Ask Iman: How can I stay on top of things with online school?

Dear Iman,

How can I stay on top of things with online school? I hate it here.

Even if online school will be over soon, there’s one word that summarizes the university experience right now: “isolating.” I hate online school as much as the next person, and though I know that it’s an important measure to keep everyone safe, it still sucks. Big time.

Falling into the habit of waking up five minutes before your class, scrolling through TikTok with your Zoom camera off and only unmuting to say “we can hear you, professor” is easy. Hell, I’ve caught myself doing it and it’s only been a week or so. The only way I can stay on top of life when the world seems to be crashing and burning is to make a routine.

Keeping a routine that’s similar to your typical school routine is important, not only to feel productive but also to feel as comfortable and close to (your version of) normal as possible. I feel like hot garbage when I fall out of routine and all the tasks I need done don’t get done. Remember the laundry you didn’t do on Tuesday? You now have a few loads piled up. What about that assignment due last week? Oops.

Oops indeed! Keeping a routine is important — whether that’s with laundry, assignments, grocery shopping or waking up and going to bed — so you don’t feel like it’s all going to shit.

I like to block out my routine in my calendar. Having specific times to complete tasks helps me finish what I need to without stressing about where I’ll find the time to do it, because I’ve already booked the time with myself. Putting up reminders either on your phone or on sticky-notes around your space can also help you stick to a routine. Routine is hard, but doing your best to stay committed to one can keep you focused, even if it’s flexible and malleable and not super rigid.

Interacting with others is a big part of my routine that’s been taken away by classes being moved online. And honestly, it’s not something that I can go a day without. To resolve this, I’ve taken to regularly reaching out to the friends and family I can’t see and going on safe walks with my bubble between classes.

Creating a community with my classmates is also super nice, though hard, while online. Online peer interactions through social media or Discord (gamers rejoice) can do this. Make friends! It’s worth it, I promise.

Your routine may change throughout the few weeks we’re online, but having a routine, no matter how it looks, can make you feel more in control and help you stay in school (and self-care) mode. Making small adaptations to our normal routines to suit online classes can keep us feeling grounded when everything around us makes us feel scared.

Uncertainty is everywhere and it’s completely normal to feel anxious. Taking steps to keep yourself and the people around you safe — like getting your booster shot if you’re eligible, masking up and limiting contact with large groups of people — it all helps, even if it may not feel like it does.

You’re doing great. Keep it up!

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