5 ways for students to stay motivated in a pandemic

Being thrown into the deep end of online learning has been a huge upheaval for most of you students. Perhaps you’re bored with your online school. Maybe you’re tuned out. Maybe you’re frustrated that you are missing out on learning because other people are messing around in your zoom class. You’re anxious about the state of the world, worried about your family, what the future holds…sound familiar?

This is how you manage it.

This blog post is in no way intended to freak you, dear students, out any further.

There is more than enough content out there with that very purpose. 

Here, it’s all about reassurance and positive next steps.

Use these 5 tips to make this uncertain time a little easier on yourself and those around you:

1. Name your ‘why’

What do you want to do/achieve? Pick one particular skill, hobby, class or subject that makes you feel happy, interested, or curious.

How will it make you feel when you do it? 

Ignoring the craziness of the world right now, why does working on this particular thing matter for you? Identify at least one reason this skill, hobby, whatever it is that you’ve picked, matters to you. 

What do you need to do in order to make this happen?

Write this goal or priority down. What is it that you want? Put it down on paper, tell a friend (or your dog),write it in the notes app on your phone. Name it. 

Some examples of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ from our students include

  1. Cooking more dinners because it makes me feel creative, it’s a great skill to have and it’s a way of spending quality time with my family.
  2. Researching how to build my own gaming computer because I love video games and am good at building things.
  3. Getting better at writing because I’m tired of feeling miserable every time I have to write an essay

Then, take this thing, your mission, your goal, your ‘why’ and break it down. What do I need to do to get there? Everything becomes easier to manage once we break it down into smaller milestones. 

For example, if it’s an essay that you want a good grade in, starting with “I need to write this essay” is too large and invites overwhelm. Break this into smaller pieces. Think about the steps, ‘My first step is that I need to deconstruct the guidelines” is a far more manageable and specific starting point than “I need to finish an essay”,making it far more do-able.

Remember that this quaran-time will not last forever. The world will keep spinning, colleges will be accepting admissions, exams will go ahead in one way or another. 

I know it might be tempting to turn off your camera in your online classes so you can play games or go back to sleep. But who’s winning when you do that?


Guaranteed, you will feel more energized and motivated about life when you start spending time doing the thing(s) you truly care about – that have a real ‘why’ backing them – over mindlessly passing your time day after day.

Knowing this ‘why’, identifying it clearly and putting it out in the world will help you to make better choices and to plan out your next steps, it’ll help you to figure out which choices will or won’t help your future self. 

The buck stops with you, after all. You have total control over your goals and how you achieve them, now and always.

2. Find Make the time

Being responsible for how we use our time is one of the very few things we have control over right now.

It’s a scary thought, but in a way, an empowering one. 

You are free of the distractions that come with your regular routine and regular life.

You are now in control of your own time. Who knows how you work best better than you do? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Does getting up early to do revision work better for you than doing it after class each day? Making a routine that isn’t punishing for you will make it far easier to stay on track.

Make this new routine work for you. Of course, if your school is running online classes that follow your regular schedule, you’ll build your daily routine around that. 

Think about the kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be reliable? Do you want to be the kind of person who admits when they’ve made a mistake and fixes it?

Once you’re clear on 1-2 specific things about what kind of person you want to be, take this time to build out your accountability. This is taking responsibility for yourself and the actions that you take. Kidding yourself about what you’re doing is wasteful of your energy.

Take charge of your time and own it. Use this knowledge to improve the way you use your time.

Make adjustments as needed, overwhelm and motivation do not go together well, time out your work in chunks that work for you. You will see the benefits and feel more in control of your goals.

3. Identify (and thank!) your people

One day, when this is all over, you will spend a great deal of your time around a boss and coworkers who you may or may not have a good relationship with.

Who is around you right now?

Whether it’s parents,friends (from an appropriate distance!), siblings or grandparents, you have people who love,support and care about you.

