Staying productive during shelter-in-place

How to maintain a schedule without structure


Maddie Schutte

While being stuck in your house all day and trying to manage distance learning as best you can, it can be challenging to keep your days structured and productive. 

Having a schedule is one of the best ways to ease anxieties, especially when it feels like our world is falling apart. One in three teens ages 13-18 struggle with an anxiety disorder, and the number of teens suffering from anxiety is steadily increasing, according to American Academy of Pediatrics. An article from Head Space states that those who stick to a routine can experience the benefits of relieving mental illness including bipolar disorder, ADHD and insomnia. For those who crave order, here are some of the best tips to keep yourself on track during this unfamiliar time.

The first step to creating a schedule that works for you is deciding when and how you want to start your day. Getting up at the same time each day will allow you to know how much time you have to finish your assignments, and how much time you will have left to relax. I recommend starting your days at 9 a.m. It’s enough time to get a good amount of sleep while still using your morning to be productive. 

Another habit I’ve found to be beneficial is making my bed each morning and keeping my room clean. It’s a simple task that makes such a difference in your productivity. Being housebound is uncomfortable enough, and being surrounded by messes will make your days feel more uncomfortable. Making my bed each morning and cleaning up my messes signals the start of a new day, and makes me feel productive knowing I’ve already accomplished my first task right away. When I finish my work for the day, I can come back to a nice clean room that feels extra cozy.

On top of being housebound, we also have to navigate through the company of our families or guardians. It’s vital to find a spot in your house where you know you can be productive and won’t be bothered by someone else. For me, it’s the end spot at our kitchen table. My sisters do their work in their bedrooms, so I have the table to myself. Though a kitchen table chair might not be the most cozy spot, sometimes coziness can be your worst enemy. When I do homework on my bed, I’m so much more inclined to take breaks to just lay down or go on my phone. Places like your desk, a dining room table or maybe even your living room will be your best friend during distant learning. Leave your bedroom for the relaxing and sleeping parts of your day. 

Rather than planning my whole week out, I’ve found it the most helpful to take it day by day. Each morning, I write out my to-do list for that day only. Although it’s tempting, planning out your whole week in one sitting will make you feel overwhelmed and make your responsibilities feel impossible. Just taking it day by day will make your workload seem a lot more gentle and manageable. 

As you work through your to-do list for the day, figure out which assignments will be the most challenging or will take the most time. Get them out of the way first so you’re not scrambling at the last second. Finish your day off with the easier assignments, and if you have assigned reading in your english class, do that last. Work your way down to the easiest assignment you have so you can transition into your relaxation for the rest of the night.

Although the news is scary and overwhelming, teens are finally receiving relaxation and free time, and we should take advantage of this opportunity for self care. Staying productive during the day is essential to be able to relax at night and catch up on the sleep we’ve been prioritizing last. This exact schedule may not work for you, but these are some of the most important ways to keep yourself on track or however you want to adapt them to your own life.