By Nicole Awad
These are certainly difficult times that are requiring much adaptation and resilience. The pandemic arrived almost a year ago and put everybody into a state of chaos. Telling a little more about my personal experience with it, I flew back to Brazil immediately to be with my family during such uncertain times. With that, many educational institutions like colleges and universities started their process to move everything to an online format. The faculty did their best to accommodate all the material for students and even implemented new tools so nobody could be left behind during this transition. It took some time for people to settle in this new reality and understand the classroom while also facing a pandemic and discovering new ways to keep doing our daily tasks from home. After some time facing the new reality that the pandemic brought, I learned some things about time management, organizing and adapting a schedule, making studying time more efficient, and keeping track of academic duties.
Home for me has always been a synonym of rest and peacefulness. Having to look at my room as my new “office” was a bit complicated for me at first. I was not sure how to manage my time and build a new routine where I would be full time at home. The pandemic definitely affected one’s goals and changed completely the way society used to live. The most complicated part was that it happened in a short period of time, not giving people time to process and come up with solutions to replace the good old habits. I was thinking about how I would develop new ways to keep working/studying actively, avoid procrastination and any distractions around me.
I struggled a lot at the beginning, even after creating an agenda to follow during my weekdays. In fact, everything went differently since I started to wake up later than I was expecting and not doing the amount of work that I set to myself. Instead, I was more distracted with social media and was lazier to accomplish daily tasks and even exercises. Additionally, my plan to follow a schedule was not really happening in reality, so I decided to change my routine. I realized that the way I was managing my time was not being accurate, and I had to reverse this situation before this disorganization would start to affect my performance.
Besides having to deal with all of these changes, it is safe to say that the pandemic provoked a huge flow of emotions in every individual. With my role as an International Ambassador, I interviewed some students about their transition to an online format, and anxiety, nervousness, scariness, and stress were the main emotions felt during these times. It is important to bring this psychological aspect into consideration since those symptoms of facing such a traumatic event like COVID-19 can definitely affect students’ performance and mood.
Trying to figure out new organization methods that work best for you is based on trial and error. At first, I was doing my study hours in the morning, but after a few attempts I realized that I did not work well in the mornings. So, I tried to review the topics during the afternoon and evenings, and then I finally discovered that evening worked best for me. I was more focused and energetic, and consequently the readings were being more effective too. There are no right ways to study, especially because what may work for me may not work for you. It is also a “self-discovery” process, and you have to be patient and make some tests to see what could be useful and what could not.
Moreover, stipulating an amount of hours per day to study is essential for you to keep track of the subjects and make sure you do not get too rushed and anxious when a test comes up. Studying a little bit everyday also makes you have a greater understanding of what is being said during the classes. I know our brain keeps pushing us to procrastination, and it can be very hard to avoid it, especially with so many distractions like social media. It is just so hard to not look at your phone when hearing that sound that plays every time a new text is sent!
That being said, having a clean and nice environment is also important for a productive study time. I recommend putting away your cell phone and other things that may distract you. But it does not mean that breaks are not important. You can use this small space of time to go grab something to eat, check your messages quickly, or maybe trade a few words with others around you. Balance is the key, but it is also important to be concise with your break and follow the established time. Moreover, the pandemic made most of the classes go online, but interacting with classmates through online platforms can be another motivational point to keep students interested and participative in classes.
Adding to the previously discussed points, setting small goals for yourself to accomplish daily tasks is a great advice I would give. There is no better feeling than reaching the end of the day and knowing how many things you were able to do and how productive your hours of work were. Making a list of those tasks may help, and you can scratch each item as soon as you complete it. This also may give you more fuel to go forward with this practice, since sooner you realize that it is actually working and consequently the activities are getting done.
Also, this is a complicated pandemic moment, so respect your limit and do not put too much pressure on yourself either! Moreover, practicing exercises and having the necessary amount of sleep is also fundamental to keep the focus and energy to complete your work. Furthermore, another thing that helped me was to constantly communicate with my professors and advisors when I had any struggles. I remember I had some problems in getting some materials for being outside the U.S., and after reaching out to my professor, he helped me in every way to make sure I could get access to the class material. Do not hesitate to contact them in case you have any problems!
Finally, it really took me some time to realize all of those aspects and to find the new practices to add to my routine. Also, respecting your limits and doing some fun activities are also essential to keep your brain relaxed and take time off from work. On the other hand, having your study hours consistent and focused are essential to make your work effective. Avoiding procrastination and working in a clean and organized environment will definitely contribute to better performance and will enhance the quality of your study. Moreover, stipulating small goals and a few hours per day of study also helps you to keep track of your daily activities.
Again, it is just a matter of trial and error to see which method works best for you, and always remember to give yourself time to have those discoveries and respect your boundaries! The pandemic came and seemed to make studying a bit more complicated for us students, but it is a time for new self-discoveries, and those tips mentioned previously came as part of mine. I hope that my tips will shed some light, and hopefully bring some comfort to students who are also taking online classes.
Nicole Abel Fouad Awad from Brazil is in her last semester at Hillsborough Community College and has been taking online classes for two semesters now.