The other day I was talking to my friend about the first week back in class, and her first words to me were, “It’s frustration station, man.” While it’s been good to see familiar faces again (albeit sometimes at strange angles with varying levels of resolution and out-of-sync audio), online class has not been an easy transition for many. I’ve heard pleas for advice on how to do work and stay motivated when your laptop is your source of both education and entertainment, and you could easily work from not just home, but a very comfy bed or couch. We’ve been on break for almost a month and are being dropped straight back into the middle of the semester. This ain’t easy.
While I’m going to include some “tips and tricks” to feel a little less adrift, I think it’s also important to have an open conversation and to feel comfortable admitting that some of us, me included, are struggling. From issues as commonplace as Computer Vision Syndrome to feelings of loneliness, boredom from lack of stimuli, an excess of time to ruminate, less-than-ideal environments and other drops in mental health, getting work done can seem next to impossible. While being able to listen to my 9:05 a.m. lecture in bed while having coffee may sound like the dream (especially compared to the mad dash to the Plant Science Building), it’s definitely less than conducive to optimal academic results. Not being able to go to a library, café or quite literally anywhere at the moment means that my age old trick of separating work from home has just gotten even harder.
Now seems like a good time to segue into the promised “tips and tricks”, which isn’t so much of a list of hacks so much as solutions I’ve come up with to the failures I’ve identified in my own efforts to get any blessed thing done. The first is to create a work day for yourself. This doesn’t have to be the nine-to-five, but deciding when to start working and setting a cutoff for yourself can make the days blend together a little less. An example would be waking up at eight or nine in the morning and giving yourself an hour or so to have coffee, scroll through whatever on your phone, stretch a little or even just try to shake the sleep off. Using this hour to do stuff like make your bed and get dressed in actual clothes can also be motivating. When attending online classes, working through modules, typing up papers, taking exams — whatever is you need to do — study until a set time such as 9:30 or 10:00 at night, making sure to take breaks for meals, giving your eyes a rest, etc. This can provide a semblance of structure that’s more conducive to actual work. A great way to enforce this structure if you’re not sure you can uphold it is to find an accountability buddy. For me it’s been a friend I live with, one of the only people I’ve seen in person for the last month. However it could be a friend in another state or even another time zone if you work it out that way: Someone who can check in and see if you’re sticking to your plan. They can also be incorporated into your accountability progress by going on walk (or call, or both) breaks with you, cooking a meal together at an agreed-upon time or even sending you a “How’s the work going?” text every once in a while, so long as you don’t go down a phone wormhole. Which means it’s the perfect time to mention: Lock your phone away. It is more tempting than ever to be on or at least near your phone in this time of social distancing, but there will be plenty of time to catch up with loved ones and Tik Toks once your “work day” is over.
Finally though, what I want to emphasize more than anything else is to be kind to yourself. Being in quarantine is hard. Social distancing is difficult. Online classes are a big adjustment. Talk about it with friends and family and don’t be afraid to reach out to professors, who, from what I’ve experienced so far, have mostly been very understanding and accommodating. You can also Zoom or call the Office of Student Services, and Cornell Health has compiled resources for coping during COVID-19. I have one last tip: Give yourself time to do fun things, keep up hobbies and connect with others however you can … and when you do, email me podcasts, TV shows, movies or other content and activities that’ve been getting you through quarantine, so I can compile it all to share with you in a future piece.
*presses Leave Meeting button*
Emma Smith is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emmpathy runs every other Wednesday this semester.