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We've already reached the end of September, online courses are in full swing, and I'm stressed beyond belief. How did this happen? The universe combined a late start to school with a summer that didn't quite happen, and I found myself neck-deep in schoolwork long before I fully accepted that school had started. 

I'm a bit of a time management tips expert (if my YouTube history is anything to go by), so I compiled a list of the techniques that I've used throughout my degree. Here are my suggestions on staying afloat and keeping track of everything this online fall semester!

Make a list of assignments and readings.

As a list-making fiend, one of my first priorities at the start of the semester is to make a master list of everything I have to do, organized by due date. Notion is a great (free for students!) system with templates already set up to help you organize your schoolwork. Even just having deadlines in your calendar, though, is important so that you know what assignments are coming up. Whatever system you use, make sure you check it regularly.

Implement a routine.

I'm not advocating for setting hourly alarms (unless that works for you), but following a basic daily structure is helpful for working from home. What times of the day do you work best? Maybe you work best in the late evening, or maybe you work best first thing in the morning. Structure your day around those times. Having approximate mealtimes and bedtimes can be helpful to give the day some structure, too.

Make a daily to-do list.

Try to pick three things that you want to work on. Decide how much you want to get done on those projects. A paragraph or two of an essay? Edits on a project? Be reasonable when setting tasks, though. Assuming that something will take longer than you think it will is a good way to stay motivated.

Notice weekly tasks.

A lot of online classes involve repetitive tasks, like weekly forum posts or prerecorded lectures. Try scheduling them in at the same time each week.

 Practice focussed blocks of time.

My attention span is not always the greatest, and a lot of times I find myself working on assignments one sentence at a time while scrolling through Tumblr. Set a timer for ten minutes of work. Don't do anything else during these ten minutes. Once they're up, allow yourself a break if you need it. But if you're feeling good about the assignment, set another ten minutes, and then another. This tip is often enough to get me to sit down for an hour or two, even when I'm having a bad brain day.

Do a certain amount of homework a day.

I try to do at least one hour of homework every day of the week, including weekends. This hour of focussed time ensures that I'm at least kind of on top of my homework. Even when I'm all caught up, I try to do my hour of work and read ahead or work on a project I know will take up a lot of my time.

Learn to regulate your phone use.

You didn't think we'd get through a time management article without mentioning this, did you? Put it in another room or even just out of arm’s reach. Turn on airplane mode, or use an app like Forest to dissuade you from picking it up. Set timers for how long you have to leave it. Turn off your notifications. Whatever you do, don’t assume that you’ll just ignore your phone, because you probably won’t.

Go outside.

Working from home can be all-consuming, and it's easy to accidentally spend several days inside, especially when leaving the house is so daunting. Go for a walk, even if it's just five minutes around the block. I promise that you do have time for it, and you might even feel better after. Even opening a window or stepping into the backyard helps.

Practice balance.

Friends, nutrition, exercise and self-care are all important but often come second to schoolwork. It's hard to maintain boundaries between university and other areas of life at the best of times, but now that most classes are online and most of us are working from home, it's near impossible. 

Try making a list of the areas you'd like to focus on (or know you need to work on). Create space for those things in your week. For example, on Sunday mornings, you might do yoga and get coffee with your roommates. Or Wednesday evening, you might take an hour to cook a new meal. Whatever the task is, it doesn't have to occupy a lot of time to make a big difference in how you feel.

Be patient with yourself!

This year has been chaotic and awful for so many reasons, and professors know that. They're struggling with online school, too. Missing a forum post or asking for an extension is not the end of the world. Reach out to your profs. They'll understand. 

UVic has plenty of mental health resources you can access, including the CAL (the Centre for Accessible Learning). Please use these resources if you need them.

I hope these tips help you get through this semester! Leave a comment letting me know which tips worked for you!

Eli Mushumanski is a queer Writing and English Honour undergrad in their fourth year at the University of Victoria. They specialize in fiction and poetry. Their work has been published by The Albatross, The Warren, and Flare: The Flagler Review, and they are a fiction editor at UVic's literary journal, This Side of West. When not caught up by schoolwork or reading, Eli plays Stardew Valley and chats with their mom on the phone.
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