How to Stay Productive at Home During Finals

While I’ve never taken online classes before at Princeton, this isn’t the first time where I’ve had to complete my semester at home. Last spring, I went home right after classes ended since all my final assignments were to be submitted online. Despite that working at home should have given me more time with fewer distractions, more often than not I found it incredibly difficult to focus on finishing the semester. With social-distance learning, I’ve been reflecting more on the problems I encountered last spring, and thought I’d share a few tips to help you stay focused during finals period, whether you’re working on those papers or studying for final exams!

It’s important to find your own study space at home.

Create your own study space. The biggest problem I found with working at home was finding a space conducive to studying. Whereas on campus I would go to the library, residential college common room, Frist Campus Center, or even a nearby café to study, at home I don’t necessarily have a designated study space where I can force myself to focus. Setting aside different spaces for studying vs. relaxation can help you prevent procrastinating and avoid distractions at home. I realized that I felt far too comfortable in my bedroom to properly concentrate on my studies, and found myself to be more productive in the living room or even the dining room. 

Stay organized with a set schedule. Social-distance learning is heavily reliant on time management and self discipline. It’s easy to skip video lectures, to neglect your readings, and to become generally detached from your studies. Making specific goals for each day and settling into a set routine can be incredibly helpful in getting through finals period without dealing with a pileup of work towards the end. Focusing on completing specific sections of your paper, for instance, can be far more helpful than vaguely hoping you can finish the assignment by the end of the day. 

Keep in contact with your professors and preceptors. While social-distance learning undoubtedly limits the amount of interaction students can have with faculty, communication is vital. Whether you’re seeking help on p-sets or discussing paper ideas, going to office hours online through Zoom and talking with your professors and preceptors will help you  stay on track until the end of the semester. If you’re having difficulty completing work at home, be proactive about requesting extensions and seeking support from faculty. 

Don’t forget about online academic resources. The on-campus resources are still there, just in an online platform; for instance, you can still sign up for Zoom appointments with the McGraw Center and the Writing Center. The Writing Center also hosts regular Virtual Writing Labs, where students can write with peers and seek advice from Writing Fellows on their assignments. You can also sign up for Writing Partnerships and take advantage of weekly meetings with Fellows to stay on top of your writing assignments. 

Consider organizing group study sessions on Zoom. If you enjoy studying with friends, having a group study session can help you recreate an on-campus study environment and stay motivated during finals period. Even if you’re working silently with your friends, these sessions may help you feel less lonely and even give you a chance to socialize and catch up like old times. 

While it’s certainly difficult to stay motivated in these times, it’s important to remember that we still have a semester to finish. More than anything, know that your mental health is a priority and that it’s okay not to be productive every single day. Hopefully these tips are helpful in successfully completing the semester!

–Soo Young Yun, Humanities Correspondent