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Four ways to separate your education and personal life in an online environment

Student studying at table with computer and papers

The switch to online learning has brought new challenges to all of us. As a student myself, I know firsthand how tough it can be to stay organized in this new setting. I’ve brought together some of the tips that I have found most helpful when working in an online environment, and I hope they can help you too.

1. When going to school online, use a planner

Online classes can be tough. Just like in-person classes, the work can pile up if you’re not careful. One of the best ways to deal with this is to use a planner. Whether it’s an online planner or old-fashioned pen and paper, a planner can help you stay organized and on top of your assignments.

Now you may be wondering: How does this help me separate my personal and educational life? The best thing about a planner is that it allows you to figure out how much time you need to spend on your education. Say, for example, you have three assignments to do. When using a planner, you can allocate specific time slots to each assignment, so you know exactly how much time you have to spend on your schoolwork—and how much time you have to yourself. Then, you can use your remaining time to truly relax and recharge, knowing that you aren’t forgetting to do anything because you have it all written out in your planner.

2. Set up a separate work space

This may seem obvious, but one of the most important things you can do to separate your educational and personal life in an online environment is to actually physically separate your educational and personal spaces.

Now, not everyone will have an extra room that they can set aside for this, but even if you just designate one section of your room to online learning, it can make a huge impact. This helps make you feel the difference between online learning time and personal time. It works the same way as if you were to walk home from the campus library. By changing these spaces, it subconsciously changes the mindset that you are in. You associate the library with schoolwork, and your home with personal time, which makes it easier for you to separate the two. While this may be harder to do in quarantine, it is still possible.

The first thing you want to do is move all of your school supplies to your designated school space. This means your laptop, backpack, notebooks, pencils—everything. Once you do that, you should set it up in a way that is comfortable for you. Try to keep everything organized and tidy. Next up, you want to eliminate any distractions you might have in that space. This is all about making your school space as separate from the rest of your home as possible. This slight change in environment can lead to more focus and a clear mind while both working and relaxing.

3. Eliminate your distractions

Before you figure out when exactly you want to take your breaks, it is important to first eliminate all of your distractions. The reason for this is because you want to stay on task as much as possible when you aren’t taking a break. That way, when you finally decide to take a break, you won’t have to worry about not finishing all of your work, which leads to more personal time. You can watch some TV, take your pet for a walk, eat a snack—really, just do whatever you think could help clear your mind and get you ready for your next assignment/class/lecture/etc.

4. Don’t forget to take a break from the screen!

Who doesn’t love a good study break? In today’s hyper-connected environment, it is especially important to put away our laptops and focus on ourselves. This is even more crucial in an online class when learning at home. If we forget to take regular breaks, especially from social media, it sometimes becomes hard to concentrate and impossible to separate our school life from our non-school life.

You got this!

Whatever online classes throw at you, just remember that these three tips can help you keep your educational and personal life separate. It’s all about keeping a clear head and staying on task, while remembering that breaks and personal time are important. Take it one day at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have aced your online classes while still keeping a clear head.

Blake Sedbrook is an undergraduate intern in the Office of Marketing & Recruitment at Mennonite College of Nursing. He studies media at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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