Introduction: Visual Task-Based Planning and Other Strategies
That's right! You can become the perfect at-home productive machine in just 4 easy steps!
If only it were that easy... All jokes aside, this tutorial is aimed at offering advice from my personal experience with online school. Therefore, it may not be the best advice for everyone, so don't take it as a perfect solution. Also, I understand the formatting is not perfect, but I really liked the clear division of sections that came with writing them as steps.
As a student having recently transitioned to online schooling, I've found one of the biggest challenges is to feel productive throughout the day. Due to the constant presence of assignments, it can be tough to know when to feel okay about taking a break or working on non-school projects, or to have that feeling of accomplishment that comes with having no work left to do. Normally, the last class of the day or the completion of that night's homework brings this, but online classes just aren't like that (at least, not at my school). This guide seeks to explain how I have manged so far and to hopefully help others struggling with similar situations.
These supplies aren't exactly necessary, because this tutorial focuses more on the abstract ideas and philosophies, but here's what you would need to follow along exactly:
- Dry-erase/Chalk board
- Dry-erase markers/Chalk
- Mounting hardware/stand
Step 1: Location
When your home suddenly becomes your work place, the subconscious associations that are assigned to locations are important to get right. You probably want a place where you can be productive, a place to relax, and living space not associated with either. Here's some factors to consider when choosing locations:
- Distraction - If your workplace is full of things that are interesting/noticeable/easy to access, maybe choose somewhere else. (e.g. for me, my desk is covered in electronic components most of the time. I find almost all of them more interesting than my schoolwork. To the point where I just pick them up and stare at them for multiple minutes. Not a good place to work.)
- Change - It's no fun to spend all day in one place. If you're confined to your home like many at this time, the least you can do is move to different rooms throughout the day. I like to do different activities in different places, because it helps break up the day. If you're able to, it can be nice to work outside.
- Comfort/Convenience - Make sure you'll be comfortable where you choose to work, and that you have enough space and light for your task. Going back to a personal example, I would have a hard time typing and referencing a book on my aforementioned messy desk. There just isn't enough space. I often choose to work at our dining table, because it's kept clear.
Step 2: Planning/Goals
I've found that one of the best ways to stay motivated, productive, and proud of what I get done is to set up a list of tasks for each day/week. Not only does it help with organization and time management, it feels so good to complete a task and cross it off the list! For this reason, I chose to mount a large dry-erase board to my bedroom wall. Every morning, I take a look at my online classes and consider other projects and then write out a list of tasks for the day. I've found that grouping all of the tasks, despite being unrelated, onto the same list actually helps me because I know that's all I have to do, it's all right there, and I won't forget to look at another list. In my experience, having a physical list as opposed to digital is what works best, but I suppose some might want to have it saved online. Whatever you choose, I highly recommend that you leave all of the tasks, including crossed-out ones, until the end of the day when you can look back on everything you accomplished.
Setting Up a Task Board
- Choose a board
- Choose a location for the board, somewhere you see every day but won't be staring at while you're trying to work
- Write out major categories, like Work and Personal, across the top
- Write out subcategories vertically underneath, like Math and Science under School
- Add a place for each day's task list. In my example,
As you become aware of tasks you will need to complete at some point, write them down in their respective subcategory. If a date is associated with them, write that down too. Each morning, move the tasks for the day to a list underneath Today. Be sure to separate them out with bullet points or numbers. I also like to draw lines from them back to their subcategory to visualize where the most tasks are coming from. As you complete tasks throughout the day, cross them off of the list, but don't erase them! At the end of the day you can see what you accomplished and clear those tasks form the board.
Step 3: Physical Activity and Meals
These are some of the best ways to break up your day, and they also help reset your brain to be fresh and ready to work again. Exercise, especially, can be a way to even feel like you're getting something done without the mental workout of schoolwork and many jobs. I'm lucky enough to live in a rural area where I can go running without seeing a single person, and thus avoiding any health risks of our current situation, but there are many home workout tutorials available online. (Maybe on a site like, I don't know, Instructables?)
Meals can be a nice break, and since nearly everyone likes food, I think it's safe to say that a good meal is an enjoyable break from a workday. Try not to work while you eat, and try to only eat at mealtimes with the occasional snack. Boredom too often becomes hunger as we decide what's missing is food and not activity.
Step 4: Give Yourself a Break!
With working at home comes the implication that you could, in theory, spend all of your waking moments working, in the sense of a job or studies. Don't. It's not a real option. Make sure your days include leisure time, because this is a stressful situation we're all in now and it's okay to take some time to ignore it. Do something that you normally do at home that makes you happy!
Participated in the
Work From Home Speed Challenge