Tips for Staying Focused on College at Home

Let these commuter students help you handle your college work at home.

A student sets up their study area on a desk back home. Since the COVID-19 crisis has sent many students away, some commuters offer advice on the experience of working from home. (Staff Photo by Alexandra Chan)

Who in a million years thought they would be reading an article on how to successfully transition to a semester at home taking online classes? Not me! You’re probably even reading this while avoiding said online classes. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about how you can make your remote semester the best it can be. We’re here to help, along with advice from our fellow classmates who have some experience working from home.

Liberal Studies sophomore Tomás Rios grew used to his New Jersey-to-Manhattan train rides and developed the work routine he needed to keep up with his Economics courses.

One of the best ways Rios studies at home is by sitting down and grinding out reading and studying by using what’s called the “Pomodoro Technique,” a time management system created by Francesco Cirillo. The system says to work for four half-hour intervals with five minute breaks in between each one, until finally taking a longer 15-30 minute break. 

But aside from completing schoolwork, what are some crucial parts to having a productive day? 

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“Working out in the morning and talking to at least one friend during the day helps my sanity,” Rios said.

Balancing your work life and social life is now more important than ever, so if you realize you haven’t spoken to anyone except your dog in a couple days, try to Facetime one of your fellow social distancing friends. 

CAS first-year Patrycja Lis quickly learned what time management means as a student athlete here at NYU. Traveling back and forth from Queens while attending both classes and track practices meant long days for Lis. She’s more of a morning person, and hates having any work left after her night classes. Lis advises to do schoolwork during the day if you can, so that you have the time after dinner to relax instead of cramming in an essay before midnight. 

Something we can all do is create a more solidified morning routine, which is exactly what Lis does, now that she has three free hours of her day that used to be spent on the subway.

“I wake up at the same time every day so my sleep schedule doesn’t get messed up,” Lis said. “And now I have time to make breakfast so I’ve been better about eating more scheduled meals, because I’m not running around everywhere.”

A lot of what the news and social media are now pushing is productivity. Tweets have been circulating, reminding us with an unkind nudge that Shakespeare wrote King Lear under quarantine and that Sir Isaac Newton discovered calculus under the same circumstances. But in reality, it’s hard to be cooped up in one place for so long. We’re all still students, and we’re all still facing the ramifications of this pandemic. None of us can deny how isolating this whole remote semester is.

You may not feel like organizing your closet or reading a book; you may just want to stay in bed all day, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay to feel this way, especially in such a panic-inducing and surreal time like this. Take care of one another and check in with your friends and family. Take the time you need to feel at peace — or at least semi-okay — with everything that’s happening, and then get to becoming the next Rembrandt.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, March 30, 2020 e-print edition. Email Anna Cucirean-Zapan at [email protected]

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