With the 1 year anniversary of online learning during the pandemic coming up soon, it’s about time we address the elephant in the room: the lack of motivation for students. Staring at computer screens all day isn’t fun, so it’s understandable that students are feeling burnout and a decrease in motivation. The pandemic has caused an increase in anxiety, potentially less structure in your life than usual, and less contact with others than you normally would have. Additionally, possible stress from personal/family concerns, social/political events, and financial issues make it even harder to stay motivated. It can feel like academics are the last thing that feels important when so much other stuff is going on.
It’s important to know that these stress and anxiety factors are very much real and valid. We’re all still adjusting to the pandemic and our work will not be perfect. Give yourself and others extra breathing room, take time to relax, and know that standards of excellence look different during a time like this, so it’s OK not to feel like you’re on top of everything. This pandemic has taken away the structure and motivation we were all accustomed to. But there are a few ways to help with that.
One way is to create your own structure customized to your own needs and hobbies. Try to get up and dressed at the same time every day, and schedule dedicated class time, study time, break time, and meal time. Make sure to include time for self care. Intentionally setting time aside for your favorite activities will help build your motivation and give you something to look forward to during your day.
In a remote environment, it’s even harder to avoid the trap of multitasking — as in listening to a lecture video and texting simultaneously, or participating in a class chat and checking email or being distracted by phone alerts. It turns out that multitasking actually decreases your productivity, so monotasking is more efficient to get work done. One way to effectively monotask is to chunk your studying. For example, spend 30 minutes working and then take a 10-minute break for stretching, taking a walk, chatting with a friend, grabbing a snack. You can also try the “pomodoro technique.”
It’s also much harder to avoid distractions while learning online. You can avoid distractions by putting your phone in another room while you’re working on your laptop or closing unnecessary tabs when watching lectures. You can also use distraction-blocking apps like “Freedom” to temporarily block certain websites and apps on your phone/laptop. Keeping a list of things to do will also keep you focused on your tasks for the day while also removing any stress you may have from trying to remember assignment deadlines.
Finally, it’s important that you feel engaged in the classes you are taking. You can ask yourself some reflective questions to better understand the benefits you are getting from your classes. Some questions you may ask yourself are:
What do I find engaging or interesting about the courses I am taking this quarter?
We’re all struggling to find motivation during the pandemic due to several stress factors. But we have the power to make online learning a little more tolerable than it is. That’s why it’s important to practice some new techniques, create your own structure, and recognize some of the positives that you can get from your classes. Good luck this quarter, Gauchos!
- Jose, Mental Health Peer