As an online student at the University of Washington, I take just two courses each quarter over the course of three years. At the beginning of this quarter, I was excited to take Public Libraries and Advocacy and Beginning Web Development, but now that I’m working from home, that excitement is hard to be find.
Before my Winter quarter started, I spent more money than I should have to update furniture that would help separate my school area and my living areas. Now, my school area has been overtaken by a 3D printer, a laminator, and a Cricut as my library works to help the Wyoming Technology Coronavirus Coalition print personal protective equipment for our medical providers. My new school area is the other side of my sofa, supplemented by TV tray tables acting as desks that fail every aspect of an ergonomic environment. So, where does concentration come in? Every spin of the filament spool on the machine causes my attention to drift. Did it just snag? Is it even extruding? Did I just miss the last minute of my online lecture? What paragraph was I on? This constant interrupter has caused me to rethink the layout of my apartment and redefine “productivity” as it relates to school and work, while also looking at ways to increase concentration.
I’ve very thankful that working from home means I can make my own schedule for the most part. After my attempt at keeping my regular morning routine, I “clock in” for just two hours before completely switching tasks to schoolwork. After an hour or two, back to work. The nature of 3D printing means my work hours tend to be spread throughout the entire week, as I try to have the printer idling as little as possible. By blocking hours of my time throughout the day, I’m able to have some control in this new routine as I try to maintain as healthy a work/life balance as possible. These smaller blocks of time are great in planning out which tasks can be completed throughout the day.
As I mentioned up above, areas in my apartment serve very distinct purposes. My work laptop stays in that portion of the room, while my personal laptop stays near an outlet by the school side of my sofa so that it can run Folding@Home when I’m not using it. Neither laptop ever enters my bedroom, and I’m even doing a great job of only using my phone to connect with family and friends. By physically separating technology, their respective tasks can be mentally separated as well.
The final way I maintain focus is to let myself binge Netflix and my other timewasters all at once. By saving this reward for a set time, I have something to work towards, and the satisfaction of knowing the day is over when I turn on the TV is amazing.
These may not be helpful to anyone but me, but they’re at least ideas if you’re also experiencing focus issues while we do our best to shift our lives. In the time it took to write this, I lost focus at least twenty times, but as Sarah put it in her article, “it’s ok to not be at the top of your game the entire time.” What issues are you encountering as the final weeks of the school year approach?
Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.