Things may feel out-of-control right now. You may be facing a lot of unknowns and disruptions. Try to be patient with yourself, classmates, and instructors during this time. Take care of your wellbeing first. Making a plan and adjusting your studying may help you feel even a little sense of control but be mindful that you will not be able to control everything.

Please click here for pdf version.

Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR)

Jennifer Bates, Director of Learning Resources

Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ)

Joe Antonioli, Senior Curricular Innovation Strategist

Masud Tyree Lewis ‘22, Lead Intern & Online Education Analyst

College Student Government Association

Cleo Davidowitz ‘21, Co-Director for Health and Wellness

Graphics and illustrations created by Masud Tyree Lewis, ‘22.

Adapted from a resource by the University of Michigan Center of Academic Innovation, “Adjusting your study habits during COVID” (PDF). The original source is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. ©2020, Regents of the University of Michigan.

Taking care of yourself


Executive function (EF) is the collection of mental processes that allow you to keep track of what you need to do, make a plan to do it, and execute the plan.  It involves working memory, the ability to activate, as well as the ability to sustain focus and engagement with your work.

It is a renewable but finite resource, and during times of acute stress you have less of this resource to draw on.  Strategies that support executive function will help you during this period of extreme stress.

  • Get enough sleep, eat as well as you can, and get exercise in whatever form works for you and is possible right now to help renew your capacity
  • 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation to start and/or end your day
  • Set a timer and use a journal or any old notebook you have to brain dump thoughts and relieve some stress
  • Use free yoga and exercise videos on YouTube to alleviate physical tension
  • Find ways to express how you are feeling such as drawing, singing or making videos. The outcome does not need to be “skillful” or “high-quality”, just have fun with it.
  • Look up an easy recipe to make that doesn’t involve many steps or ingredients.

Digital wellness practices

Digital wellness

Try to take care of your body, it is vulnerable to fatigue.

Using laptops while lying poses many risks. Read to learn more about safe practices.

Staying organized

Staying organized

The more you understand exactly what your course work requires of you, and are able to have clear systems for keeping track of both your work and the resources you require to complete it, the less likely you are to burn up your mental energy and time worrying and trying to figure out what to do next.  You will be able to apply those resources directly to the work itself.

Visit go.middlebury.edu/studentplanner  start tracking your courses.

  • What are the in-person parts of this course? (lecture, lab, etc)
  • Where can you find it or how do you access it? (live-stream, lecture capture, etc.)
  • Is it at a specific time or can you watch it anytime
  • Are there new due dates?
  • Is how you’re submitting your assignments changing?
  • Are any quizzes or exams being offered virtually?
  • Is your course offering virtual office hours? When and on what platform?
  • Is there an online forum for asking questions?

Setting a schedule

Setting a schedule

Setting a schedule can be very helpful, as it takes less executive functioning to do a task that is part of a routine.  Minimizing the number of decisions you have to make also relieves the burden on executive functioning: if you can start your day moving directly into a plan you already made rather than having to come up with a plan, you will be able to apply your working memory, focus and limited reserve of energy directly to the work itself.  You can use the Building Better Routines planner.

Mapping out your deadlines for the rest of the semester on the End of Semester planner will allow you to have a clear sense of what remains to be completed.

Adapting your strategies

Adapting strategies

There will be things you can’t control.  These are not normal levels of stress; you may need more breaks and more time to work.

Your routines may have to adjust during this time. Look for ways to adapt your usual habits or form new ones.

  • If you usually study in a cafe, the dining hall or the libraries, ask yourself what kind of environment helps you study. Try to recreate that at home. Maybe it’s studying in a chair, rather than on your bed or couch, or moving to a new spot when you change tasks
  • If you feel you need background noise, consider a white noise app or YouTube
  • If you always study in groups, try a virtual or even phone-based study session with your group
  • If you thrive on tight timelines, but now have a more open schedule, think about how working with others or setting up a schedule can recreate that for you. When that gets hard, see if you can even do fifteen minutes at a time.

Even with new strategies, be gentle with yourself; you cannot control everything.

Avoiding multitasking

Avoid multitasking

If you’re doing more work on your own and your time is less structured, you might be more tempted to multitask. Many people think they can do multiple things at once. But research shows us that only about 2% of the population can multitask. Even if you feel like you’re multitasking, you’re probably not… really, you’re switching between tasks very quickly (some call this “micro-tasking”).

  • Assignments take longer. Each time you come back to an assignment (from Instagram for example), you have to get familiar with it, remember what you were going to do next, etc.
  • You’re more likely to make mistakes. Distractions and switching between tasks tires out the brain.
  • You’ll remember less. When your brain is divided, you’re less able to commit what you’re learning to long-term memory (because it doesn’t get encoded properly into your brain).
  • When you need to study something important, consider The Magic of Monotasking
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Take breaks between tasks.  Be prepared  to adjust the length of your breaks to what works best for you
  • Use the “pomodoro method” to help you focus for 25- or 50-minute periods and then reward yourself with 5- or 10-minute breaks
  • Physicalize the break by doing some kind of movement, and change the input your brain is receiving.  If you take a break from working with a screen by switching to social media, you may feel rewarded but your brain technically has not never stopped working, and you will not refresh your attention span.

Optimizing asynchronous learning

Optimizing for asynchronous learning

  • Stick to your instructor’s schedule as much as you can. Staying on a schedule will help you have a feeling of normalcy and keep you on track
  • Find out how to ask questions. Is there a chat feature? Is there a discussion forum?  As with on the ground learning, participation is key
  • Close distracting tabs and apps. We’re not as good at multitasking as they think!
  • Continue to take notes as you would if you were there in person
  • Watch recordings at normal speed. Research shows that playback speed of 1.5x can significantly lower your understanding and retention.

Working with a group or team

Working with a group

  • Meet regularly, especially if you usually touch base during class or lab. Consider a quick text on your group chat about progress every couple of days
  • Try not to procrastinate. That group project may be out-of-sight, out-of-mind if you aren’t seeing each other regularly. Resist the urge to put it off. Make small progress and stay in touch
  • Set an agenda for meetings and use a shared doc to record your group’s notes
  • It will help to recreate the co-working environment using virtual tools. Possibilities might include:
    • Keep a Google Doc or Slide open during calls or while working on the project and use the chat, suggest and comment features
    • Have an audioless and videoless call with your teammates run in the background
    • or Have the video and/or audio on in a call
  • Check on each other and ask for backup: If someone has been absent from your group meetings or chat, ask them directly if they’re still able to participate in the project.

Know that support is available

Student Health and Wellness Resources 

Visit go.middlebury.edu/mhcovid19 for mental and physical wellness support.

CTLR Academic Support Resources

ACEs (Academic Consultants for Excellence) are available for help with time management and executive function support  at ACE Peer Tutors.

Peer Tutoring: For writing, foreign language, and STEM and Social Sciences available remotely.

For more information see the main tutoring services page.Professional Writing and Math Tutoring: Available remotely by scheduling an appointment at go.middlebury.edu/appt.

DLINQ’s Remote Learning Resources Site

Information about and access to Middlebury’s remote tools learning are available at go.middlebury.edu/remotestudent.