When I first started college, I was overwhelmed by all the free time time I had. I went from playing a sport year round, taking many AP classes, playing trumpet in the wind ensemble and jazz bands, and filling what little time I had left with other clubs and extracurriculars. By the time I got home at night, I was usually exhausted. However, with what little time I had, I was extremely productive because I had to be.
College was the complete opposite for me. No matter what I did during my freshman year, I just had way too much free time. I kept putting off my assignments and studying until the last minute. Managing my time had never been an issue before because I had so little of it. I also spent many of my weekends visiting my family, where I got absolutely no work done. Looking back, I just couldn’t find a routine that worked for me. I think this all contributed to me having a hard first year at college too.
Then, I transferred colleges, and I started with a different approach. I jumped head first. I joined a sorority, club lacrosse, and the equestrian team. From here, I quickly felt that overwhelmed feeling which felt more natural to me. For some reason, everything happened at the same times on Monday and Wednesday evenings making it impossible to do it all, so I had to stop playing club lacrosse. I felt more at home here. I had a bunch of friend groups who helped me through the transition and helped me through my next years. I was finally able to develop a routine that really helped.
When I got to graduate school, finding my new routine was a completely new struggle. We went to class from 9am to 5pm most days with some variability where we would end earlier or even later. Sitting in one classroom all day was exhausting. But at the end of the day, I would have to find the energy to study and take care of my dog. At first, I would come home and get nothing done rationally it that I had spent all day in class and that I needed some time, but I quickly fell behind and struggled to catch back up. It took me a whole semester to work out the kinks before I felt good about my daily routine. Here are my go-to’s to stay motivated!
Find a study or friend group! This was the best thing that happened to me in both college and grad school. I found a group of friends to study with. This helped keep me accountable and motivated to get my work done. There were all times during our group study where one of us was less focused, but together we helped each other keep on track. They are also a great group to help bounce ideas off of or help brainstorm a pneumonic for something that was hard to remember.
Making a timeline and sticking to it! It is so easy to set a goal and push it back because of that hard to break procrastination. But when you actually stick to your schedule, it is a fantastic feeling. A key to this is also being realistic and setting yourself up to succeed. Setting a goal to finish an entire 10 page paper in one sitting is a lofty and unrealistic goal, but having spreading the work out into multiple sessions is more doable.
Find that study space. Sitting in my apartment, I quickly become distracted. I flip over to Facebook, turn on the TV, or get distracted with social media. For me, getting out of my apartment was a necessity. I worked to find a quiet, yet mobile environment that led to me getting the most work done. I have a hard time studying in a small cubicle with a blank wall in front of me. I like the commotion of a library table or a coffee shop. Noise cancelling headphones really help me to zone in even with these distractions.
Schedule time for yourself. As studious as it is to study from the moment you get home until the moment you go to bed, it is hard to do repeatedly without burning yourself out! Sometimes you need to set aside some “me” time to give your brain sometime to relax. Whether this is a run in the park, playing with your dog, hanging with friends, or catching up on your favorite TV shows, it is an important part of your mental health. For me, I know I feel so much better after going for a run and walking Diz. It helps me to focus on something other than school for a time period.
Reward yourself. After a big test or assignment or finishing finals, give yourself a break! We cannot always be on the go and we do need some time to recover. We would plan ourselves a fun dinner or movie night or special trip or night out after a big exam. It was always the light at the end of the tunnel and good reminder that the study grind was only temporary.
Lean on your friends and family. I am not the biggest sharer, unless you are one of my closest friends. Because like many others, I want to seem perfectly composed on the outside, no matter what is going on on the inside. But you cannot bottle everything up! Your friends are there to support you. If a test went south or you stuttered through your presentation, talk to your friends about it. They are your biggest cheerleaders and want you to succeed.
Keep trying different strategies and approaches to help keep you going. Everybody functions different and you have to find what works for you!