Being a student has never been easy to begin with. But being a student amidst a pandemic is a whole new level of overwhelming.
Chances are, you’re going through one of these two scenarios:
- You struggle to get anything done. And you probably feel guilty about procrastinating. So, you miss deadlines (or come too close for comfort to missing them), while the quality of your work plummets.
- You’re constantly overworked. You’re stuck in the “I need to write my research paper, do my homework, and read five chapters of the textbook” headspace. In other words, you don’t let yourself rest enough.
Both of these scenarios have the same root cause. Your study-life balance got thrown off the rails by the pandemic, and adapting to the new normal takes a (long) while.
So, the solution is pretty straightforward: restore this balance. But that doesn’t make it simple. This process will take a while. You’ll have to go through some (or a lot of) trial and error before you can think to yourself, “Yes, this is it”.
With that in mind, let’s dive right into 5 ways that may help you restore a healthy study-life balance.
1. Focus on Small, Achievable Tasks
The first tip on this list was initially going to be, “Keep yourself in check with a to-do list”. But here’s the thing: when you stay at home most of the time, it’s all too easy to stop caring about the to-do list.
You’ve probably experienced this even before the COVID craze. Once you stop managing to get this or that task on the list done in one sitting, you may stop noticing it’s there. It just stays on the list until you’re either pressed by a deadline to do it or give up on it altogether.
So, how do you avoid this? Look at the subheading for this section – yes, that’s how. Break down huge tasks that you can’t possibly get done within a day into smaller chunks.
Once you have a clear deadline – the end of the day – and you know it’s achievable, the task stops being intimidating.
2. Schedule Me-Time
When your home becomes your library, classroom, and home office all in one, it’s easy to lose a grip on the sense of time itself. To get it back, get in on scheduling instead of making endless to-do lists.
Here are a few tips on how to make it work:
- Schedule study sessions & working on assignments.
Remember that it’s better to learn things/do big assignments in several sittings instead of one. Switch activity every hour or hour and a half. You can try the Pomodoro technique, too: 25 minutes of studying, 5 minutes of rest.
- Schedule breaks and leisure, too.
Your me-time should be as important as studying if you want to take care of your mental health. So, make sure you have enough breaks for your hobbies, catching up on that TV show, or just going for a walk.
- Make breakfast, lunch, and dinner your me-time.
You may be tempted to answer an email from your professor while eating that leftover pizza. Or, combine reading a textbook with your lunch. Avoid that – instead, treat it as a break and do something to unwind.
3. Understand What Gets You ‘In the Zone’
If you can’t bring yourself to get things done, here’s a trick: decipher what usually triggers you to become focused and ready to move mountains.
Here are a few questions for this reflection journey:
- When are you at your most productive – in the morning, afternoon, or evening? (The beauty of the pandemic is, you’re likely to be more flexible in your schedule now than before.)
- Do changes in the surroundings affect your concentration? You might want to consider setting up a home office where you come only to get things done;
- Does music help you get focused? Or chewing gum? Or something else?
4. Find Your Self-Care Routine
Speaking of me-time. If you’re a typical workaholic, the concepts of me-time or self-care may be a bit lost on you. But they’re still essential for recharging your metaphorical batteries every day.
In short, a self-care routine is a set of activities or rituals that bring you joy. It can be anything: a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop, or a yoga workout, or a walk in a park nearby. Whatever it is, it leaves you happy, relaxed and/or energized, and maybe a pleasant type of tired.
How do you find this sort of routine? Here are 5 tips for that:
- Keep track of all the things you enjoy doing throughout the day, no matter how small they seem to be;
- Add your hobbies to the list, even if you haven’t had time for them lately;
- Think back and write down the things that used to spark joy in you;
- Reflect on what you’ve always wanted to try but never had a chance to – and put it on the list;
- Don’t narrow it down only to active pastime. I.e., watching a favorite TV show or a movie can be self-care, too!
5. Master Prioritizing
When you compile that to-do list or schedule, or when you need to tweak them because of a force majeure, you need to be conscious about your priorities.
Let’s say, going to the DMV took more time than you expected. Now, you don’t have enough time to get that assignment finished and attend a friend’s Zoom party. How do you decide which one is more important?
Sure, there’s the urgency-importance grid that’s mentioned in every post on productivity and time management. But it doesn’t tell the whole story because it’s hardly applicable to such situations when you choose, essentially, between work and leisure.
One could argue that you should take a closer look at your needs and responsibilities. If you had to rank them from most to least important, hopefully, you’d get this list:
- Physiological needs: food, sleep, hygiene;
- Other needs: rest, leisure, and social interaction;
- Studying: all those assignments, research papers, and video lectures.
So, if you’ve been feeling isolated and you need that social interaction (and the assignment isn’t that urgent), opting for the Zoom party isn’t lazy or crazy. It becomes a form of self-care.
In Conclusion: Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
If you’re going through some tough times these days, remember to be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack if you feel like you need it. You’re not a machine designed to study; you’re a human. Your mental health matters more than academic excellence.
Before you close the tab, here’s one final piece of advice. Avoid comparing yourself to others. You’re you, so if others seem to have everything under control, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. You’re just going through it differently.
So, find what works for you, not everyone else. How? By trial and error, of course.