Preserving routines can help students avoid the pitfalls of self-isolation

Remembering to carve out different spaces and times for school is important

Transitioning to online classes is rough, but it doesn’t have to be. Photo: Chris Ho/The Peak

By: Harvin Bhathal, News Writer

The outbreak of COVID-19 is a troubling time for all of us, filled with more questions than there are answers. However, the transition to online classes during this pandemic is not permission to transition into a state of disarray. It’s more important than ever for students to maintain the routines they already have in place, or create new ones if they haven’t already. We have to ask, how do we not let this situation overwhelm us? How do students balance the fear (deserved and undeserved) and potential danger of a global pandemic with the existing stress of their final exams and projects?

I have to believe that routines are the answer. Routines have always helped provide me with the structure I need to balance life’s responsibilities. I’m sure I’m not the only one, either. In an educational environment, routines can help students to maintain focus and persevere through years of hard work that changes semester to semester. 

Over the years, students come to be conditioned to view the physical space of classrooms as a place for working hard — or at least a place nearly exclusive for learning. Adjusting to the transition to working from home when the work/home divide is no longer available for the foreseeable future is difficult. When we’re home, our brains tend to be at ease. Priorities change, evolving to fit the needs of an entirely different type of space. 

While I’ve had my fair share of struggles adapting to this new situation, I have found a strategy that works for me — creating metaphorical distinctions in my home life that parallel my school life of just a couple weeks ago. Students should do all that they can to likewise mimic their previous schedules to keep their mood up or losing the motivation to finish the semester.

To start with, designating an area of your home as a work space will go a long way. We all have different living situations and this may be easier to do in some homes than others, but dedicate a space to working, whether it’s a desk, your dinner table, a comfortable spot on a couch, or on the patio. If you work well around others, then this is much easier, but if the distractions are too much, try to create a space just for yourself, and let others know when you need time to concentrate. For those who work better alone and are struggling to do so at home, try using headphones or earplugs to create the school environment in your head. 

Keeping formal work times is also important. Follow the routines that were already in place before we all had to start working from home. If a lecture or tutorial began at a certain time, such as in the morning, keep “attending” it — block out that same amount of time at home to work on something from that class. Morning classes are the bane of our existence, but configuring your daily life at home to continue following that schedule will help you maintain discipline. So get out of bed for that 8:30 a.m. class, just as you normally would.

Likewise, be disciplined by working hard during the scheduled hours of lecture and tutorial. Put your phone on silent and stay in that mental space for as long as class usually lasts. Follow along and take notes in online classes, participate and do your part to facilitate learning in others as well. 

Without the cushion that routines can provide, there is a serious chance that online classes, social distancing, and in some cases, extreme self-isolation will worsen the bad habits students may already have. If we don’t put the effort in to set some form of routine during this difficult time, the last few weeks of this semester are going to be rough.