Staying Motivated

Nobody said college was easy. In fact, it is quite normal to have times when you just don’t feel like going to class, doing homework, writing papers, or dealing with school at all.

Lots of things can make it hard to keep going. Your classes may be harder than you expected — all your professors want you to take the subject seriously, work hard, and learn a lot. There are constant deadlines and lots of pressure to do well on assignments and exams. Your best may not be good enough for the grade you wanted. Your classes may seem boring. You may feel lonely, homesick, depressed, or discouraged. You may have family problems, work problems, health problems, or financial problems as well.

So what do you do? Slack off for a while? Give up and quit? These options may seem tempting, but they can lead to getting behind, failing your classes, and never achieving your goals. Don’t give in to them! You can get back on track. The difference between people who succeed and ones who don’t is what they do when they don’t feel motivated. When the going gets tough, successful people know what to do to keep themselves going. You can learn these strategies too. Consider the following ideas.

confident student

Remember why you’re here.

You came to college for a reason. What was it? If you start to think of quitting or just can’t get the motivation to dive into studying for that test, it can help to go back and think about what’s in it for you if you succeed. Find out more about the career that these classes are preparing you for. Look for connections between what you are learning and what you hope to do. Then consider the alternative — do you really want a career in flipping burgers, serving tables, or answering phones?

Make A To-do List.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to get organized. Make a list of all of the things you need to do, and identify what should come first. Using good time management techniques will help you get out from under the mound of stuff to get done.

Take a break.

Taking a break isn’t the same as quitting. Set aside a certain amount of time to get away from all of the demands of school for a few hours in the afternoon, an evening or a weekend. Get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. Clean up your room or kitchen. Eat a good meal with friends. Get some exercise. Watch a great movie. Meditate. Pray. Shoot some hoops. Do something that recharges your batteries so that you are able to go at it again when your break is up.

Get involved.

You may think “But I’m already too busy!” and you may be right. On the other hand getting involved can really recharge your batteries.
Joining a club, going to an athletic event, doing some service, participating in intramural sports, and so on can provide a welcome change of pace and help make college less of a grind.

Set small, achievable goals.

If you think about everything you need to do, it can be overwhelming. When the going gets tough, narrow your focus. Can you make flashcards for your biology class today and look at them for 10 minutes each day for the next 3 days? Can you take 10 minutes to go on line and look for information about your research topic? Can you spend 30 minutes on your math homework? When you’re done, reward yourself with 10 minutes of Facebook time, a video game, or a (small) handful of M&Ms. Then go on to the next thing.

Talk to someone.

Talk to a friend or family member who can help you get motivated again. People who know you, love you, and want you to succeed can be powerful motivators. Take the time to call, e-mail, or text them.

Make friends who share similar goals.

The more people you know who share your goals of getting through college and starting a career, the more you can help each other get there. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who ridicule or belittle your goals, it can be really hard to keep going.

Change your attitude.

Maybe you know deep inside that you’re the problem, and you know you need to change. Well, the only person who can change you is you, so do it! Learn to see failures as wake-up calls. Take responsibility for yourself rather than blaming others for your difficulties.

Ask for help.

Maybe the trouble is you’re going it alone. You’re sinking, and you don’t know where to turn. It’s OK to walk into the Academic Advisement Center and say “I need help.” You may need academic advice, personal counseling, or even financial help. No one will know you need help unless you come forward and ask.

Consider changing your major.

Maybe the reason you are having trouble is that what you’re studying isn’t a good fit for you. Is there something else out there that you might enjoy more or do better at? Visit the Academic Advisement Center or the Career Center for information about other options you might want to consider. You may also want to look into vocational training that might be more suited to your talents.

Just keep swimming.

The root word of “motivation” comes from the idea of moving. Sometimes the best way to get through difficult times is to take the advice of a little blue fish and “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”