Fourth quarter burnout: Students share tips on staying focused

Fourth quarter has just arrived and so have longer days, warmer weather, and the online schoolwork that has come about as a result of the coronavirus.
Many McNick students say that they find it more difficult to stay on top of school work as we move into the fourth quarter, and that issue is compounded by a newfound lack of motivation primarily driven by not having to come to school.
However, despite this, there are some tips that can help students to stay focused regardless of the circumstances.
Set down your phone
Sometimes, the best way to make sure you get work is to simply set some time to sit down and get everything done at once, but having a phone around can really complicate the matter. It can be easy to pick the phone up to check it intermittently because it’s a quick mental break, but you can find yourself drifting off task. Having a phone nearby can easily drag out the length of an assignment, and make it worse than it actually needs to be.
Luckily, the solution to the problem is fairly simple: put your phone somewhere you won’t think about it. Out of sight, out of mind. This can be applied to anything else that might be a distraction as well.
Take periodic breaks from work
While sometimes the best way to get work done is to push through it, when there is a lot of work it’s not always a good idea to work without ever stopping to give yourself a mental rest. Breaks can be off putting for some, because they can make it difficult to refocus, so one way to go about taking breaks is to plan out when you want to start working again. Once you know when you’ll be taking a break, that gives incentive to keep working until then.
“It gives you just a little bit of time to take away from all the business of life and do what you enjoy,” junior Jakob Tucker said.
Pick a workspace wisely
Although some people can seemingly work just about anywhere, that’s not the case for everyone, and it’s very important to find a place that works for you to get work done. This can be much easier said than done, especially for those who are now trying to avoid several other people in the house in order to minimize distractions. If you have a place that you’ve been doing work for a long time that you know works for you, it’s not a bad idea to stick with it. However, if you don’t know what place would be best, it’s usually a good idea to go somewhere that you can avoid distraction as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to find somewhere separate from the places you use to relax if you can, so that if you do take a break once in a while you have somewhere to get away to.
Set goals for yourself
Several students find that setting goals for themselves can be beneficial. Whether that be some kind of weekly academic goal, a goal for a specific class, or just to be exempt from exams at the end of the year, having something to strive for can keep students from feeling like they want to throw the towel in towards the end of the year. This is especially useful when doing schoolwork might seem a little pointless due to the lack of classroom settings.
If you pursue this route, try to make sure that your goal is something you feel like you can attain, because you don’t want to push yourself too hard and unintentionally end up feeling even more mentally drained.
“I find that setting expectations for myself and having an academic goal helps me to keep my motivation when it comes to finishing out the school year strong. By keeping myself held up to my expectations and thinking of the “reward” that will come out of my hard work, accomplishing the goal, I am able to push through whatever projects or homework assignments I may not want to do in the present,” freshman Carly Weidenbacher said.
Try music
For many, music can be a way to help stay focused on work, while making it feel a little more enjoyable. One student recommended a making a playlist specifically for homework. This piece of advice can be used and personalized depending on what kind of music a person likes, or what kind of homework they are doing. For example, at certain times it might be helpful to listen to instrumental music, but in other cases a student might want something else.
Try not to stress too much
It goes without saying that this one can be really difficult. There are always projects and due dates, and the looming threat of final exams, but now there’s extra stress about the health of loved ones, maintaining friendships, and taking care of mental health under unexpected and rather disappointing circumstances.


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