By: Chabe Acosta, Program Manager of Give Back, New York

Times are complicated. You are stressed by deadlines, and there’s so much happening. Living through this pandemic, your days may lack structure and your academic performance and mental health are affected. We’d like to help you create structure within the uncertainty that surrounds us. We want to encourage you to have an idea of how each of your days will look like. Don’t worry we won’t tell you how to spend each hour. Our goal is to help you find a way to make life work and maybe even achieve new routine that can guide you through this difficult time.

The first step is to stay organized.  Develop a personal schedule that accounts for how each day will look. Keep tabs of your virtual class times and deadlines. Having an organized workspace keeps you focused and allows you to work effectively (see my desk below for reference). Creating a routine is also a great time-management exercise. You will know how much time you need each day to work on your assignments, and learn how to use your free time wisely.

Take into consideration that a rough start to virtual learning does not mean you’re doomed for the rest of the academic year. Don’t be discouraged by a bad grade, or experience with a teacher. Try your best to improve any areas you feel you’re lacking in and do not give up. Be proactive! Review your online assignments regularly and seek online tutoring resources such as Khan Academy for topics you’re iffy about.  If you do not understand your teacher’s communication style, ask for clarification or get in touch with a peer. Don’t forget that reading a little each day goes a long way. Look at your classes’ assigned readings and try to read each day. You’ll be more prepared to tackle those writing assignments. You can even start or join a reading club if you need that extra encouragement from a peer.

Let’s take a step back from school. While you’re thinking about how to create a routine for each day, plan ahead. Set a medium-term goal or two for the next couple of weeks. Maybe you do that one thing you’ve been putting off such as organizing your closet or starting to work out. You may even decide to learn a new skill on your own. How about the basics of a foreign language or how to play an instrument? You can do some research and watch online tutorials. Just make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T (or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based). Also, use your time in quarantine to catch up with your family and friends. Learn about their social distancing plans or what they’re working on. Check-in on how they’re doing and be mindful. You can have a virtual game night during the week or help a family member with a pending chore.

Take some time to relax and unwind. Text a friend, play videogames, watch movies or listen to music. But, do not let these activities affect your sleep pattern or take up most of your time during the day. It may be fun to scroll through Instagram, Snapchat or Tik Tok at all hours of the night, but you’ll regret it the next morning. Start each feeling rested and ready to conquer everything thanks to continual good nights of sleep. Keep in mind that none of us knows how the next couple of weeks are going to pan out or the best way to get through this. Remember that the best structure to manage everything is the one that works for you. In times of uncertainty, your structure and routine can ground you.