Accidental Advice

Spring yourself into action: how to restore your motivation before assessment

Lighter days in Cathays Photo credit: by Alice Dent
by Alice Dent

Tuesday 20th March signals the beginning of spring. On Sunday, the clocks will change and we can all look forward to longer, warmer, brighter days in the typically rainy Welsh capital. To me, the onset of spring is more motivating than the start of a new calendar year. With visible signs of new life all around us, it is an excuse to put the first quarter of the year to rest, start afresh and work towards smashing your goals. In truth, winter seems to have lasted a lifetime, and I’m eager to see the back of it.

I’m sure I’m not the only student who is currently lacking motivation with their academic endeavours. With strike action affecting all of my lectures, as well as the previous snow days and Reading Week, there has been little structure to my day-to-day life for the past month. This has unfortunately resulted in a level of complacency towards my studies, as I sometimes struggle to find the motivation to organise my time effectively and push myself to work with no external pressures. I can’t really remember the last time I even sat down in a lecture or seminar, and am scared that I’m slowly losing my grip on my work ethic and prospective grades. Sound familiar to anyone?

The good news is that with a change in season approaching, there is no better time to kick-start your work again, give your attitude a spring clean and rid yourself of your bad habits ahead of mid-terms and Summer assessments. Whoever you are and however you choose to work, there are a number of things which you can do to help yourself get back on track during this unusual period.

The winter blues usually affect us all in one way or another. Darker evenings tend to result in shorter bouts of productivity, and getting yourself to a 9am lecture can be all the more challenging when you wake up to pitch darkness outside. But with the clocks going forward, you could argue that you’re now being given an extra hour of productive time to get work done during the day. As well as this, it is really important to know the best structure for you; assess whether you are a morning person and identify the times that you will be the most productive. However, you should really be honest with yourself. I used to kid myself into thinking that I couldn’t work properly until at least eleven at night. However, this usually resulted in very late nights, hitting the snooze button in the mornings, missing lectures and then feeling awfully tired and demotivated for the rest of the day. The majority of us will be the most productive during the day after a good amount of sleep – so try to be kind to your body. Get yourself into a routine that works well for you and try your best to stick to it. If you have days where you’re not timetabled to attend lectures, create a faux working day and set yourself mini deadlines where you must complete certain tasks by. Trust me, if you have the expanse of the day ahead of you to get things done, you’re less likely to work efficiently.

Similarly, decide the areas where you work best; whether that be at your desk, in the library or at a local coffee shop. I’ve heard many people say that they hate going to the library to work, which may be true- but for the most of us, this will be the most productive setting with minimal distractions. I continually convince myself that I will work productively when I’m at home, but this usually means I don’t wake up until 10am and then spend three hours looking at my horoscope or Youtube karaoke-ing Little Mix songs before I actually get to work. Sometimes, you may find that short stints in the library will be a lot more worth your time than a long ten-hour slog. Take regular breaks and listen to your mind and body; maybe even make yourself a packed lunch the night before so you’re extra prepared for the day ahead of you.

This may sound crazy to some, but if you feel as though things are getting on top of you or you don’t know where to begin, consider getting a part time job to fit into your day. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, think about a small volunteering role or joining a society where you will be expected to attend at least once a week. If you are simply just attending university with no external interests or commitments, your spare time tends to fly away with you. My current job requires me to work at my own pace (which is fantastic), but that usually means that I am left to juggle everything myself which can come with its own complications. In the past, having jobs with shift patterns mean reduced hours in the day that I can dedicate to getting university work done, which are usually more productive.

This advice doesn’t just concern second and third years, either. We all know that ‘first year doesn’t count’, but if you are in your initial year of study, give yourself a heads up and get to grips with your course. It is true that your grades don’t usually go towards your final classification, but first year is the time where you can learn how to write academic essays, get used to the way the system works and give you the confidence to know that you are more than capable of doing well in the long term. First year is a test run; a dress rehearsal for main event (take it from the girl who has done two). Of course, you should have fun, make friends, and enjoy yourself; but put effort into your university work too. No amount of VKs will be worth having to come back in August by yourself to re-sit your exams.

Above all, take comfort in the knowledge that all is not lost. The summer examination period begins on the 14th May, meaning you have just under two months to get back on track. The strikes are scheduled to have finished by the time this goes to print, but if they are not, have a plan of action in place and stick to it. If your New Year’s goals are a distant memory, do yourself a favour and make a promise to yourself that spring is the beginning of a new, motivated you. There is no time like the present!

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