Written by Dr. Kelly Scott Franklin
My Dear Students,
At long last, I offer you my promised tips, tricks, and suggestions for how to work productively from home during this coronavirus lockdown.
Tips for Working from Home During the Lockdown
1) Set yourself a work schedule and stick to it. I try to put in close to 40 hours a week. You will probably need between 30 and 40 hours, depending on your course load.
2) Figure out where/when you work best. If you’re a night owl, work with that. If you’re a morning person, work with that. If you work efficiently in a windowless cubby, go there. If you work efficiently outdoors, go there.
3) Communicate clearly with your family and/or housemates. They may not understand how much work you have. This is particularly true if you have little siblings. Just remind them that you have a full-time job being a student, and that you’ll need them to give you space and time to fulfill that vocation. And lock your door and/or put up a sign and/or prop a chair under the door handle to block access. Whatever it takes.
4) Use a White Noise app. This one is wonderful. I like to set my white noise to the “Coffeeshop,” so it sounds like I’m surrounded by people.
5) Turn off your phone and lock your social media during your workday. Actually, just close all your social media accounts altogether.
6) Limit your e-mail and news intake during the workday. When on campus, I limit myself to four e-mail checks per day: two in the morning, and two in the afternoon. Right now, we’re all tempted to check the news a lot to follow the progress of the epidemic. Check in the morning and in the evening, but not during your workday.
7) If you practice a religion, begin and end your workday with a prayer. I’m a Christian, and St. Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” For me, this is a good way to offer my work as a sacrifice pleasing to God. Plus, I figure that if God called me to do this work of reading and writing and teaching, He must care about that work.
8) Coffee. I think this one speaks for itself.
9) Clearly separate work and leisure. Students struggle with this one. How many hours did I spend “studying” with friends at the library or the coffee shop? When you’re studying, study. When you’re having leisure or family time, focus on that. Don’t try to mix business and pleasure in that way; I think it ultimately gives you neither in any full sense.
10) Make a to-do list for each day and for each week. Make sure to include hours of research and writing, in addition to your class sessions and readings. But when you’re done with your list for the week, you can be done.
11) Be flexible. Your families may occasionally need you, and it is OK to be there for them. Have a conversation with them if you’re having trouble getting your work done; try to come up with an arrangement that will allow you to fulfill your responsibilities as a student, while still being a loving member of your family.
Tips for Researching and Writing Under the Lockdown
1) Acknowledge the limitations of the circumstances. You will not be able to do EVERYTHING the same way you would do it on campus. This is true most clearly for the science majors, who have no access to laboratories. But it’s also true for all of us. There are some things you cannot do.
2) Consult the bibliographies and works cited pages of the sources you DO find. Some other scholar has done a ton of research already. Use that. Then see if you can find those sources online to consult them yourself.
3) Work hard on the things you CAN do. So, if you can’t track down a biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne or Dante, spend that time reading more of his primary works. That way, your research paper will be rich in the ways you CAN make it rich. Read widely in whatever way your circumstances allow.
4) Set up a system of rewards for yourself. I like to buy books and online window-shop for fountain pens. You may like to watch reruns of M.A.S.H. or episodes of the Carole Burnett Show. Set a goal, and then reward yourself when you accomplish it!
5) You have the time to do this. This one’s not really a tip, just a reminder. Most of you write several research papers per semester, every semester. You do this while simultaneously serving as president of the Llama Preservation Society or the Gnu-World Knitting Club. You write these papers even when you are athletes, spending four-to-five hours per day in practice and training. You write these papers even when you spend ten hours a week gazing into the eyes of your beloved girlfriend or boyfriend. You write these papers even when you devote three evenings a week to Mixed Martial Arts in the basement of Simpson Residence. You write these papers even when you work a day-job at Rough Draft or as editor of The Collegian or as secretary to the mayor. You write them even when you spend hours running for student government by posting random 8.5″x11″ photos of yourself in zubaz pants and sunglasses. Bottom line: you have enough time, and the energy of youth. Set aside the time for writing and virtus yourself some tentamine gaudet.
Peace and Blessings,
Dr. Kelly Scott Franklin teaches American Literature and the Great Books at Hillsdale College. His writing on literature, culture, and faith has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, Commonweal Magazine, National Review, and elsewhere. He is the editor of The Shattered Fountain: Selected Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He lives in Hillsdale, MI, with his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Gianna. He also plays the ukulele.
Published in April 2020