This year has been incredibly tough on everyone in a variety of ways. For those of us who fall in the student category, from kindergarten to graduate school, to trade schools, to certification programs, buckling down and getting your work accomplished can definitely be a struggle. As a person who tends to bite off a whole lot to chew, I’ve had to get into habits that allow me to accomplish tasks and stay focused.
Prioritize your health, mental and physical.
I have really struggled with this myself, but it is incredibly important to understand what you can and cannot handle. Give yourself mental breathing space, and take care of your body by eating well, showering, drinking water, some kind of physical activity, and getting the sleep you need. Less hours of sunlight per day have been proven to have a serious effect on mental health, and it is important to reach out and ask for help.
Use a planner.
I know that everyone says this, and it always feels like this is too much work/another stressful thing to pay attention to, but you can always make it unique to yourself. I can’t really use pre-designed planners, so I’ve bought a bullet journal and I literally draw my calendar once a week. I enjoy doing it, and it’s something that gives me some planning/calming time. Once I write something down, I have to do it. It’s okay if I don’t do it that day, but I still have to do it sometime that week. Being able to mark something off is incredibly satisfying and can be a reward in itself. It took me a while to get into the habit of doing this, but once I did, I really enjoyed it—and to this day, I get a lot of use out of it.
Commit to your plans.
Things can be hard, and things can always change. However, if you get into the habit of enjoying the feeling of completion, you will be able to make the most out of your time.
Block off a specific amount of time to work, and have a plan before you start.
A lot of graduate students use this tactic. You have to find a space where you will not be disturbed for the amount of time you need, and before you start time, try to know what exactly you are trying to do. If you have a checklist, you are more likely to complete your goals. If your home environment isn’t conducive to studying in this way, try to spend some time on the weekend at a friend’s house to study with them, or go to your local library (if it’s open and a safe space).
Hide your phone and any distractions.
Your phone can be a great tool for learning, but it can also be a huge distraction, too. A good tip for not getting on your phone is hiding it from sight and out of physical reach. If you can’t see it and you can’t reach it from where you’re studying, you’re less likely to pick it up and scroll through social media or get bogged down in heavy discourse with your friends.
Reward yourself in increments, but make sure you eat.
Before you sit down to work, have something to drink (water!) and a snack. The less that you have to get up, the better. If you’ve spent an increment (half an hour, an hour, two hours) working, have small rewards for yourself like candy or fruit.
Have time for yourself.
The past year has taught everyone the importance of everything in moderation. It can feel really good to be productive 100% of the time, but you have to take time for yourself. You have to guard your sleep and your decompression time. To decompress, I like to talk to my friends, spend time with my family, watch TV, or read. It’s important to do something that requires little to no brainpower. This can also be the “fun” type of self-care where you pamper yourself or practice hobbies just for yourself.
Kindness is key.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is kindness. You need to be kind to yourself and to your efforts, and share that kindness with those around you. It is okay if you don’t do everything you sought out to do. Everyone has good days, bad days, weird days, sad days. Ultimately, things are going to work out, and you are going to be okay. It is going to be okay.