It’s undeniable that we live in strange, strange times. With a virus spreading like wildfire and people being told to stay in their homes, it can feel like we’re all stuck in one of those end-of-the-world novels (Stephen King’s The Stand, anyone?). But amidst the chaos and uncertainty, those of us in some form of school have found ourselves thrust into a new reality: online classes.
I’m currently in my first year of law school, and a little over a week ago my school decided that they would transition to online classes for three weeks until everything calmed down and then we would plan on all coming back to regular classes. However, a few days later they announced that, like so many other schools across the United States, we would be doing online classes for the rest of the semester. Personally, I have mixed feelings about online classes. Attending all my classes via Zoom means that I can wear comfy clothes all day and I don’t have to bother putting on make-up, packing a lunch, or trekking to school. On the other hand, it also means that I don’t get to see any of my classmates in person and that I essentially just sit at my desk all. Day. Long.
Here are some tips that have helped me in my transition to entirely online law school classes. I hope they help you as well!
1. Stick to a routine…
If you’re anything like me, then you’re creature of habit that requires at least some semblance of a routine in order to function. I recommend finding a routine and sticking with it during this time, whether that be waking up or going to bed around the same time every day, having that morning cup of coffee, or even calling friends every week. Sticking with a routine will help this strange debacle we’re in feel a little bit more… normal?
2. … But not necessarily your old routine!
However, just because you’re sticking to a routine doesn’t mean that you have to follow your old routine. Don’t be afraid to switch things up! Usually I’m the kind of person who likes to get as much work done as possible during the day so I can have a bit of free time at night. But after a few days of doing online classes I realized that in order to keep from getting stiff from sitting at the same desk all day I would likely have to take more breaks throughout the day instead. My knees and back have definitely thanked me for being flexible on this one!
3. Designate a specific workspace for yourself.
If possible, make a distinction between where you do work and where you do other things. In other words, don’t do work in your bed if you can help it! Personally, I find that I’m much more productive if I’m sitting up at a desk than if I’m all cozy in bed where novels or Netflix are just a simple reach away… Plus, it’s nice to feel as though you have somewhere to go to do work, even if it’s just across your bedroom like my desk is.
4. Be intentional with your workspace.
By this I mean that you should do your best to design a space that suits you. If you like cozy things like mean, this could mean lighting a candle, stringing some lights, and having a mug of coffee by your side. Regardless of what makes you happy, I would recommend keeping your space clean and as clutter-free as possible to avoid it feeling overwhelming.
5. Create to-do lists– and stick to them!
I LOVE to-do lists. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. But during this time of social-distancing, I’ve found myself even more inclined to rely on them throughout the day. As someone used to attending classes face-to-face and having a structured day of meetings and events I have to go to, it feels a bit strange to not leave the house for days on end. Following a to-do list can help make your day feel more structured than it actually is.
6. Keep in touch with classmates and professors.
Zoom or other online ways of doing classes are great alternatives during these times, but they can’t make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction with classmates and professors. I think it’s especially important that you maintain those connections through extra emails, Zoom calls, or other ways of staying in touch. For instance, some of my law school friends and I have set aside an hour and a half block once a week where we can all catch up and chat, both about school and other things going on in our lives. Not only does this help you feel more connected, but it also gives you something to look forward to each week.
7. Get offline.
I’ve noticed that while doing online classes it’s easy to get sucked into being on my computer all. Day. Long. From attending classes in general to doing homework and even things like blogging, it can feel like I spend most of my day staring at my computer screen. I recommend setting aside some time each day to shut your laptop completely and do something physical–read a paper book, go for a walk, do some crafting, chat with those you live with.
8. Cut yourself some slack.
This is a strange, strange time, and everyone is just trying to do their best–including YOU! Give yourself a break! Go easy on yourself! Talk to yourself as you would a friend! (Don’t worry–I’m saying all these things because they’re things I need to be reminded of, too.) One day at a time, pals.
I hope these tips are at least somewhat helpful and that you’re all doing well! Let me know any other tips you have for being a student when you’re social distancing. Also, let me know how your education has changed because of all of this. I’m really curious!