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It seems like just last year we were staring down a tunnel of quarantine that just kept getting longer and longer… oh wait, it was last year. How is it January again already? Classes are starting, the old Zoom fatigue is waiting in the wings to sweep down and interrupt your endless lectures and meetings online. If you’re a senior, your brain probably isn’t even here anymore, it’s off getting a real adult job and getting out of the online school-scape.  

Unfortunately, there are four-ish months of school to get through before the sweet relief of summer, and that brain isn’t going to wrangle itself. Here are some tips for getting yourself focused so that you can get through Zoom University Pt. 2 with minimal stress. 

Create your space

Your study space is vital for your mindset. Try to create the same environment every time you have class so that your brain remembers that it’s time to focus. Whether that’s lighting a candle and cleaning your desk in the half-hour before you sit down for classes or making the same type of tea while you listen to lectures, it’s important to create a subtle familiarity every time you sit down to work. Get your Pinterest board faves in on the gig and create a space that you like to look at, bring in art and plants that are visually appealing so that you feel relaxed and happy with your space.

A little bit of organization never hurt anyone

I struggle with organization, so when it’s time to get down to business I like to pick one organizational strategy to stay on top of. This year, it’s a week-at-a-glance on my desk so that I can see where to fit in study time and meetings while I’m at my computer. Narrowing the focus down to one organizational aspect helps getting organized not feel like a chore or a completely daunting task. It’s just one little thing to stay on top of, so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed - try journaling, colored pens for note-taking, a new program on your computer for notes, or a different style of calendar.

Plan to take breaks

Part of working is knowing when to give your brain a break. Try to plan your day so that you can take short breaks between classes, tasks, or at least every couple of hours. Some smartwatches can be set to go off when a certain amount of inactive time has elapsed, or you can schedule your day using an app and link it to your phone or watch to keep you on schedule. Whatever method you choose, remember to give your brain a rest and to get the blood flowing with a little activity or stretching. 

Don’t be afraid to reward yourself for productivity

Now, I’m not saying that you should treat yourself extravagantly for working every day, but there are little rewards that help positively reinforce good habits. For example, when you’ve completed your classes for the day and you feel like you stayed focused, give yourself a small snack treat or a fancier homemade coffee than you usually do. For some people, rewarding yourself with a fun activity like art time or a video game works just as well. Don’t be afraid to reward yourself a little for a job well done.

When it’s time to stop, it’s time to stop

When you leave your productive space for the day, make sure you aren’t sneaking in emails or extra work after hours. Make your time for focus dedicated to focusing, and your time to relax just for relaxing. Working when you mean to be taking time off makes the workload feel endless and raises your stress levels. When you log off for the day, move out of your focus space and into no-work mode. Your brain will thank you later!

Remember that setting yourself up for success is just as important as the execution. Create a work environment for yourself that encourages focus and hard work, make it somewhere that you enjoy being. Working smarter, not harder, is the key to avoiding burnout and focus issues in Zoom University.

Hi! My name is C, I'm originally from Oregon and came to MSU to pursue my passions: fencing, gymnastics, theater, and writing. In addition to writing for HerCampus, I'm an avid fanfiction author/reader and also write plays and novels. When not on the fencing strip with the MSU Fencing team, I'm nose-deep in a good book or painting some wild art. Follow me on instagram @c.rosewidmann to see pictures of my furbabies.
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