Online school has nothing on you. 

If a year ago you told me that I would spend the entirety of my sophomore year of college doing school completely online, I probably would have rolled my eyes and scoffed. In March of 2020, that changed, and here I am participating in my second semester online at home.

COVID-19 has taught us that the unthinkable can and does happen, and as students, we must adapt in ways both big and small. Due to the high number of cases in LA County, one of the ways in which we’ve had to adapt is participating in class through Zoom calls and discussion boards on Canvas.

Although many of us have already completed a whole semester of online school, the struggle to stay productive is real, especially if you live at home with multiple family members who also work and do school from home (like me). Here are a few tips to help you create a consistent workspace that will help boost your productivity.

First, designate a workspace for yourself. An allocated workspace is just what it sounds like: a room, table or area that you have assigned specifically to get work done. Of course, you can have more than one spot, but I recommend limiting this to only two or three spaces maximum.

“Where you relax and where you work should be two separate areas to help you create a mental boundary between ‘work’ and ‘play,’” writes Jessica Neddersen in an article. The more you stick to your designated workspaces, the more your brain will associate specific spots with school work and in turn, increase your productivity. 

I have two designated workspaces: the desk in my room and my family’s kitchen table. I attend class from my desk and also use this space to focus on assignments that require more brainpower. While the kitchen table I typically use for less demanding tasks, as this is often a more distracting environment. The only time I deviate from my desk or the kitchen table is when I’m reading and want a comfier option. In this case, I opt for the couch or a chair outside if the weather permits. 

Although I have a few different workspaces, a spot I avoid for accomplishing a task or doing homework is my bed. Your bed might be a comfy option, but it can blur the lines between work and sleep, causing you to take your work with you to bed.   

“If you’ve been working all day from your bed, you’re likely to continue thinking about work and have a hard time ‘turning it off’ once you slide under the covers for sleep,” Ashley Hubbard states in a medically reviewed article from Healthline.   

When it comes to figuring out where your workspace should be, consider the level of stimulation you work best with. Do you enjoy the dull roar of a coffee shop, or do you work best in silence? Do you find music helps or hinders your productivity? Do voices or movements distract you? Consider questions like these as you create your ideal workspace. 

Once you’ve figured out your workspace, the next step is keeping it clean. Your workspace will be effective when organized versus when filled with books, papers, empty water bottles and food wrappers. An orderly workspace helps save you time. 

Not only does clutter cause us to lose precious minutes, but it is also linked to higher levels of procrastination and stress. The need to clean your desk before sitting down to work can discourage you from ever getting started, and continuous clutter has been linked to higher levels of cortisol throughout the day.

Consider storage solutions like bookshelves, folders and binders to keep your physical documents in order. I also recommend getting rid of papers and books you no longer need and organizing the documents on your computer as well. Delete irrelevant files and create folders for each class, subject or project. 

Another way in which you can boost your productivity is by focusing on one task at a time. Though tempting to believe multitasking boosts productivity and saves time, Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University, says otherwise.

“The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking,” he stated in an interview with NPR. 

Next time you’re tempted to divide your attention between multiple tasks in hopes of saving time, remember that a job well done requires your full effort and attention.

I will leave you with one last tip: be honest with yourself about your needs. Although I love the idea of going to a local coffee shop every day and sipping on an oat milk vanilla latte whilst typing away on my computer, the truth is, I work best at home where distractions are minimal and sweatpants are acceptable. Figure out what works best for you and stick to it.