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9 Tips for Maintaining Productivity (and Sanity) Amidst the Chaos

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

We’re living in very uncertain times and that can make it hard for us to maintain productivity in our new online environment when we’re too busy worrying about the fate of the entire world. It’s especially hard when our regular routine is interrupted, and we’ve had to pick up our lives from South Bend and unexpectedly move back to our hometowns, where we’ll be stuck inside with our families until the unforeseeable future.

Something I was really worried about was how I was going to be able to stay on top of my work and succeed in my classes in a setting that I wasn’t used to. Although we are only a little bit through these online classes, there are some things that I have found to be useful in staying productive and not completely losing my mind while stuck inside and social distancing:

Keep your regular routines

Maintaining routines and normality through these unusual times is something I cannot stress enough. Wake up at the same time that you would if you were at school. Eat meals at same time as well. Even if your lectures are pre-recorded rather than through Zoom, watch the lectures at the same time that class should have been (if your time zone allows for that). This allows for a little sliver of familiarity in such an unfamiliar time.

Get dressed every morning

It’s so much easier to just stay in pajamas all day and stay comfortable, especially when considering the fact that it’s now encouraged to not leave your house. But I personally have found that wearing pajamas while working makes me much less productive because all I want to do is crawl back into bed and make a cocoon out of my blankets. So by getting dressed every morning, I am still maintaining a routine while telling my brain that it’s time to switch out of relaxation mode and into studious mode.

Have a separate and distinct work space

Doing work in bed may be the comfiest, but it also makes it so easy to neglect what it is that needs to be done and take a nap or scroll through memes on your phone instead. So what I did was clear off my desk from high school (which I had mostly used for storage and stacking things I didn’t want to put away yet) and made it my work space; when I’m at my desk, I’m in “productivity mode” and I don’t let myself do anything non-school related. That way, I have a distinct place that is only used for schoolwork and studying and is free of other distractions.

Utilize to-do lists

Crossing things off of a checklist has always motivated me (I’m not sure why—I think I just really love crossing items off of my to-do list so I want to do it even more), so I’ve found that writing down everything that I have to do—no matter how small—helps me stay organized and motivated and tells me exactly what it is that I have to do. This allows me to stay productive even while stuck at home. 

Go on walks

I’m so used to walking to class and getting that amount of fresh air every single day that when I was stuck at home and didn’t go outside at all for the first couple of days, I couldn’t figure out why I was so antsy and anxious all the time. Then my mom suggested that we go on a family walk to get out of the house for a little bit (which, from what I’ve heard, a lot of parents are doing with their families); and it was the literal breath of fresh air that I needed. I even sometimes go by myself around my neighborhood (as long as I’m not too close to my neighbors!) while listening to music or even just the sounds of nature and it added to the familiarity of going outside every day to walk to class or the dining hall.

Organize casual Zoom meetings with friends

So far, the weirdest thing to me has been the fact that I’m home; and I’ve been home for a couple weeks, but I haven’t been able to see my friends from home because we are being advised to stay in our houses. One of my friends from home suggested a Zoom meeting for us all and now we occasionally hang out virtually. My friends from school and I are also doing this every so often as a way to keep in touch and pretend that we’re still on campus and able to see each other even when stuck at home hundreds of miles away from each other. 

Minimize distractions during class or study time

My house is full of distractions, especially since my entire family is now either home from school for the unforeseeable future or working from home, meaning that all five of us are stuck in the house, all trying to do our own thing. I’ve found that the most useful way to minimize distractions is to let my family know when my classes are and keep my door closed when I don’t want to be disturbed. At some points I even contemplated putting a “class is in session” sticky note on my door so my brother or mom wouldn’t burst in to show me a funny video or ask me if I wanted to take a walk with them.

Find a new hobby

I’ll admit, this one is completely optional. I remember sitting on the plane going home and planning out all of the things I was going to get accomplished in my free time. But once I actually got home, all I did was watch Veep and scroll through TikTok for hours. With many of our extracurriculars out the door or up in the air, it might be nice to pick up a new hobby or turn to the old ones from high school to fill in all the extra time. I’ve been getting back into knitting, which is a great way for me to still be creative and make something even when I’m not able to attend meetings or do most of the things I used to do on campus.

Find some way to unwind from the day

Now that my classroom is at my desk approximately three feet away from my bed, it’s getting harder to distinguish the school day from the end of the day; so I suggest finding something to do that you can reward yourself with at the end of the day. This can be watching Netflix or journaling or reading a book—anything that will signal the end of the day and help you unwind.

With the move to online classes, everything is so uncertain and it’s easy to fall out of a routine and get swept up into the anxiety of it all. And while these tips won’t necessarily stop you from getting swept up into the chaos, I hope they will make things a little more manageable and help maintain a little bit of productivity—even while we’re not on campus.

Jane Hilger

Notre Dame '22

Jane is a junior English and Political Science double major. She is originally from Ellicott City, Maryland, and she used to live in Lyons Hall, but now she is a resident of Pangborn Hall. She is an avid reader, writer, and watcher of bad reality tv.