A Quarantine Reflection on Motivation

By Albert Lou

My desk is strewn with various scraps of paper and bookmarked textbooks. Remnants of the meals I’ve had in my room stain the wooden table. These are the battle scars of a student tormented by the seemingly infinite freedom to navigate the entire world from a single digital screen. We’re all nearly a month into a fully virtualized educational environment and I’m certain the weight of the total indoor isolation been a burden on more than myself. I remember promising myself I’d be able to write a lot more given the time alone in the comfort of my home, but as of January 27th, 2020, my last article on TBAW was exactly 8 months and 5 days ago.

8 months is quite a lot of time to come up with ideas, I’ve certainly had many. But to sit down and write was a whole other challenge in and of itself. 8 months is also quite a lot of time to reflect. By way of this article, I’ve summarized five key lessons I’ve attempted to garner from my time in quarantine in relation to academic motivation and that I believe can hopefully resonate with others.

1. Frequent Reminders of Why I Care

Although my environment has changed drastically, the reasons for which I attend school and therefore the reasons I care about what I learn have not. The motivation to be studious and perform well in class still lies beneath each absence of stimulus. The fruitfulness of my education does not come from the quality it inherently has, especially in consideration of the pandemic, but rather, my own willingness to make the best of the situation. If not to seek high grades and recognition, I’ve spent a lot of time during quarantine attempting to make use of mental motivators. To feel proud, in control, and relieved are the fruits of labour and incentives to value my education despite the complex circumstances.

2. Small Daily Goals

Now more than ever, I’ve recognized the importance of keeping a simple schedule for daily or weekly activities and goals. A small whiteboard or sticky note a day has been imperative to productivity. Without it, assignments for classes fly over my head until I’m reminded I’m approaching the deadline and topics that I required extra preparation for are left untreated. Not only is it immensely satisfying to cross off all the clauses on a list, keeping such a list, be it weekly or daily, has been one of the most efficient ways to organize my near-future schedule. 

3. Breaks are important

Given all that I’ve said, it’s been crucial for me to recognize that there is certain value in taking breaks in regulated amounts, perhaps even more than I would have before the pandemic. Although we’d all like to think we’ve been successful at maintaining our mental health during our isolation, it’d be unreasonable to state we have yet to experience any of the mental health symptoms of managing a high school student’s academic pallet amidst the fully virtualized environment. The cruciality of the following phrase cannot be overlooked.

Go. Outside. Every. Day.

The value of taking a break to perform any sort of activity I enjoy that does not involve my screen has been exceptionally helpful. I’ve been told my jumpshot looks like Patrick Star yet that doesn’t stop me from getting some daily exercise whenever an outdoor court is available.

4. Setting Time Triggers

This has been by far the most difficult challenge for me during quarantine: time management. As children, we all looked forward to the day when we’d be given total freedom of thought and action. Now, as I’ve been taken one step closer to that aspiration, I’ve begun to question whether or not it was wise to wish for such an opportunity. Freedom of thought and action does not offer additional time during the day, and too much freedom often leads to restricted time. Time triggers for when and for how long I dedicate my time has been a recent tool I’ve attempted to employ to construct of a productive schedule despite the seemingly unlimited freedom offered throughout the day. 

Wake up at 7:30 AM

Attend school, 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM

Extracurricular meetings, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

School work, 6:00 PM – 7:00PM

Extracurricular work, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Anything Else of Necessity, 9:00 PM – Bed

By setting time triggers, I have the opportunity to enter a state of autopilot, leaving room to take a break whenever necessary or available, yet recognizing that when work is necessary, there is a time to accomplish it. 

5. Stress Relief

Most important of all, I believe it’s important for me to take breath and release any guilt gained from being unproductive. Taking the start of each day as a fresh start to accomplishing established goals has been a refreshing approach to my daily activities. I look forward to each opportunity I have to interact with friends and the support that is offered by members of the school community. 

This article is not intended to demonstrate the ideal nature of my attempt at a quarantine lifestyle. In fact, it is far from it. Rather, I hope it has offered insight as to how we can approach finding motivation by whatever means suits us. I pledge to begin by tidying the hurricane that is my desk.