Midterm season is upon us, and it seems as though we’re drowning in a sea of papers, tests, projects, presentations, review packets, and study guides. With all of this work building up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, but there several things you can do to stay motivated and get all of your work and studying done.
Breaking up your work into small, manageable chunks is one way to alleviate stress and prevent burnout. Look at your schedule and plan out 20 to 30 minute sections where you can devote your attention to one task. Whether that be studying a vocabulary list, outlining a paper, rereading a chapter of a textbook, make sure that your goal is realistic and manageable, and write it down. You’ll be surprised that there’s less to do than you think! Just make sure that you’re dedicated to working through those blocks of time, which means removing distractions like social media by putting your phone elsewhere and blocking certain websites on your computer for that time period.
You can also find a way to reward yourself for completing certain tasks, like watching one episode of your favorite TV show after you submit a paper or buying yourself a candy bar once you’ve memorized a certain process or list of terms that you’ve been struggling with for a while. In rewarding yourself for completing bigger tasks like these, you’ll be more motivated to keep going because your brain will begin to associate the completion of tasks and assignments with fun and enjoyment. If you’ve tried this method on your own and ended up rewarding yourself before you completed a task or a milestone because you simply couldn’t resist the temptation of chocolate and Netflix, then have a friend that you trust to be responsible hold you accountable and make sure you’re actually working towards the goals and rewards that you set for yourself.
It helps, too, to find a productive place to work. Environment plays a huge role in motivation. If a place is too loud, too quiet, too crowded, too empty, too bright, or too dark, it can be hard to be able to really focus and invest time and effort in what you want to get done. For some people, that place is their desk in their room because it’s quiet and it’s a space that’s specifically theirs. Sometimes being too close to a comfy bed can end up becoming a distraction though, so it’s good to find multiple places where you can work peacefully and still be inspired to keep going. This can be a table in the library or the Jammin’ Java, a coffee shop off campus, a park, an empty classroom, or anywhere you’re able to best focus on your work and the tasks at hand.
One of the most important ways to stay motivated is to remind yourself of why you’re working and why it’s important that your assignments and studying get done effectively. Take a few moments and write down a list of why the work you’re doing matters. Is it going to make you a better academic, a better teacher, a better engineer, a better scientist, a better person? How are the information and skills you’re learning and applying through these tests, papers, and projects going to help you in the near or distant future? Once you know what it is you’re striving for and why the work you’re doing is important, your goals will become much clearer and easier to work towards.
Of course, if you’re still feeling lost, stressed, and overwhelmed, there are plenty of resources on campus available to help. You can talk to your professors and ask questions, sign up for a tutoring session, visit the writing center, and make a counseling appointment whenever you need to. The faculty and your peers want to see you succeed and put your best foot forward, so as we’re heading into midterm season, keep your chin up and know that you’ve got this and you’re not alone.