I had actually done some writing from home prior to this pandemic, during times like winter break and spring break, and I never had any major issues. What made this “temporarily-permanent” transition so difficult were the distractions. Over school breaks, I didn’t have exams to study for, presentations to practice, projects to complete, or team meetings to attend. However, since the University of Tennessee shifted all coursework online in March, I had all of these academic expectations pressing at, what felt like, the same time. Juggling school and an internship, experiencing the feeling of missing out on all senior year activities, not having a structured schedule, and now sharing an office space with every member of my family caused a major decline in my motivation and productivity, simply because of how overwhelmed I felt. So, I had to do something.
I had to learn a lot about myself during this transition – this was my starting point. I had to figure out what motivated me, what distracted me, and what helped me stay positive. Where I found my motivation the most was where structure and reward existed. *Cue major realization.* I wrote down every daily task in my planner, small or large, and noted time deadlines. Each day, I would decide how many tasks I would have to check off before I was eligible for a “reward.” These rewards included, but definitely were not limited to, taking my dog for a walk, watching an episode of my favorite show, making a yummy snack, and laying out in the sunshine. The biggest thing I learned here was that if I wanted to be productive I had to have mind-easing breaks, and in order to stay motivated, these breaks were the result of getting a certain amount of work done.
I found that the buzz of daily life is what distracted me the most. Being at home, I felt like I should be tending to my dog, doing a load of laundry, cleaning the dishes, visiting with my family, catching up on social media, and so on. Therefore, in order to stay focused, I had to log off and tune out my surroundings for periods of time throughout the day. Instrumental music and noise-canceling headphones were my saviors here.
Staying positive was really just a single-player mind game I had to play until I figured out what really helped. Ultimately, putting everything into a “big picture” perspective, focusing on the fact that I can still communicate with friends and professors via video chat, and being intentional about not skipping out on the small things that I know bring me joy, were the three things that kept my chin up through all of it. I also learned that having a positive attitude makes a world of difference in productivity!
Looking back, I’m thankful for all that this transition has taught me. It not only taught me how to quickly adapt to new norms, but it also taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t know. I was forced to learn things about the way I learn and work that I never would have known, and now that I am more self-aware, I feel more prepared for my future career.