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Navigating Time Zone Issues

By Leehi Yona
Lead Learning Consultant & Peer Academic Coach
JD/PhD Candidate, Law/Environment & Resources

If you were to ask me how I anticipated my first quarter of law school going, I probably would not have expected midnight Zoom socials and taking classes via screen in my childhood home. Yet, here we are—welcome to Fall 2020!

In March, I abruptly left campus when the pandemic hit and campus shut down to stay with my family in Montreal, Canada as I continued my PhD studies. It was also March when I found out I was admitted to a joint JD at Stanford Law School, which put me in a bizarre position of being both a current as well as an incoming student in the midst of a global pandemic.

As a Peer Academic Coach, I’d met with many students over the course of Spring Quarter who found themselves in different time zones than their professors. Some were seniors required to take classes for their major that started at 6 a.m. local time, or that ended past midnight. Needless to say, it was challenging—but together we came up with solutions to help manage their varying time zones. And, as a law student on the East Coast, I’m also now in the same boat.

Here’s some advice on how to make the most of remote studying in a different time zone:

Find out when your best learning hours are. Do you notice that it’s easier to read, write, or focus in class at certain times of the day? Personally, my best hours are before noon—I wouldn’t say I’m a morning person, but I find that I have fewer distractions (emails, texts from friends, etc.) in the mornings. I’m also pretty productive in the evenings, but I’m Zoomed out by then, usually, so screen work is not great at that time. And I usually hit a slump in the afternoons where I’m really not that productive. Of course, every person is different— figure out when your best hours are, and plan to do schoolwork at those times. In my case, that might mean getting homework done in the mornings, because my earliest class starts at 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

If you have the choice, opt for classes that are conducive to your time zone. I know this might seem obvious, but now that you’re aware of your best learning hours, you can aim for classes that match them. You might not be the most alert in a class that starts at 9 a.m. Pacific if you’re currently at home in Hawaii. Similarly, you might be wiped out by a class that starts at 6 p.m. Pacific if you’re in Europe. I know that choosing your schedule might not always be possible—for example, my law school schedule is pre-selected for me, so I had no control over class times—but if you can choose, you might want to consider courses held at times that you’re most likely to be alert and engaged.

Use a planner. I cannot emphasize this enough! It’s the only way I can keep track of class times. I use a pen and paper planner as well as a Google Calendar, which has all my Zoom links and class times built in, so it’s easy and quick to log into class.

Pro tip: go to your Canvas calendar, and select the “Calendar Feed” option on the bottom right. It’ll give you a link that seamlessly integrates all your classes, Zoom links, and times—in your time zone!—into Google Cal, Outlook, and more. You can learn more about that here.

Don’t currently use a planner to manage your time? Schedule an appointment with an Academic Coach here, and we’ll walk you through how to rock it.

Make sure you have time for meals. I have back-to-back classes from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and at the beginning, I made the mistake of not eating anything before classes started (it’s right after lunch!) but then I was starving by the time classes ended. Have an apple or another handy snack on your desk to munch on in between classes if you have a few minutes, and eat ahead of time if you’ve got long stretches of class!

Know that these are weird times. This obviously wasn’t the way I planned to start law school, and I’m sure it isn’t the way you all anticipated starting college, senior year, or your time as a student in general. Be kind to yourself, and know that humans are adaptable and capable of adjusting to change more quickly than we think. And, the Center for Teaching and Learning is here to help—please reach out to us if you ever want to chat about navigating remote courses (or life!) this quarter.

Your Academic Coaches are here for you throughout the quarter. If you need help, schedule a Zoom session with us at academicskills.stanford.edu