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How I Write and Learn

A Day in the Life: Online Learning Edition

By Isabella, a Writing Coach

When virtual classes were announced, I immediately thought about how this meant four more months without my favorite Chapel Hill study spots. As a senior, I owe a lot of my success to the environments that have fostered my creativity (I’m looking at you Wilson Library steps, Meantime Coffee Shop, and the courtyard outside of Swain Hall). Having relocated to Newport, Rhode Island for the semester, I spend a lot of time curating study spots that help me stay motivated. Anything to help me avoid slipping into the monotony of daily routine.

8:00 AM

I sleep with the windows open, which means the engines of early-morning fisherman arriving for their catch serve as a reliable (and more importantly, un-snoozable) alarm clock. I like to wake up at least two hours before my first commitment so that I have time to ground myself before facing the day.

I prefer my coffee with oat milk, in my favorite chair, and very soon after I wake up.

Two chairs are pictured that are right next to a window overlooking the ocean.
My favorite chairs

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a no-screen-time challenge called “toothbrush to toothbrush.” The idea is that I put my cell phone away after I brush my teeth at night, and don’t pick it up until I do so again in the morning. I won’t lie, it’s pretty difficult and I often cheat, but the effort helps me feel more present.

This morning’s non-tech activities include reading from Zadie Smith’s Intimations, and experimenting with a new breakfast recipe. I’ve recently expanded my horizons past instant oats and Eggo waffles, and the results have been life changing. Today, I try my hand at poached eggs over some leftover sauteed vegetables.

Finally, I get ready for the day as if I have in-person classes; I’m a firm believer in the saying look good, feel good.

10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

These are my hours for studying, being in class, and writing coaching. The latter is definitely my favorite part of the day, because it gives me a social fix that I so desperately seek as an isolated extrovert.

Importantly, I sit at a desk reserved only for schoolwork. Compartmentalizing spaces helps my brain understand that certain areas are for certain tasks, which is especially important when I’m doing everything from two rooms. If I ever catch myself wanting to do homework in bed, for instance, I’ll either force myself up to the desk, or just take a rest in bed. Maybe I’m type-A, but blending these spaces would probably cause my brain to implode.

I also rely on my planner to remind me about any pressing deadlines. I would be totally lost if it weren’t for this pseudo-organized, sticky-noted mess. Plus, it makes me feel accomplished to cross things off my to-do list.

A planner sits on top of a desk with neatly-organized pens and four sticky notes to the right of the planner. The desk sits in front of a window that overlooks the water.
My desk (this is the neatest it ever looks)

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Down time! This very important part of my day is reserved for snacking and a mental break. Today, I’m a bit more aware of the solitude than usual, so I decide to call one of my best friends for a catch up.

4:00-5:00 PM

Now it’s time to move my body. On gloomy days like today, I’m completely unmotivated to go out for a jog, so I step onto my Yoga mat instead.

When I’m really busy and don’t have the luxury of working out, I try to squeeze in a five-minute meditation. Recently, I’ve enjoyed doing a walking meditation while I take out the trash or collect the mail. To do this, I focus on the repetitive heel-toe motions of my feet as they walk, or try to match the length of my inhales and exhales—anything to calm my mind for a few moments. I used to think five minutes was far too long to think about nothing, but I’ve realized that meditation is like a muscle; the more you use it, the easier it becomes.


Today was one of those days where I let the dishes pile up until the last possible moment. When this happens, I try to cut myself a break. Life is busy! I guess an upside to living alone is that you’re the only witness to your mess.

In all honesty, online learning definitely isn’t easy. It takes real work to do things that would come easily if I were on-campus. Some days are easier than others. There are mornings when I wake up ready to face the day head on, and others where I wish I could just pause time, and stay under the covers forever. Living alone can be relaxing, but it can also be lonely, especially at the end of the day. In such moments, I try to remember that this isn’t forever, and lots of others are in the same boat. This makes me feel small, in the best way. I also rely on my family, friends, and boyfriend to keep me laughing. After all, they’re only a FaceTime away.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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