How to Stay Focused During Remote Learning


“First Day of School 2020 – Remote learning” by kfergos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Catherine Auerbach

We’re almost two weeks into November now and it feels as if some of the initial excitement of remote learning has started to wear off. Sitting in the same room everyday with the same schedule, the days can start to blend into each other, forming week-long blurs of Zoom classes and homework. This new educational environment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful and hard to navigate, and focusing on work when many classes feel exactly the same can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. There are many steps you can take to separate your school life from your personal life, even if they’re happening in the same physical space. 


  1. Wake up at least 30 minutes before your first class. 

Without needing to get dressed and commute to school, it can feel exceedingly tempting to sleep until 8:29, grab your computer, and log into your first period class at 8:30 with your camera turned off to prevent your classmates from seeing you half-asleep. While maximizing your hours of sleep is great, starting your day immediately with school can make it feel as if your whole day was consumed by your classes. Having some time to yourself in the morning to shower, play with your pets, or even just watch some TV can help you feel like school is just one part of your day, not its entirety. If you attend your classes in bed, try to get up after you wake up and stretch before getting back into bed for class — it can make a huge difference in your sleepiness levels. Waking up just a little earlier can help to start your day on a peaceful note, instead of one of immediate work stress. 


  1. Move around your workspace throughout the day. 

If we were still attending normal in-person school, students would move from classroom to classroom with each period. Now that we often sit in the same seat all day, just getting up to use the restroom or eat lunch, it’s easy to start to feel tired, bored, and unfocused by the time your afternoon classes come around. Something I do to help each class feel different from the next is move to different parts of my room. I might start at my desk for my first two periods, then sit on a beanbag for the next few, or even sit on the floor. Moving physically helps my brain to move from subject to subject like it normally would in school. 


  1. Get up during “brain breaks. 

WESS students have three scheduled six minute “brain breaks” between classes every day. Rather than scrolling through TikTok for the entirety of those six minutes, try to get up and do something. Get a glass of water, stretch, do some jumping jacks, eat a quick snack. Directing your focus to something other than school work for five minutes can help you to better focus in your next class and overall, improve your productivity throughout the day. 


  1. Schedule non-screen time into your day. 

Scheduling time away from your screen can drastically improve your mental health. Make sure to take a break between the end of the school day and when you start your homework — do an at-home exercise, practice an instrument, cook something new, or whatever makes you happy. Doing something creative and productive away from the screen is a great way to remind yourself that you’re not just a work machine, but a real person capable of doing awesome things. 

Here are some ways that other WESS students stay focused during remote learning: 


  • Nicholas Badagliacca recommends scheduling fun things to do so you can get your homework done earlier, saying he often makes plans to FaceTime friends around 10 so he has an incentive to get his work done before that.
  • Pia Sharma recommends turning your phone off or putting it in a separate room if it gets too distracting. She also suggests giving yourself small rewards, like a snack, between increments of doing work or studying. 
  • Ali Letchford recommends making a good breakfast to wake yourself up in the morning. Planning a delicious breakfast the night before can also motivate you to get up in the morning. 
  • Theo Forstadt suggests minimizing background noise in order to stay focused: don’t keep on the TV while you work, and try to work in a different room than a sibling or parent if possible. 
  • Kendall Messler says routine is crucial in staying up and motivated during a school day at home. Creating a routine of waking up, working out, showering and getting dressed has helped her to feel awake and focused during the school day. 
  • Pilar Gomes says sticking to a healthy eating schedule is key in maintaining good productivity. She says that if she can’t stay focused, it’s often because she hasn’t eaten in a while. She makes sure to have a bar or apple on hand for in between classes, and always eats during her lunch period. Pilar also recommends leaving the house at least once a day, not doing work in bed, and going to sleep at a reasonable hour.