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Remote Learning This Fall? Create a Good Routine

Prioritize values and well-being to help you reach your goals.

As many schools move online this fall, students will miss out on myriad benefits of in-person attendance: social interactions, sports and hobbies, and simple daily structure. So how can we help to ensure students learn effectively from home while maximizing personal growth and well-being? One simple way is a thoughtful routine.

Humans thrive on routine. Healthy routines provide a sense of predictability and control, decrease stress, help us to prioritize what is most important, and decrease time spent figuring out what to do when. This frees up mental energy for more important stuff.

Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into unhelpful routines and bad habits. So start by being mindful about how you develop your routine. Here are three steps:

  • Identify your values and goals.
  • Prioritize well-being—physical well-being, general mental well-being, and social well-being.
  • Put your routine in writing.

Identify your values and goals

Clarifying your goals and values can increase motivation, simplify decisions about how to spend your time, and even help you overcome FOMO (fear of missing out).

So set aside time—ideally at the beginning of the semester and each month—to consider what your most important goals and values are. These should include specific school-related goals like acquiring new skills or knowledge (e.g., mastering fractions) and developing new habits (e.g., reading for 15 minutes every night). But also think about your bigger values—like family, health, honesty and kindness, being creative, or having fun.

Source: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
Source: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Also consider whether it is important to you to include or limit specific behaviors. For instance, do you value limiting screen time? Do you require certain daily chores? There is no right or wrong answer. The purpose is to identify what is really important to you (and what is not).

Prioritize well-being

For students to be successful in reaching their goals, they must prioritize their well-being—physical, mental, and social.

Physical well-being. Sufficient sleep is crucial for immunity and cognitive function. Yet many school-age children fail to get the recommended amount—eight to 10 hours for teens and nine to 12 for younger children. Take the new school year as an opportunity to change that.

There is no evidence that students should wake up particularly early. In fact, studies suggest that pushing back school start times leads to increased standardized test scores, behavior, and mood. It is also recommended to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to improve sleep quality.

And don’t forget proper nutrition and daily physical exercise to improve your cognition and mood.

Source: Luna Lovegood/Pexels
Source: Luna Lovegood/Pexels

Plan rounded meals and keep healthy snacks like fruit and yogurt on hand to increase concentration and focus. Ensure each day includes regular short breaks to stretch and walk, as well as longer scheduled physical activities like playing outside or doing a yoga video.

Mental well-being. Growing up is tough enough in normal times. Sprinkle in a pandemic and the resulting major changes to routine, and many youths will experience some anxiety or depression—possibly a lot of it. So be gentle on yourself. Show yourself and others compassion. Don’t be afraid to seek help from friends, family, or professional counselors. Take breaks when needed. Know that if you are struggling it is normal.

Social well-being. One added value of school is socialization. Whether learning to share in kindergarten or going to dances in high school, these experiences teach students how to work and play with others and fulfill the fundamental need to socialize and belong to a community. So even if they can’t be in-person, ensure that every day includes time for social interactions with peers and family members. This could mean a virtual book club or youth group, outside play dates with a bubble friend, online gaming time, or weekly family movie night.

Put your routine in writing

Now that you have identified your goals and values and know the importance of prioritizing well-being, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and write out your routine. I use both Google Calendar and a paper-and-pencil journal, but you can use any type you like.

Create calendars for the semester, week, and day. Older students should input substantial events like exams, project due dates, and holidays into a semester-long calendar. Then on a weekly basis check for upcoming events and what you will need to do each day to prepare.

Source: Julia M. Cameron/Pexels
Calendars. Use them.
Source: Julia M. Cameron/Pexels

For your daily calendar, don’t just default to the hour-by-hour schedule of traditional in-person schooling. Think about how you do your best work. Some students may benefit from a traditional school-like schedule. Others may plan their time differently, creating larger chunks of time to get into a “flow state.” Younger students may benefit from shorter work periods, due to limited attention spans. Older students may benefit from setting aside entire afternoons for one subject to facilitate deep work.

Scheduling your day in advance ensures that you will have set aside enough time for your weekly goals.

Review weekly and improve over time. Set aside a few minutes each week to think about how you are doing and what you could improve the following week (Benjamin Franklin did this mental exercise religiously). Consider journaling your reflections . Self-reflection can improve your well-being and is important to catch and change bad habits.

Consider asking yourself: What went well this week and what did I struggle with? Am I on track to achieve what I value most, or should I adjust? Did I learn anything about myself? How can I improve next week?


Remote schooling will likely be a challenge for students and families this fall. But with a little planning and prioritizing, students can effectively learn, maintain their well-being, and meet their goals. They may even learn to find the challenge rewarding and enjoyable.

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