Tips to stay focused during Non-Traditional Instruction

For the first three weeks of JCPS students’ absence from school due to COVID-19, there was little to no pressure for students to do schoolwork. But with the beginning of Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI), teachers are assigning tasks that force students to snap out of their “coronacation” mindset.

Staying focused during this trying time is important to maintaining your morale and will ultimately help you take advantage of the NTI days rather than let them take advantage of you.

The Apple “Screen Time” function is a helpful way to monitor and keep track of phone usage. Photo by Mandala Gupta VerWiebe

Restrict your phone time

It’s easy to get lost in a spiral of social media, Netflix and games when you have nothing and no one to stop you. The draw of endless scrolling and streaming can almost be impossible to overcome. However, there are many ways to make it just a little bit easier to put down your device and shift your attention to something more productive or time-sensitive. For Apple users, the “Screentime” section of your settings can be a great tool for monitoring your usage, setting downtimes, and setting time limits on specific apps. For others, there are many apps that can do similar things, such as Flora or Moment.

Have a designated workspace

While working from home, you may feel tempted to get comfy, relax and lay in bed while you do your work. However, it’s much easier to focus and work if you relocate to somewhere that helps you get in a productive mindset, such as a table or a desk. This doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. Find a place where you can sit for as long as you need to without having to get up because your back hurts. It’s also important to keep this workspace relatively clear to limit distractions. You should also keep your workspace well-lit, whether it’s with natural light or your favorite lamp. It will keep you alert and it can also help signify that this space is meant for work, not like your comfy, dimly lit bed.

A clean, clear desk space with plenty of natural light can help you avoid distractions and focus on your work. Photo by Jacob Hamm.
A daily routine can assist students with keeping up with their work and also guarantees that important things, like taking breaks and eating meals, happen. Photo by Mandala Gupta VerWiebe.

Have a routine

Setting a simple or loose schedule for when you will work and when you will relax is great for getting your mind focused when you need it to be. You don’t have to plan out each and every minute of your day, but designating specific times for when and for how long you are going to work can help you push through and make your downtime feel earned. It’s also important to have set times for eating meals such as breakfast and lunch when a defined school schedule doesn’t exist to supply those for you. 

Organize your tasks

Without the restrictions of the Red/White Block schedule, all teacher assignments may come at once, with one large due date of Friday for the weekly work, which could be up to eight classes that students have to keep track of. Even though a majority of your assignments may be on Google Classroom, creating a separate list of all of your classes and what you’re expected to do in each of them can help you condense your tasks in one place. This can also help you delegate certain tasks for certain days of the week so that you’re not rushing to finish all of your assignments Friday morning. To-do lists may not be your thing, but they are an easy way to write down all of your goals for one day. Agendas and planners are great options for staying organized. For those who’d prefer a digital tool, there’s Trello, which allows students to create multiple “boards” with lists and tasks located on them. The tasks can be personalized with due dates and multiple checklists within them, so there’s less to remember, as it’s all written down in one place.