Golden brown dog wearing black glasses and resting head on open dog magazine

Students: Don't Feel Bad for Being Distracted at Home

Adjusting to online learning has been hard for students with at-home distractions. But here's why those diversions may be just what you need right now.

I’ve seen firsthand the issues that college students are facing in learning from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I see them in my classmates, my best friends, and myself. They range from a lack of stable internet connection to having a child who wants attention every second to difficulty finding the motivation to do anything at all.

As I’ve begun juggling clubs, classes, and jobs from my own tension-high home, the problem I’ve encountered­ the most—and the one that I least expected—has been an inability to stop working. So if you’ve found that you’re working yourself to the bone at home, here are some thoughts and advice on why you may be doing it and what you can do to readjust your productivity for your mental health.

Why can’t we stop working?

Finding a good school-work-life balance during this time can be tough. Many students, like myself, are fortunate enough to have a roof over their head, friends to “Netflix Party” with in the evenings, and a family that’s happy to have them home while doing their best to accommodate their needs. Nevertheless, it’s been difficult to adjust for most.

When I’m in class, clocked in for an online shift, or doing homework, every moment of focus feels imperative. I’ve been feeling the need to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every little distraction—whether it’s a parent telling me it’s time for dinner mid-essay, a pet begging for my attention before an exam, or a chore I’m weeks (or years) behind on calling my name—feels like a tiny bit of evil that’s out to ruin my productivity spree. Without total peace, quiet, and focus, it feels like I can’t be quite who I was before COVID-19, and I have to meet every standard I was meeting before from home. Many other students are likely feeling this odd sense of dissociation surrounding their education. So what can we do about it?

Related: Stuck in a Rut During COVID–19: A Student's Perspective 

What needs to change

I’ve come to realize that doing everything to precisely the same standard isn’t the point. This life we’re currently living is not at the same standard to which we’re used to. It’s important to have something productive to pass the time in isolation, sure. A lot of us need to be doing something to survive this with our sanity intact, and it’s no one’s job to judge how people are coping. So yes, it’s good that we’re continuing our studies, perhaps still earning paychecks from our jobs, and virtually meeting with our organizations to determine what’s next. It’s valuable to keep our minds fresh and on task. But it’s equally important to learn to accept what has happened and to find time for the new people and new demands that come from this lifestyle.

Learning to shift your lifestyle

The discomfort this change brings can be a source of learning and growth rather than pure frustration. There’s certainly a learning curve when it comes to being at home and learning online, but we can’t (and shouldn’t) underestimate the value of being near our families and the extra time we have to spend with them. While there’s a feeling of having lost some independence and a good deal of the college experience we were promised, I’m trying to look on the bright side—I now have the time to stop working and read a few pages of a book if I want. I have parents who interrupt me but who also remind me to eat when I’m too ingrained in my busy online life. I even have vaguely better cooking and cleaning habits than I did before because I’ve started to allow myself to step away and do those things when my work is too much.

Related: COVID–19: How to Stay Productive 

Finding value in the experience

These things aren’t merely distractions getting in the way of productivity; our so-called productivity is getting in the way of these things we should be grateful for. Plan your days better to account for the things you need to do that you don’t necessarily want to or that someone else wants or needs you to do. It may be time for us to accept, as I have, that life no longer revolves around you now that you’re home from college, and perhaps it never should have.

College has a way of making you feel as though everything you’re doing is more important than anything else. It’s our time to find ourselves—to focus on our education and our future. But maybe this time away, although unexpected and out of our hands, will allow us to take a step back and understand how much of a role our relationships with others play in our ability to find ourselves and define our futures.

Related: College in a Post–COVID–19 World: Counselor Q&A 

I understand that I’m writing this from a place of privilege, and not everyone’s home life is conducive to positive distractions. I’m grateful to have what I do, and I’m grateful to the people who go to work every day to ensure that my problems and those of others don’t get any bigger than they already are. But my hope is these reflections, despite being from my own experiences, can help you change your perspective on conducting your current home life. There’s no set to-do list to show you how to navigate a situation we’ve never been in before. Do what works best for you; just don’t forget to find gratitude or glimpses of hope in the distractions that are asking for your attention in this new life.

Visit our COVID-19 resources page or our YouTube channel to find more student perspectives and advice as we wait out the pandemic!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

coronavirus COVID-19 learning from home new routine online learning student life

About Anna Mayzenberg

Anna Mayzenberg is a sophomore Management Information Systems major at the University of Houston who has a passion for words, whether in the form of writing, reading, or just talking nonstop.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Priscilla Yeboah

Priscilla Yeboah


Throughout my search for colleges I was afraid and timid, but I finally found the college that was fit for me, and luckily, I got accepted. One of the most influential things that’s helped me a lot was the articles and advice on CollegeXpress. It’s helped me a lot and benefited me as a senior to make the right choices in life. Thank you!

Jeff Parsons

Jeff Parsons


Thank you so much for this valuable information about these opportunities. I truly appreciate the CollegeXpress communications and use them to keep my high school seniors informed about their opportunities!

Samantha Fils-Aime

Samantha Fils-Aime

High School Class of 2019

I love that CollegeXpress has helped me find some scholarships to apply for but also helped me succeed in school with lots of tips. I also really like how they consistently email me about webinars that teach me a lot of things from the comfort of my home!

Carlie Cadet

Carlie Cadet

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me learn about an abundance of scholarships available to me and my situation. I was able to do research for colleges in my best interest with your website. I've had multiple colleges email me and offer me multiple scholarships and things of that nature because of this website! Thank you so much for uploading scholarships I didn’t even know existed, even if my life took a huge turn and I wasn’t able to go to college straight out of high school. CollegeXpress helped me a lot in high school to be even more motivated to get into my dream college (which I did, by the way). I'm looking forward to using the materials CollegeXpress has kindly provided me for free to look for scholarships to help pay for college.

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

Towards the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and I needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. . . . CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

College Matches