Even under normal circumstances, Penn State World Campus students are expert jugglers, balancing families and work with school. Now that so many schools and daycares are closed as a result of coronavirus, online students who are parents or grandparents are unexpectedly caring for and homeschooling children, leaving less time for their own studies.
We’ve compiled an assortment of tips and resources to help you stay productive while working remotely and completing your school work, especially if you also have kids at home.
Organization is Essential
This is the time to rely upon the productivity skills you already have—or develop new ones. Organization is a must. Review the syllabus and schedule for each of your courses, focusing on any important upcoming events like deadlines and exams. Then work backward, blocking off chunks of time on your calendar to devote to preparing for tests or completing assignments.
Take advantage of any organizational or scheduling tools and resources available to you. Remember, as a Penn State student, you already have access to the complete suite of Office 365 tools and apps. Some others you might use include:
- Trello: This is great for visual learners, as it lets you see all of your tasks and projects on a bulletin board–type of arrangement, and you can easily move things around as needed.
- Google Drive and Google Docs: Cloud-based tools are helpful if you will be completing tasks on the fly and using a variety of different devices or workspaces. This lets you access files from wherever you happen to be, and you don’t need to worry about losing your work, because everything gets saved as you go.
- Zapier: This tool streamlines many common tasks and processes by helping your go-to apps work together in automated sequences. It can boost your productivity immensely while saving you time and aggravation.
If you prefer old-school tools, a large desk calendar or printed planner will work, too. The key is to use tools that are comfortable for you.
Brush Up on Productivity Tactics
There are many strategies and tricks that can help you get more accomplished. We love these tips from Thrive Global on staying productive while working from home, as well as this advice from Google’s productivity expert, to help you avoid getting stressed and overwhelmed while working remotely.
Be sure to check out some of our past blog posts on this topic, including:
- 9 Tech Tips to Supercharge Your Productivity
- Time Management: Five Essentials for Online Learners
- Five Essential Steps to Help Students Master Time Management
Draw Upon Skills You Developed as an Online Student
As an experienced Penn State World Campus student, you have likely already developed habits and best practices for studying online. Share those strategies and lessons with children who may now need them for their own school work. You may have also learned effective ways to connect at a distance, and those skills can be useful in all aspects of your life while you shelter at home.
Time Management Tips
These conditions can be challenging even for those who excel at productivity and time management. Multitasking goes to a whole new level when you must work, study, maintain social/family connections, and teach your children, all without leaving home.
- Break your course work into smaller chunks so that you can fit it in between your responsibilities.
- Create a space for your children near your workspace so that you can be there for them while also doing your school work.
- Find your rhythm. Make a daily schedule that includes time for them and time for your studies. Think about what you must accomplish each day, identifying your top priorities or must-do tasks, and then develop your schedule and routine around those items. For example, if you have a quiz, schedule the time you will take it and plan to have the children listen to a podcast or watch a video. Productivity expert James Clear shares these tips about prioritizing tasks.
- Define your “non-negotiables,” and be willing to let other things go. Focus on the things you and your children must accomplish that day, and stick to them. Be willing to delay less essential items, or eliminate them from your schedule entirely.
What Can Kids Do While You Study?
One of your biggest challenges right now may be keeping kids occupied and entertained so you can concentrate on work or school. These positive learning activities can keep kids busy:
- Learning at Home initiative: engaging and educational content provided by Pennsylvania public television
- Wow in the World: NPR podcast that guides kids (and grown-ups) on a journey to explore fascinating things in the world around them
- Story Pirates: a podcast that celebrates the “words and ideas of kids”
- Virtual art museum tours: take virtual tours of museums around the world
- Other great virtual tours: a round-up of zoos, museums, and theme parks offering virtual tours, provided by Good Housekeeping
- Reading resources: reading tools and other resources from Scholastic
- Seussville: games, crafts, videos, and other activities from the home of Dr. Seuss
- National Geographic Kids: everything from science experiments to fun trivia
- Cosmic Kids Yoga: yoga and meditation routines for kids
Go Easy on Yourself
Many of us are trying to accomplish superhuman feats right now, tackling an overwhelming mix of responsibilities while also dealing with increased levels of anxiety. Nobody can do it all, especially during times of uncertainty when things are constantly changing and you must adjust quickly. Many experts are reminding us right now that if you are keeping yourself and everyone in your household safe, healthy, and fed, that’s enough of an accomplishment—and anything else is a bonus.
We know this is a stressful, challenging time, and we want to help. Be sure to explore the resources available to you as a Penn State World Campus student, including mental health services, library experts, and IT support.