These people are going through an uncertain and scary time just as you are.

How you treat these people in your life right now, particularly with the adults in your life, is an opportunity to build on the way you show up to every other situation in your life. 

Are you showing your gratitude for the support you have around you? Are you being patient and regarding those around you with empathy? 

It is so understandable that you may be going a little stir crazy, your parents are stressed, your friends have their own family drama going on, your siblings may be too young to understand the reality of this situation or in their own homes…Whatever the situation, take the opportunity to show up as your best self.

Kind, empathetic, eager, organised, thoughtful, generous… Use this as a learning opportunity to see what you are capable of, what you can bring to the table in tricky situations. 

Connect with your inner ‘why’ for this too – why does it matter to you that you treat people in a certain way? 

How will certain behaviors affect those around you?

How do certain behaviors prevent you from reaching your goals?

Use these questions to help yourself to stay motivated on what it is you want.

4. Avoid cabin fever/bed sores

It’s hard to be indoors all day. It’s definitely hard if not actually impossible to expect yourself to do good,quality work if you’re spending every minute in front of your device and textbooks. 

You are not a robot. Treat yourself like a human and take time for breaks.

Spend some time (as much as your new routine will allow) doing something that brings you joy, whatever it is that makes your heart happy.

Parking yourself on the couch with the Switch and playing ‘Animal Crossing’ or deciding to dedicate your time to watching all 16 seasons of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ isn’t good for your brain either. Switching off your brain for too long will only make the cabin fever worse and, bottom line, make you feel worse.

As far as state recommendations allow, get outside.

Do a lap around the block, follow a yoga class on YouTube in your backyard (if the weather permits!) Learn a TikTok dance routine…Whatever it is, get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing.

 It’s these endorphins that will keep your brain happy and your muscles from turning into stone while sitting at your desk/kitchen table. 

When you are working hard to achieve your goals, you 100% deserve the time spent on the joy of whatever it is that makes you happy. The happier you are,the easier it is to stay motivated.

5. Treat yourself with kindness.

Your brain is trying it’s best to process a really sudden change in your life. 

You may or may not need time to deal with that, and that’s okay! 

Do not berate yourself when you slip up in your new plans or new routines. 

There is another day, there is more time. Try again tomorrow. If it doesn’t work, consider why, revise and try again. Keep going. Building out this habit will help you feel that you are in fact making progress and help you to feel more positive.

Avoid comparison where you can.

We are all on our own path and everyone around you is dealing with the psychological struggle of this sudden panic.

If it is a case that a person you follow on instagram is posting a lot of productive, fabulous content of challenging yoga poses achieved and 18 chapters of Chemistry revised, give yourself the permission to unfollow if it makes you feel bad. You can control the content you consume, any account that makes you feel like you’re not enough right about now has no space in your feed.

We are all on our own path and everyone around you is dealing with the psychological struggle of this sudden panic. If it is a case that a person you follow on instagram is posting a lot of productive, fabulous content of challenging yoga poses achieved and 18 chapters of Chemistry revised, give yourself the permission to unfollow if it makes you feel bad. You can control the content you consume, any account that makes you feel like you’re not enough right about now has no space in your feed.

Ask for help, reach out. Be honest about where you’re at in your own head space. Keep the channels of communication wide open. The more clear you can be about how you’re feeling and what is on your mind, the more likely it is that the people around you will be able to help you and treat you as you need to be. It’s impossible to ask that people know what’s on your mind. Try to get into the habit of being more open with those around you.

A problem shared is a problem halved, as we know. There is no reason to shoulder any burden alone. Particularly now, while we’re all in the same boat on the same rocky sea.

Related Posts

Join the FAM

Clarity is power, and that's what our online Framework for Academic Management (FAM)© gives you: a crystal clear road map for your child to hit their academic goals while learning the skills they need to thrive right now in school, in post-secondary education and their career.

Join the FAM