Help! There's A Month of School Left and I'm Losing Motivation

2020 has been all about making the best out of a bad situation. College on Zoom compared to in-person is arguably a bad situation, but at the beginning of the semester I was ready to squeeze as much out of all my classes as I could. And I did for a while. Now, with only four weeks left in the semester, I can’t say my stamina for online learning is as high as it once was. Spending so much time on screens is a lot more frustrating than I thought it would be, and the trendy blue light glasses I bought during quarantine only delay the inevitable headaches from a full day of school and work. I’m so thankful to be getting an education this semester and I do have professors that are making great use of Zoom as a learning platform, but the lack of in-person comradery around weekly assignments is admittedly making me less excited to produce work I can be proud of. To put it simply, Zoom fatigue is hitting me hard.

Week after week I ask myself, “is this normal?” or “how hard are other students working compared to me?” Finals are around the corner and I am eager to get my questions answered before I attempt to throw myself back into my pile of school priorities, so I have asked New School students enrolled in online classes to update me on their motivation levels as we approach the home stretch of the semester. To respect the privacy of each student, all responses have been made anonymous.  

“The rings and dings elicit my fight-or-flight response.” 

Navigating online classes this semester has been a trial and error process, but I’d have to say my saving grace after switching from in-person to online interactions has been synching my Apple calendar across my laptop and my phone. It’s convenient to have my Zoom links readily available at all times and to be alerted 30 minutes prior to any event. However, with that being said, I’ve found myself struggling with a work-life balance. When everything is presented to you through notifications on your digital devices, it’s hard to separate work from the rest. I feel the impending pressures of due dates and deadlines more in this online environment. The rings and dings elicit a fight-or-flight response. Sometimes I’m stressed and overwhelmed but oddly enough I feel more motivated by it? I think it’s because if I procrastinate I’ll feel ten times more anxious, and I know I need to hold myself accountable because in the end, it’s rewarding to feel proud of your work. As for finals… oh boy. I’ll take a breather and take it on. 

“I feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.” 

My motivation is nowhere to be found! I feel like I’m just going through the motions of school, and am having a hard time finding meaning in my work. Since I’m home this semester, I feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I see my friends and boyfriend more than I ever have, which is such a blessing, but usually coming home to see them during a regular semester in New York helps me stay on track with school. It’s also hard to find motivation when I sit in one room all day on Zoom and can’t really change my routine since my life as a student revolves around tuning into my classes at the same time each day. 

“My work feels less valuable.” 

I just feel like we are doing all this work and… for what? It almost feels pointless because no one is trying as hard as they normally would. I notice myself taking frequent mental health breaks, but I also have to remind myself that’s okay because we’re on screens all the time. However, then I don’t feel I’m producing as much work as I used to. And even if I am, my work feels less valuable anyway so I never feel as accomplished as I would before.

“There aren’t enough hours in the day.” 

I've been struggling these last few weeks. I generally have a super strong work ethic; I get all my work done efficiently and well before the due date so I have plenty of time to socialize without school stress in the back of my mind. I can’t do that now because of the sheer amount of work my professors assign me every week. It’s as if they forget that we have other classes to do work for. Just because we’re all at home doesn’t mean we suddenly have so much time available to dedicate to each class; I simply do not have the stamina to spend every waking minute of my day doing homework and sitting in class. In essence, not only am I frustrated by the amount of work I have, but I’m annoyed at myself that my usual method of getting my work done early is not freeing up any of my time. I know that I can do better, and I know that I have done better, and it’s just frustrating that there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete all my work to the extent that I usually strive for. 

And lastly, the anomaly: 

“My thesis is actually more motivating in an online setting.” 

I am a fourth-year fashion student, and my thesis is film-based which actually makes the work easier and more motivating in an online setting. I have time to really develop my thesis into what I want with the most independence I’ll probably ever have. Long walks in my neighborhood in Manhattan give me tons of inspiration and play a huge role in my motivation levels.

I resonate with bits and pieces of every insight I received. The Apple/Google calendar obsession is REAL, and it allows me to hold myself accountable for my work, but the more burnout I feel from the sheer amount I’ve been receiving the less I care about the assignments I submit. I’ve reached a point of… apathy? Indifference? Whatever it is, I hope I can snap out of it for finals season. We’ve all gone through such a drastic change this semester, no matter how many classes we’re taking, and I ultimately want to make it count. We can make it count. 

Wishing you all the best of luck!