Working toward a graduate degree is tough. Starting your degree with remote learning during a pandemic is even tougher. Here in the publishing program, all our classes for the 2020–2021 school year were remote. We’ve all heard tricks to keep ourselves sane and healthy during quarantine, but I’ll be honest—I didn’t follow as many as I should have. While you should definitely not be like me and be sure to stretch and exercise (whoops), I do have some tricks that made working remotely more bearable.
Make Hydration Exciting
Drinking enough water always comes up. But drinking plain water and filling up your water glass again and again starts to feel pointless, and I found myself reaching toward sugary drinks more than I should have. To combat this, I tried making my water exciting. My absolute favorite was Twinings’ new Cold Infuse water flavors—tea bags you drop into your glass of water and stir. I can’t say enough how much I loved these during quarantine. Having these during a long stretch of Zoom classes was a game-changer for me.
Use Two Screens
I was lucky to have been given a used computer just before my first term, so I had two computers running all the time. It was so helpful to have a document open in two places while in Zoom classes and when working on homework. During meetings, it was wonderful to have a separate place to work on a document or take notes without having to cram Zoom into a corner of my screen. Having more than one screen gave me more room than my tiny laptop screen and cut down on the frustration of switching between windows all the time.
Organize Your Windows
Another strategy I used was having different windows for different classes or tasks. I’m one of those people who has a million tabs open all the time, so organizing individual windows made juggling my remote classes and research much easier. I’d have all the emails I’m responsible for open in a row so that each time I sat down, I could quickly click through and see which had updated. I used the same technique with my online learning portals and Google Drives. I also kept all my personal tabs on my secondary screen so I could minimize them all at once when I needed to focus. Google Chrome remembers groups of tabs you closed and gives you the option to group tabs into color-coded groups, which is great when your computer goes dead during a blackout or a sudden computer update.
Minimize Your Screen Time
One major problem with remote learning is how much time you spend in front of a screen. Not only are you on Zoom for class and doing your homework digitally, but once you’re done, all you want to do is turn over in bed and start scrolling through your phone. It quickly became apparent that I needed to prioritize saving my eyes and brain from too much blue light. I tried to get print materials for class whenever possible, and when I needed a break, I limited apps on my phone to stop myself from the comfort of low-stakes scrolling. Reading a print book for fun is an easy way to stay off screens, but if my brain was too frazzled, I turned to crafts or cleaning. In particular, I liked to embroider while listening to podcasts when my eyes told me it was time to quit. As the year went on, I got better at organizing my time and giving up fun digital things (ebooks, games, videos) when I knew I had been at a screen too much that day.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Though it’s tough to do, it’s important to be gentle with yourself during quarantine. I had to give up being frustrated with myself and focus on finding ways to work with what I was dealing with in the moment. I had to learn to be okay with switching up how I was setting reminders for myself, from using calendar reminders to using post-its as my needs changed. You can’t replicate your normal workflow when you’re inside all the time, so you need one that works for you now.
Though quarantine is coming to an end, I’ll continue using these tricks going forward in my professional life. I hope they will inspire you too!