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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Edited by Olivia Spahn-Vieira

It’s that time of year again, the beginning of school, except the remix edition. This year the majority of students will be managing school with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on us. This means students will now be introduced to zoom calls, class in pajamas and irregular schedules. To many of us, this can seem daunting, and overwhelming. Our motivation can easily go down the drain with the irresistible temptation of cuddling up with cozy pajamas, a Netflix marathon, and a huge bag of potato chips. We all have felt the slump quarantine can generate in the new age of “zoom university” but, not to fear! I have five useful tips to help you get your motivation back and succeed this school year.


I know it sounds easier said than done, but it is vital to maintain a consistent routine. With the new approach to virtual learning, most students can develop their schedule as they want. Having this option is a benefit but can also be a curse. Without the actual need to walk across campus to attend class, it can become easier to lose motivation in completing assignments and homework, thereby increasing the risk of falling behind in school. This is how a routine comes into play. A routine gives us a sense of normalcy in these challenging times.  The severity of the routine depends on you. It can be as simple as waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day, as well as arranging  mealtimes around the same time each day. Then you can structure your day to best suit you, such as organizing to watch all your lectures for class A on Monday and Tuesday mornings then lectures for class B Wednesday and Thursday nights. I would highly recommend using the app  Google Calendar to help set up a routine, as this also allows you the option of being reminded 15 minutes before an event occurs to support you of staying on track.


It is important to keep active during this time when most people are stuck at home with limited access to gyms and decreased daily physical activities. Not only does working out help your body,  it also helps your brain and your mental health. An article by the Cleveland Clinic explained physical activity helps by “improving blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking.” [1]  Not to mention, physical activity can make you feel like you accomplished an important task off your to do list, setting the motion for the rest of the day. Getting active does not just have to mean strenuous exercise resulting in panting, sweating and feeling like you might cough up a lung either. Yoga is  a great way to keep active and improve any muscle strains and tension your body may be feeling from the effects of hunching over a laptop all day.  Believe it or not there are a number of simple ways to stay active that are easy, free, and available to everyone. For example, some fitness trainers and organizations have opted to create free workout plans and videos accessible to the public through platforms like YouTube such as Chloe Ting,  Casey Ho, and Livestrong to name a few. I have used the Chloe Ting workout videos and I highly recommend them as a good way to get your heart rate up.

http://6 Pillars of Brain Health – Physical Exercise. (2020, May 11). Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://healthybrains.org/pillar-physical/


Have you ever sat at your desk and read mindlessly through a textbook without retaining information? Or sat through a zoom lecture daydreaming about that Netflix show you were watching last night? Yep, we’ve all been there. Your motivation starts to hit an all-time low and suddenly the simplest tasks seem like mission impossible. This is just a way of your body telling you to get away from the desk, the laptop, iPad or any other screens and  take a trip outside to get some fresh air. In Toronto, the weather is beautiful this time of year and should be taken advantage of. It’s also a great way to expose your body to Vitamin D from the sun. It doesn’t have to be for long either, use one of your study breaks to go outside for ten to fifteen minutes and you will see a difference and feel a difference.


“Once I finish this, and the assignment, I can watch the new episode. Wait, I should study for that test too and start on the second assignment. There’s so much to do!”
It’s easy to lose motivation when your to do list just keeps getting longer. It seems better to just give up and burst into a ball of tears about how overwhelming school can be – don’t worry we’ve all been there. It’s important to put aside specific times to unwind in your calendar because the worst idea is to neglect your stress level, and risk burning yourself out and putting your mental health in jeopardy. To avoid this burnout, I set aside an hour for my lunch when I plan out my day. During this time, I also unwind, watch the latest episode of a show, flip through social media etc. You can also implement rewarding yourself with healthy treats and brain boosting snacks. One of my personal favourites is yogurt with chocolate shavings. Not to mention, I also take breaks away from my desk when I feel the urge to give up creeping into my thoughts. It’s amazing what an impact it makes to include self-care into a daily routine. Taking good care of yourself benefits your work productivity, as well as your overall mood.


A key tip to bumping out unmotivated vibes is to start your day early. It doesn’t have to be  at the crack of dawn, but, the earlier, the more effective. This gives you additional time to accomplish all you need to do, and gives you an calmer attitude, knowing you have an extra few hours to cross off your whole to do list. Personally, my brain is most alert in the morning, so I use the additional hours to get a good workout in, as well as accomplish the tasks I find challenging. I notice this helps me to stay productive throughout the rest of the day. You might be thinking “there’s no way I can function in the morning.” To that, I say it’s easier if you plan out a routine the night before. It doesn’t have to be an extensive list, it can just be simple things such as eat breakfast, walk dog, workout, finish assignment A etc. It will help your brain organize itself from the form that is often foggy and muddled the first half hour after you wake up.

It may seem a little stressful and confusing as we navigate the best way to optimize our productivity during these times, but there are ways to work through it. Keeping these tips in mind, along with a positive attitude, should help us move towards a productive start to the semester for all of us.

Natasha Nixon

U Toronto '23

Natasha is a second year student at the University of Toronto pursuing a double major in Bioethics and Health and Disease.