How to be Productive during Quarantine in College

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So, you are wondering how to be productive during quarantine in college?

It’s actually not that complicated of an answer, but given the circumstances I know how hard it is to keep functioning like normal. We are currently stuck in limbo. It isn’t possible to go out like normal because of the virus, but certain places of business are open. Some people are acting as if everything is fine, and others haven’t left their homes since March.

We don’t know how long we will be stuck in this zoom university phase, and because of that, it can be very hard to stay productive. In this guide, I’ll go over exactly what I am doing to help me stay productive in my college classes.

1. Waking up Early

The phrase “the early bird gets the worm,” couldn’t be more true. It is very important to try and train yourself as if you were still physically going to school. In a survey done by Amerisleep, they found that those who were early risers were more productive than the late risers.

Those who woke up at 4 am were highly productive 71% of the time and those who woke up at 11 am were highly productive 36% of the time. There is a clear correlation between productivity levels and the time people wake up.

If one does wake up later, there are fewer hours in the day to be able to work and be as productive as those who wake up earlier. In order to tap into this, it is recommended to wake up around 7 am. Even if you have evening Zoom classes, it is still best to wake up earlier to be able to do your homework, readings, and studying in the AM.

2. Get Dressed

I know, this sounds terrible. One of the benefits of online college classes is being able to stay in PJs all day. However, your clothing choice speaks to your mindset. If you are choosing to stay in your nice lazy day PJs while trying to do all of your classwork, you are more likely to have a lazy mindset. More casual clothing can lead to you feeling less alert, and therefore getting less done.

The clothing you wear allows you to adopt the mentality of it. If you choose to wear a suit, you will feel professional. Just like if you choose to wear athletic clothing, you will feel sporty. Choosing to wear pajamas, will make you feel sleepy. It’s weird how our brains work like that, but this is an easy fix to try and get yourself in the state of mind to be productive.

3. Make a Schedule

Schedules are very important in determining your productivity. In this time of online classes, we are lacking the structure and order we once had. By creating your own schedule, you can recreate this order and allow yourself to have that stability. This can vary from blocking out pieces of time for your classes and homework, to writing all of the tasks you want to get done in a day.

I highly recommend using Google Calendar. You can add recurring events like your classes, as well one time activities. I like to include all of my classes, the dates/times they are held, and when they started/ended for the quarter.

You can also see that on Monday the 12th, I have two assignments at the top. Once I received my syllabi for all of my classes, I entered in the important due dates for all homework, tests, and quizzes. In order to include yours like mine, I set these as all-day events, that do not repeat. It serves as a good reminder to see what I have coming up for the next weeks and to plan my daily activities accordingly.

For my daily activities, I like to keep them in a planner. I find it best to write down all of the assignments you need to get done on the night before you need to do them. Anything you did not complete that day, assignments you have to start, readings to do, etc. Depending on how you like to schedule your tasks, you can even benefit from going over them in your morning routine checklist.

4. Start Small

Sometimes even with having everything planned out, waking up early, and getting dressed, it can be hard to get the motivation to actually do your college assignments. I find it easy to start with small tasks first and build my way up to the bigger ones if I am feeling this way.

You have to set a productive mood sometimes. Small productive tasks like cleaning your desk, organizing drawers, or doing laundry can help get you started. It’s much easier to begin by doing these things, and building your way up to your dreadful assignments. It feels good to complete tasks. You will feel great about completing these small ones, and that positive mindset will lead you to productivity.

5. Create a Workspace

You need to create an area of your home designated for work. A desk, a dining room table, the living room, etc. Pretty much anywhere except your bed. Working in bed is not good for productivity and can lead to even more laziness than staying in your PJs all day. Having a set area for you to get all of your assignments done, will lead to being productive in quarantine.

Think about it. Something as simple as the clothes we wear can change our mindset. The same goes for the space we work in. If you work in your bed, you are going to be sleepy and lazy. However, you don’t need an office in order to have this area for productivity in your home. All you need is an organized space where you can have your notebooks, planner, laptop, and whatever other necessary supplies.

A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind, so another housekeeping thing would be to try and give yourself space where things are arranged in the best way possible.

6. Work Smarter, not Harder

Working smarter means not wasting your time. It is useless if you are studying for 5 hours a day for a class and not retaining anything. It is better to break up your studying with breaks and make that time spent valuable. Blocks of 1-2 hours are best to make sure you are getting the work done, and actually understanding the material.

If you have an exam coming up, you plan ahead of time to make sure you aren’t cramming material two days before. Schedule time to thoroughly study a lesson or two a day to really make sure you have a handle on it. Make sure to plan however many days in advance you need to be able to do this. However, this shouldn’t be too hard since you already know to create a schedule from your syllabi as mentioned earlier. 🙂

7. Reward yourself

Lastly, reward yourself for being productive! If you finished that super huge essay or just finished your 2-hour studying session, allow yourself time to do something you enjoy. Go for a walk, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, etc. Just make sure that you aren’t going to spend 4 hours rewarding yourself in comparison to 1 hour of work.

Balance is what is necessary to keep this sustainable. Excess time spent working on assignments or excess time spent on hobbies is not the path to staying productive in college. Make sure the time you are allowing yourself for breaks is proportional to the amount of time you are working. Small rewards like an episode of a show or 20 minutes on Twitter, will help you reboot and prepare you to continue your productivity. Self-care is a huge aspect of being productive. You can’t run on empty, so make sure to give yourself that time.

Recap of How to be Productive during Quarantine in College

To do so you must:

  • Wake up early
  • Get dressed
  • Make a schedule
  • Start small
  • Create a workspace
  • Work smarter, not harder
  • Reward yourself

Follow these tips and you will get back on track to being productive. It can be hard to get there but don’t get upset with yourself for not always being productive. It is a pandemic, you are allowed some slack.

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Celeste Lili is a student + lifestyle blogger and Content/SEO marketer. She loves to write blog posts that provide value to college and high school students about productivity and lifestyle.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook



  1. October 26, 2020 / 2:29 pm

    These are all great tips. I could certainly use some of these just for working from home. I think the key is to have a routine or a plan of what needs doing that day and sticking to it. I also found I was so much more productive when I started working at a desk.

  2. October 27, 2020 / 10:23 am

    Hey Celeste, I am surprised to see that I am practicing almost all of the tips you have suggested here! I make it a point to clean up my room every day before I start Zoom classes. And by clean, I mean I spent a good 10 to 15 minutes vacuuming my room haha!

    As for waking up early, I think it really depends on each person. Some people are more productive late at night, and they wake up later because they spent much of the night studying. It is probably more important to know when you are most productive and to make sure that you work your schedule around those periods.