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Let’s face it-spending your semester or year at home is no easy task. With classes transferring online because of COVID, some have opted to stay home. Many people, myself included, see home as a place to unwind and relax, but with school starting back up we need to get in the mindset for work, which can be a huge challenge when you are removed from a school environment. I’ve compiled a few tips and tricks that have helped me stay on top of my work at home, while also minimizing the stress that comes with a change of scenery.

Look the Part

As easy as it might be to study in your pajamas and a messy bun, it doesn’t really put you in a great headspace for work.To start my days, I like to take a shower, and put on decent clothes (like leggings and a clean sweatshirt). I don’t wear makeup at home, however, if that makes you feel ready to face the day, then absolutely go for it! There’s something about looking in the mirror and having a put-together appearance that just mentally prepares me for whatever lies ahead.

Shut Out Distractions

Nothing gets me off track like seeing a notification on Instagram and then accidentally checking my feed for the next hour. If social media is something you know will get you off track and take your focus away for an extended period of time, use something that temporarily blocks your favorite apps, such as Flipd and Offtime. Along with blocking certain things, I like to set my phone in a different room while I work, so I won’t have easy access to it. If you end up getting distracted on your computer, The Cold Turkey browser extension will block whatever site you want, for any time period that you need.

Set the Mood

Work with space around you to make it conducive to focus, but in whatever unique way is best for you. Do you prefer silence and natural light, or soft instrumental music in the background with scented candles lit? Science has shown that any music you enjoy is good to study with, so if pop or rap is what gets you in a good headspace, then stick to it. If home isn’t your ideal study space (we love loud family members), then head to your local library or cafe to get work done if you are able to right now. I prefer to study outside whenever I can-it offers a refreshing break from sitting inside at the computer and allows me to get some fresh air to clear my head.

Eat Good Food

Energy drinks and fast food are tasty and will fuel you for a little bit, but there are far better foods that can actually help your brain function. Protein, antioxidants, and Omega-3s are good to incorporate into your diet, with snacks like almonds, dark chocolate, fruit, and chicken. Matcha lattes are my favorite because green tea has antioxidants and caffeine, plus the almond milk I mix in has protein.

Give Yourself Structured Breaks

Have you ever taken a “quick” break that transformed into watching TV, running errands, and then taking a 2-hour nap? By giving your breaks structure, and making it strictly 5-30 minutes long (depending on how much work you did), you can use your time more efficiently, and then get back to work. Between smaller tasks, I like to take a 1-2 minute break just to stretch and stand up from my computer. There is no set formula for how these breaks should be done, but by setting a distinct time limit, you’ll be less tempted to over-extend it.

Consider Using a Bullet Journal

I started using a bullet journal which is a blank notebook that you can turn into a planner, to organize my schedule last spring and it has definitely helped me get my life together. I have a spread for each week for my daily goals and each month for my larger overarching plans. Additionally, they’re fun to personalize, and you can find tons of inspiration over on Pinterest to make organizing your life more fun. If you prefer a paperless approach, you can always use Elisi, a digital bullet journaling app.

Listen to Your Mind and Body

Last but certainly not least, listen to your mind and body. Never neglect your mental health to try to be more productive, and don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and family for guidance. Spending time at home can sometimes be lonely, so it’s important to stay connected to your support system. As far as listening to your body, exercise helps the brain a lot. I always take my dog for a walk once a day and try to do 30 minutes of power yoga whenever I can each day. Moving my body helps me clear up the brain fog that I sometimes get from staring at the computer for too long.

These tricks have worked for me ever since my high school first went online in March. Staying focused at home isn’t easy, but taking constructive steps in your schedule and organization is extremely helpful. It’s also important not to have a one-track mind towards school, because it causes imbalance, and ultimately worsens your focus. To anyone who is new to online learning, I hope these tips helped you and you can still have a year just as productive as you planned.

Claudia Fox

U Maine '24

Claudia Fox is a freshman Nursing major at the University of Maine. She is currently off campus, but is hoping to come meet everyone in the spring semester!
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