COVID-19 has changed the life of a student. The typical student day was dynamic and full of movement. Now, it is feasible for a student literally sit at their desk and not move for the entire day. While technically possible, life at the desk does not nourish the body, mind, and spirit. Cranking out responsibilities is awesome, but in order to be your best self, you’re going to need to be intentional about how to navigate your day as a remote student. Here are a few tactical tips that can help you get a grasp on remote learning, and feel like you’re living a full life in a world that demands only screen time.
1. The Power of an Intentional Routine
Take a step back and think about what you need to feel like you lived a fulfilling day. One of my favourite books, Own the Day by Aubrey Marcus, outlines a nice guide to a great day. Your perfect day won’t look like mine, or Aubrey’s, but the point is to put thought behind what will make you feel fulfilled and energized throughout the day, and then stick to it. Here are some practices that I’d recommend slotting into your daily routine. Each can be as quick as 15 minutes:
Get some sunlight. Vitamin D also protects against COVID! This can literally be a five-minute walk in the morning that puts you in an energized mood.
I don’t necessarily mean cross your legs on a hilltop. Meditative practice is anything that puts you in a flow state. Maybe that means playing an instrument!
You don’t have to run a marathon. A 15-minute HIIT workout will do the trick.
For me, I’ve found that slotting in these three practices, among others, into every day makes me feel fresher and ready to take on any challenges that come my way, including sitting through a painfully boring two-hour Zoom lecture. Where do I “slot in” my time, you ask?
2. Keep a Diligent Calendar
Everything you have planned should be in here. Take the time to create recurring events for all of your classes, and make the location the Zoom URL. That way, you have a compass that keeps you a click away from your appointments. Keeping a diligent calendar will also foster your ability to keep an intentional routine and manage remote learning better. Blocking out time to play an instrument or do a quick workout can be tough, and you might not want to do it at the moment, but that is how you get to know yourself and your needs better.
Keeping a calendar will create a dialogue between what Daniel Kahneman calls your System 1 (rash, impulsive) and your System 2 (deliberate, calculating) thinking. When you create a calendar, your System 2 is taking the reins. However, later in the week when your event for “15min HIIT workout” pops up, your System 1 might tell you “eh, not right now.” This is when you get to observe an interaction with yourself and notice what’s going on. Your calendar is “smart you.” Having it there is like having your smart past self nudging your present self to do the right thing.
3. Declutter Your Digital Space
Perhaps the most overwhelming part of remote learning is the fact that everything is now online. Gone are the days where we get our red-ink-ridden problem sets back from our professors and stick them in our binders.
I used to be a five-desktop, ten-window, fourteen-tab kind of guy. Of course, that didn’t work so well. The word that comes to mind is clutter. My laptop felt like it could be on TLC’s “Hoarders: Buried Alive.”
For me, I went all out, and now I only have one tab open at any given time. There are lots of good bookmarking solutions out there, but my favourite is Idenati, because of the way it looks and the capabilities it allows:
Every website that I use is saved as a “tile,” kind of turning my computer into an iPhone’s home screen. One-click to go, no more typing URLs, and passwords are stored so I don’t have to remember them. Leveraging tags/filters allows me to focus on the task at hand, so if I’m doing schoolwork…
Anything I need for school is one click away, whether it’s Canvas, my calendar, email, or LayupList, the site that tells Dartmouth students which classes are the easiest ?.
So my digital space is decluttered, which helps me focus on whatever task I have at hand. I don’t have any other tabs open to distract me from what I’m doing. If I’m doing schoolwork, my Dartmouth filter is on, and that’s where I’m locked in.
4. Declutter Your Physical Space
I’ve already mentioned Marie Kondo… follow her advice! Make your living space a sanctuary that invigorates you. Donate or recycle things you don’t need. Fold your clothes, and put your laundry in a hamper. And, not to play mom, but make your bed!
Learn, iterate, move on
Everything is a learning process, especially in times of change. We were thrown into this COVID world, and we need to make adjustments according to remote learning. The tips I’ve outlined above are meant as directionally correct, but not precise guides to building a daily routine that cultivates success as a remote student. I’m still constantly tweaking my routine to fit my life changes, whether it is moving somewhere new, the changing seasons, or new responsibilities that pop up. When something doesn’t go right, don’t beat yourself up. Hone in on why it doesn’t work, think of a way to fix it, and keep on truckin’.