Ahh the fresh start of a new school year. An exciting time for academic high-achievers! Your study motivation is high. This’ll be the term you stay on top of everything, submit stuff early, and get top marks in every assignment.
Your new books are just waiting to be filled with neat, organised, colour-coded notes. Your desk is clean and tidy. The unit outline reassures you that this subject is totally manageable… as long as you keep up.
But those first couple of weeks are a bit of a chore to settle back into school/uni life. The sun is still out and there’s too much stuff happening on the weekends. You’ll catch up next week.
Before you know it, your desk is scattered with junk, you don’t even know what week you’re up to on the unit outline, you haven’t started reading the textbook yet, and you’ve got two major assignments due next week. Panic and dread sets in. It’s so hard to catch up now.
I’ve been there.
It’s not just the bludgers that experience this cycle. Even nerds get the blues. In fact, I’d guess that nerds especially get overwhelmed, fall behind, and lose their study motivation.
And just so you don’t feel offended by me calling you a nerd – I’m a nerd. I love nerds. I think we should embrace our nerdiness. Plus “nerd” is easier to write than “academic high-achiever”.
There were so many times in my degree that I thought about quitting. I always got great marks, but I had to work so hard for them. And that made it hard to keep up with the rest of my life.
But instead of quitting, I used these strategies to get my way to the finish line.
8 TIPS TO GET YOU THROUGH THE SEMESTER
Alter the deadlines.
If you’ve got several assessments due at the same time, stagger them out a bit. Obviously you can’t extend the deadlines without getting approval, but you can bring some deadlines forward. By marking the due date in your calendar as a week earlier it a) gives you buffer space in case you get sick or something goes wrong, and b) separates the due dates out so that if things do get left till the last minute, it’s just one assignment at a time.
Obviously there will be some situations where it just can’t be avoided, but if you can, resist the temptation to ask for an extension. All it does is kick the can down the road and make it a problem for your future self. Just get it done, even if it means sacrificing some social stuff, or some sleep, or some marks. I can hear the nerd in you gasp. Yes, I said you might lose some marks. In reality, you probably won’t, because you’re a nerd and you’ll do a great job anyway, even if it is last minute. Just get it submitted and move on to the next assessment so you don’t lose time on that one as well.
Break it down.
Have a look at the separate parts of the assessment and try to break it down into manageable chunks. Make each chunk it’s own mini assignment and set a due date for each part. Have a rough plan of how many words need to go into each part to make up the entire word count. Use your calendar or diary to plan out when you will work on each part. Leave time at the end to pull it all together.
There are so many different ways of taking notes and it really is up to you to find a way that works for you. Personally, I prefer to hand-write my notes. Otherwise I just mindlessly type out the whole textbook and that’s kinda pointless. I ended up with a pretty good system for note-taking but it took me ages to get there. Let me know if you want more info on how I did it. But once you find a way that works, and start taking great notes, pulling the assignment together is actually the easy bit!
Keep your eye on the prize.
There’s nothing worse than having to give up things you love (ie. time with friends, sleep etc) to work on a mind-numbingly-boring assignment. It makes you hate your course, your teachers, your non-studying friends who are free from this shit, and your life in general. So the key is to look past the immediate pain-in-your-arse and remember what the final goal is. Why are you even doing this course? How’s it gonna feel when you’re done? Picture yourself with that silly hat and gown at the finish line. And get the boring-ass assignment done so you can get back to your life!
Sharpen your focus.
Don’t spend ALL your time thinking about your studies. But the time you do spend, make it laser focused. Use the time well. There’s nothing worse than spending the entire weekend “studying” when realistically you’ve spent half of it on social media.
My favourite method of focusing is the Pomodoro technique. You set a timer for 25 minutes and work your little butt off. Then when the timer goes off, set it again for 5 minutes and do whatever you want in that break. Then set it for another 25. There are apps available for this – just search ‘pomodoro’.
Another tool I use is music. I can’t listen to anything with words or I start singing and paying too much attention to the music. So I just listen to instrumental playlists on Spotify. If you search for ‘study music’ or ‘focus’ or ‘concentration’ there’s heaps to choose from.
Sometimes it also means working at a different time of day to what you’re used to, or in a different physical environment. Perhaps at the library or a café. Find what helps you focus and keep doing that.
Have a countdown.
Sometimes keeping a countdown can be motivating. Total up your assessments for the term/semester and feel the satisfaction of crossing each one off. Or, countdown the weeks left until the next holiday. Count down the units you’ve got remaining in the course, or the days until you graduate. Seeing continuous progress can help to keep you focused and motivated.
Find someone who has a similar study motivation as you do. Someone who takes it seriously and will support you in whatever way you need. Just talking through your assignment with someone who’s willing to listen will help you to clarify what it is you need to do. They don’t even need to be studying the same subject… or studying at all… but if they know it’s important to you and they’re willing to support you, even just knowing they’re on your side cheering you on can be enough to keep you going.
Most importantly, keep some perspective. My friends will choke on their wine when they see ME giving this advice… but it’s really not the end of the world if you don’t get the High Distinction. I know it’s tough, and it may reduce your future options if you don’t have the marks your aiming for, but it’s more important that you finish the course with your sanity and health intact.
If you’re looking for professional support to get through your studies and keep your study motivation up, I’d love to help you out. My Study Coaching is tailored to your needs and we can do a one-off session here and there or a whole semester package to keep you on track. You let me know what you’re looking for and we’ll work it out from there. I’m not gonna get all salesy on you coz I know you’ve got bigger things to worry about right now. So feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call and we can work out a sweet deal. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep that new-semester feeling all semester long?
Okay, now stop procrastinating and get back to work.