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How to Create an Effective Distance Learning Routine

The key to distance learning in a COVID-19 world is having a routine. Here's some advice on creating a well-balanced remote learning routine this semester.

With the coronavirus pandemic impacting the whole world, many schools and universities have been forced to re-enter the new territory of distance learning this fall. But without a routine, days spent learning remotely can practically feel endless. The best thing high school and college students can do right now to adjust is to practice new habits and create a routine for themselves. Here are some tips to help you do so effectively.

Prioritize important tasks

Distance learning might seem easier to handle, but if you’re not disciplined, you won’t see great results. With an online learning format, it can be easy to ditch classes and make everyday life a priority instead. While you’re in the process of creating an online schedule, here are some important things you should try to do.

Make a weekly to-do list

Having a list provides structure and allows for flexibility all at once. Write out a list of your priorities and responsibilities in a planner or calendar, starting with your must-do tasks. Make sure education is at the top of the list, as it’s a significant investment of your time and money. With an organized to-do list, you’ll be able to remember what you need to get done and not get sidetracked. Scheduling consistent weekly tasks can help you keep the student mentality of having to look forward and plan when you’re going to get things done.

Stay organized

Being organized is crucial when it comes to being independent. With online learning, your schedule can be personalized, but it still needs to be structured and well thought-out. Put together a timetable that tells you when the day begins and ends—and it will consequently help you keep your study/life time separate. The space where you study and work makes a big difference too—and don’t make it a space where you spend relaxation time. Although it may not be the same for every individual, a tidy and neat desk will help you concentrate and study more efficiently.

Don’t burn yourself out

It feels rewarding to finish tasks and accomplish them in a way that fits your learning goals. Nonetheless, make sure you don’t go overboard if you schedule your own class load. A free-flowing program allows free or flexible time for fun or emergencies. An excessively structured schedule can feel high-pressure, leading to more stress and breakdowns. You know yourself best, so try to work in your best interest so you don’t burn out. Remember, no matter how important your degree seems—be it Accounting or Conceptual Art—your mental health is worth more. 

Related: Mental Health: What Is It and How Can You Find Help

Set a flexible schedule

Schedules provide safety, boundaries, and a sense of familiarity, which provides a comfortable environment and keeps stress at bay. You may find it helpful to make changes as time passes, and the beauty of this opportunity is you can do what feels right for you.

Stick to a consistent morning routine

Even though you won’t have to rush to catch the bus or worry about finding a parking spot, waking up regularly each morning is the best way to set the tone for the day and boost your productivity. Start your day as you would normally: brush your teeth, wash your face, style your hair, etc. Staying in pajamas might seem comfy, but getting dressed in fresh clothes will motivate and remind you to get things done according to plan. Get a look at your day’s task list to get a rundown on how your day will go, get your workspace ready for online classes, and try to stay focused

Don’t skip meals

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. One of the at-home advantages is you’re free to make a quick breakfast one day or a filling breakfast the next. In between classes, step away from your studies for lunch, and try to avoid eating your lunch at your workspace or in front of a screen. Later over dinner, share something about your day with your family members. Nothing brings routine and normalcy to your day like a good meal and good conversation.

Plan quiet study time

Think of the quietest time of the day at your home—away from family members or roommates—and plan your study times around those hours. This time can include reading new material, completing homework, or taking tests or quizzes. Maybe you have a group project to work on or an assignment that requires your full attention; just choose a spot where there will be minimal distractions so you can be more productive.

Get enough sleep

As much as a consistent morning routine is necessary, maintaining a regular sleep schedule is equally as crucial to ensure your body settles into a healthy routine. Challenge yourself to be consistent on weeknights so you’re well rested for the next day. An irregular sleep routine can lead to stress, reduced performance, impatience, and health issues. 

Related: Top Sleep Hygiene Advice for Tired Students

Allow for frequent breaks

Students tend to lose interest and energy if they don’t take time to re-energize their brains once in a while. Not all hours of the day need to be planned or added to the schedule. Alter your routine from time to time and learn to walk away from the computer, book, or assignment in front of you. Use these breaks to have a healthy snack or a stretch. These are some activities to consider.

Connect with loved ones

In times of affliction, one thing that can help you de-stress is connecting with those you love and enjoy hanging out with. Maybe in-person quality time is limited in these circumstances, but thanks to technology, Facetime and Zoom calls make it easy to get in touch with your loved ones outside your immediate household. There will be times when you need a pep talk, someone to rant to, or to take your mind off a stressful situation. Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself from the people around you just because you can’t be with them in person.

Participate in hobbies

Don’t forget about the activities that you genuinely enjoy. You might want to read a great book just because you feel like reading, not because you have to. Maybe you’ll create art that makes you feel content or discover new, exciting things that don’t just fill your mind but spark inspiration. Fill your non-schoolwork time with working on a fun project, learning to knit, cooking, or practicing your makeup skills—anything that makes you happy.

Make time to relax

Although some of the hobbies mentioned above may count as your relaxation time, sometimes just lying around listening to music or binge-watching a show helps you wind down. Do something relaxing such as going for a walk, taking a bubble bath, or reading a magazine. Something to consider is starting a journal. Writing in a journal has proven to boost one’s mood; even writing down song lyrics can have a positive effect. 

Related: Entertainment Picks to Help Pass the Time 

Try to make the most of the luxury that is distance learning. With the passing weeks, you’ll realize on your own what works and what doesn’t work for you. That‘s one of the top benefits of distance learning. And with a balanced routine in motion, you’ll accomplish more, maintain meaningful relationships, and stay sane—even on the hardest of days.

If you want more helpful advice from students just like you, check out the student vloggers on our YouTube channel!

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About Vesa Merxha

Vesa Merxha is an English Language and Literature student who wants to pursue a career in writing with the aim to interact, inform, and educate readers—especially youth—about diverse topics. Currently, her content focuses on pieces for the Accounting department at Bay Atlantic University.


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