by Rebekah Baughman
Student at Emporia State University
Online education has given us the amazing ability to continue to attend classes even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While transitioning from in-person classes to online learning has its obstacles, it is a necessity. Online learning can be great because it allows us to stay connected, but it also means we can get a little too connected sometimes. Without going to another physical location to participate in classes, the lines between work and personal time can become unclear. Weekends and time off can become additional school hours if we are not careful to set boundaries between time for work and time for rest.
Establishing boundaries between school and personal time can get complicated if professors encroach on these times for schoolwork assignments and due dates. For example, if a professor assigns something on Friday, but it is due by Saturday or Sunday, you are forced to complete homework almost overnight–the kind of timeframe that would have scarcely been possible before online homework submission was the norm. Alternatively, professors might assign homework on the weekend, requiring students to continually check their student emails. This seems a bit overkill but it happens. And it happens that much more often when we’re all learning online.
Homework assignment isn’t the only time school-life boundaries can start to become unclear. As students, we can also add to the problem. When we don’t use our time properly during the week, that can force us to do homework on the weekend, too.
So what can we do to avoid having a seven-day school week? We can establish boundaries. Here are three tips on how to establish boundaries in remote education.
Communicate your concerns with your professors
If you have a professor who has started to extend their expectations of you beyond the normal school week, talk to them. Maybe they’ve started to add assignments on the weekends that you are expected to finish by Monday, or maybe assignments are added in the evenings that are due by the next day.
Talk to your professor about why it is important for you to have some time for rest, and that homework assigned outside of class time is not contributing to a proper work-life balance. If your professor continues to do these things and is not receptive to your concerns, it may be time to talk to someone above them, like a department chair, your ombudsman, or even the dean of students. These are people in your college or university who are there to help you navigate issues like this.
Do your best to establish a work-life balance
You also have work to do yourself. To establish a work-life balance, start by designating time to spend working and time to spend for yourself. This manifests itself most recognizably in establishing set hours for work. Let’s say you have classes from 9 AM to 2 PM, and then you will spend 2-5 PM studying and doing the homework from those classes. Of course, you should make sure to enjoy breakfast before heading off to class at 9 and have lunch between classes. After studying until 5, you can have dinner. The rest of the night is then set aside for anything else you need or want to do. This may include reading a book, taking a shower, doing dishes, etc.
On the weekend, you might set time aside for homework and any chores or errands you have. After those are completed you can spend the rest of the time relaxing, watching a movie, attending a religious service, or any other form of self-care you find useful to rest and prepare yourself for the week ahead.
When you do not set times for rest and work, it can get hard to differentiate the time between the two. No one wants to spend all their time checking their email or classroom notifications for surprise assignments.
Designating a space for classes
Save time and develop productive study habits by dedicating a specific location for classes and school work. Having a station ready ahead of time will help you to save time when getting ready for class and put you in the mindset to study. This area can be any space with a tabletop, chair, and some sort of lighting, whether that comes from a window or a lamp. Place supplies you will need such as pencils, erasers, and notebooks in that space, along with your laptop or computer. It may also be helpful to store a student planner in this area to help keep all your class times and due dates organized.
Voilà! You now have a designated space for class. As you get in the habit of studying in your new space, your mind and body will naturally be ready to study when you place yourself in that space. Try and keep this space tidy as you use it so that you can go to it each class without any distracting clutter.
The Hopeful Takeaway
I hope these tips will help you to finish the semester strong and to start on a high note in the spring. Remember that this is a very hard time for us all, and it is important to take care of yourself! If you have overwhelming feelings that are not going away, please reach out to a mental health professional. You are enough!
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