Written by Katie Kolm
To be quite frank, I am the least productive person I know. Try as I might, I can never stay focused on crossing off things on my seemingly endless to-do list, whether it’s homework, chores, or even things I do for fun. I somehow always find my way back to Facebook or staring at my ceiling. Now, being home, I’m starting to worry: if I can’t even be productive at school, how am I supposed to do all of this from home? Here are some real, honest, and sometimes really hard things that we can do to stay productive during quarantine:
1. Plan out your day.
We fall into a certain cadence of life while away at school. We have our morning routines, class schedules, and 2.5-hour meal windows. It can be incredibly difficult to find motivation when your cadence has been thrown off entirely and abruptly, so set up a schedule for yourself in whatever way works best for you. Plan specific meal, work, and social times. Give yourself stability with a morning routine to follow every day. Make to-do lists, get organized, clear your inbox, know when your professor will expect you to be logging into Zoom, and have a plan of what you need to do and when you need to do it. When I’m feeling unproductive, scheduling every hour of my day helps refocus me and gives me a sense of direction. Even writing out tiny tasks, like making your bed, unloading the dishwasher, or taking 5000 mg of Vitamin C will help you stay on track.
2. Create an environment that you’ll be able to focus in.
This takes a certain level of self reflection, but looking at your typical day at Hillsdale helps. If you study in your dorm room at school or need absolute silence, a comfortable desk in your bedroom might work best. If you prefer to let your eyes wander around A.J.’s, maybe the kitchen table would be a better spot. Cut out unhelpful distractions, turn on a good lofi playlist, and make sure you have all the materials you need (chargers, coffee, pens, snacks, textbooks, and a comfy blanket included). Look on the bright side: now you can burn a calming candle while you study! Keep your phone in a separate room, and turn off your wifi if you finally realize that paper really won’t write itself. Remember that lying in bed doesn’t typically work for you at school and probably won’t work well at home either.
3. Take care of yourself.
Get out of bed before noon. Take breaks. Get dressed in clothes you’d wear to class (pin day Mondays are still an option!). Go on a walk outside, get fresh air, eat even healthier than Saga could provide. Unplug from social media for a little while, do things you enjoy, and don’t become a hermit. In isolation, it’s easy to see this time in two ways: a second vacation or a time to panic. Both need to be addressed, and caring for yourself is the perfect place to start.
4. Reach out to other students.
The slow creep of loneliness can easily sneak up on us if we aren’t careful, especially when we don’t have our typical friend groups around. Some of us might be cooped up all alone in the house and haven’t seen anyone in days. If we are being honest, there is such a thing as too much family time, too. Reach out to one another and check in to help relieve stress or to even help sift through the mass of emails and extra readings. Keep yourself and your friends cheerful with a Facetime or, of course, a good old Zoom call.
In the end, the key to successfully staying focused is to actually do it. Make the commitment to yourself, and remember why you’re going to Hillsdale. Dr. Arnn said, “It’ll be easy to sink into some kind of lassitude while you’re away…but it’s true nobody ever learned any serious thing except by intensity. You’ve got to work hard.”
Katie Kolm, ’21, studies Economics and serves as the secretary of the Lutheran Society. When she’s not at Penny’s working on homework and sipping coffee, you can probably find her in a different coffee shop working on homework and sipping coffee.