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Quarantine Management: Maintain the Motivation

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By Faith Harron
Undergraduate Learning Consultant
Class of 2021, Mechanical Engineering

Have you read our first blog post on quarantine management and created a beautiful plan? Maybe it sprawled, colorful and organized, over a page or two, or lit up your screen in wonderful, glorious order.

Wouldn’t it be great if life was like that and the plan just…worked? Everything in its place, knowing what you’re going to do next and accomplishing it, following the neon path the highlighters traced.

But this is hardly realistic at the best, most “ordinary” of times—and much harder nowadays, at least for me. That’s why this article focuses on tips for maintaining our motivation and following the plans we need to, while ensuring that we also give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and treat our failures with patience and grace.

Accomplishing What You Want

Create deadlines for yourself and plans with others for accountability

Sometimes, things need to get done, and waiting until the last minute to do them generates additional unneeded stress. Finding a friend that can be an “accountability buddy” and planning time to sit on Zoom or Facebook calls independently doing quiet work is very effective and mutually beneficial. Recreate the silent solidarity of library work.

Embrace uncertainty

I don’t know if my summer internship will happen. I don’t know if my senior year will take place in-person, or that I’ll get to staff in my residence the way I expected, or when I’ll be able to collect the belongings I left. There’s a lot I’m not sure of.

But there are things that I can control: I can create a daily and weekly plan. I can create things to look forward to. The human brain loves (and is motivated by) the idea of rewards.

De-emphasize the need to always be productive

It’s easy to feel the need to be doing something, especially with all the self-improvement tips floating around. But memes and advice that don't consider mental health and extenuating factors during this pandemic are often insensitive to reality, and even contain harmful messages that, once internalized, contribute to feelings of inadequacy—which only exacerbates negative thoughts and leads to decreased motivation.

Reframe thoughts

Stanford’s design school speaks of the importance of this a lot. What we’re looking for is what we’ll find. Looking at, and acknowledging something like a worry as simply there, and existing, rather than associating it with a negative emotion or self-reflection, is the way to go.

  • Example thought: I wasted so much time this afternoon.
  • Example reframing: It’s not time wasted if I enjoyed what I was doing.

Giving Yourself Time and Space

Be kind to yourself

Whether you’re working on tasks you’ve planned or not, encourage your internal critic/the voice in your head to talk kindly. Explain to yourself like you would to a friend. Self-criticism happens, but in excess, it can make us more unproductive.

Slowing down can give us the space to create and reflect

Considered a quarantine journal? Organizing your thoughts and free-form writing removes some of the judgment that we make towards ourselves and can improve our mood, leading to increased motivation later.

Schedule “completely free” time and do whatever strikes you then as delightful, useful, or fun

Saturday evenings, I deliberately leave the hours after dinner completely free. I’ve used this time to build forts of blankets with my siblings, taken a walk with my sister, watched a documentary while eating chips and salsa, and spent time snacking on popcorn while together watching some of my parents’ favorite films.

Computer fatigue is a thing

A paper calendar might be preferable to alleviate some of the eye strain occurring after one too many Zoom sessions or hours spent programming.

Manage your expectations

Sometimes I’m extremely motivated in the morning and I write down twenty-five things I’m going to do that day—only to reflect that evening on how little I’ve crossed off. It’s important to remember this is relative. I did finish tasks—they were necessary, they are done, and I can be proud of what I have created and completed, rather than beating myself up for not doing more.

Overall, staying motivated can be difficult, especially during a pandemic and with online classes. But sticking to a schedule by creating accountability and generating positivity can be beneficial to both mental health and successful academics.

We hope this empowers you to start planning in a way that makes sense to you and benefits your life in all facets.

Bonus tip: Your Academic Skills Coaches are here for you throughout the quarter. If you need help, reach out and schedule a Zoom session with us. We can chat about anything that's on your mind.