our extended two-week spring break seemed tiresome. However, I found myself that morning welcoming the opportunity of some productivity and structure that quarantine sorely lacked. I’ve taken three or four online courses in the past, although never so many in a single semester. I’ve been through everything with this classroom style, procrastinating, learning how to manage the online structure, communication with professors and all the other stressors that come with it. Multiply this by five and you're in for a major wakeup call if you don't stay on top of things from the start.
Don’t start panicking yet though! You still have time to get things under control. The key is adding some structure to your day at home and, if you keep on reading, I’ll tell you why.
The Importance of Structure
In times of uncertainty such as this, it's important to focus on the things in your life that you can control. While the external forces, especially in this period, are destabilizing and ambiguous, taking back control of the things you can is likely to bring you more peace of mind and a consistent sense of accomplishment if you maintain goals for yourself in quarantine. While this is an essential component of maintaining online courses, it can also be applied to your personal goals and growth. After all, being stuck at home a majority of time, you’ll probably never have this much idle time again to work on the most important person in your life, yourself.
Working 9 to 5
To structure my days, I use a nice tip I learned last semester. Treat university like it’s a 9 to 5 job. This gives you enough time for a relaxing wake up in the morning and the knowledge that after 5 pm you'll have plenty of time to socialize from a distance, binge watch whatever is left on Netflix, and your personal goals outside of academia, before you go to bed.
Step 1: Start With Your Online Classes
Your online classes are probably the only clear cut obligations you have in a day. (Unless you’re one of the brave students who are tackling a job and studying at the same time, in which case, I applaud you ) These are the first things you can add to your 9 to 5 schedule and function as building blocks to filling up the rest of your time. Here are some tips for managing them online!
Whether your professor has made attendance mandatory or not, attend them. If your professor gives you the option to leave your video on, do it! This forces you to stay focused during the lesson.
It’s time to take notes… Listen, I know they're going to post the recording online, but if you don't pay attention and take notes the first time, you'll just have to do it later. I’ll be the first person to admit that I've already fallen in this trap during the first week. But I realized if I need to re-watch the lessons later, it only takes away from the time I could be using to revise my notes for exams. Use class recordings as a tool for revision and not as a first time learning experience.
Something else to consider is that many professors have cut
classes back to once a week. Use the times you would normally have lectures to:
a) review the presentations your professors have posted in place of synchronize
classes, and b) to revise other materials relevant to that subject. This will
keep the productivity going and help you continue to build upon a daily schedule.
Step 2: Deadline’s approaching. Faster than you think!
After your classes are drawn out in your weekly schedule, you can now add any deadlines that are coming up. It’s not only important to write the deadline itself, but to add in the amount of time you’ll need to work on it throughout the week.
Now when you see an upcoming due date on MyCourses, that premature panic will be immediately subdued by remembrance of the fact you've already made time for it.
Step 3: Don’t forget you actually have to study!
With midterm number two under our belts, it may seem like finals are a long way off. Bubble bursting alert: They’re not. Final exams are in 3 weeks. (I know, I also had a mini panic attack upon this realization). It’s essential that you review all the new material as it comes in and NOT the week before the test. If you didn’t take my advice in the first step, there’s a good chance the material will all be new to you. I’m begging you, from my soul, start studying now.
When it comes to studying, everyone is different. Everyone has their own routines, paces for studying, and processes that work best for them. So this portion will vary from person to person, depending on your own personal preferences. I’m simply here to offer you some guidance to add studying in as part of your 9 to 5 schedule.
For me, it's important, when possible, to stay ahead of subject matter before it's discussed in class. I structure my schedule so that I have all the appropriate reading done a day before the class and I give myself an hour or two of revision before class time to refresh my memory and ensure that I understand the material.
Some students may be the opposite. You may like to hear the material from the professor first, understand their point of view, and then gain the deeper understanding through reading. This is perfectly fine, as long as the course structure allows. Simply make your schedule according to your needs.
Here’s an example of my schedule. I only have four classes
this semester, so I’ve added some other things on Friday which I’d like to work
Step 4: Stick to it
Congratulations! You, sir or madam, made it! I’m proud of you.
However, now that your 9 to 5 schedule is complete, you need to actually follow it. (I know, shocking ). Keep trying and I promise you’ll reap the rewards. Imagine, finals week has arrived. Who’s freaking out? Not you. Because you have a plan and you’re on top of things.
Good luck everyone and happy quarantine!
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