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Staying Motivated

At university, there are always hundreds of things you could be doing other than working towards your impending deadlines. With friends often less than 5 metres away and Netflix even closer, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of relaxing rather than studying.

Now, being motivated to study doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do these things anymore, it’s just about using your time efficiently so you can get all of your studying done at a comfortable pace rather than cramming at the last minute. Here are some tips to try – the same thing won’t work for everyone, so keep trying until you find what works for you.

The Pomodoro Method

Who it’s good for – People who don’t like the idea of concentrating for long periods of time or who get distracted on their phones mid-study.

How to do it – Set a timer on your phone (or download a Pomodoro app such as Forest) for 25 minutes and work solidly for this time. Do. Not. Look. At. Social. Media. You can do it, it’s only 25 minutes! After this time is up, set another timer for 5 minutes and have a complete rest – get away from your desk, walk around, do some star jumps – whatever it takes to reset your brain. Repeat the process, and after every four 25 minute chunks, give yourself a longer 30 minute rest.

How to make it even better – Doing this with a friend makes it easier because you can keep each other in check so no one is tempted to look at their phones, and chatting to them in your 5 minute breaks is an easy way to refresh.

Making Lists

Who it’s good for – People who can’t stick to a schedule.

How to do it – Rather than creating a revision schedule that you’ll never follow, make a list at the start of every day with what you need to achieve that day. Start the first task as soon as you can and move onto the next straight away. If you feel yourself getting bored or procrastinating, look back at the list and find something productive on it to do instead.

How to make it even better – Sort out your list into two categories – ‘must do’ and ‘can/should do’. Go through everything on the ‘must’ list first, even if the other list looks more fun.

Finding the Best Workspace

Who it’s good for – People who like to look at anything other than their notes when they’re meant to be working.

How to do it – If your desk is particularly cluttered, clear away everything unnecessary. (Don’t use tidying as another method of procrastination, you only need to move things off your desk, you can return them afterwards.) If you have a clear workspace, you will find it easier to concentrate on the task at hand.

How to make it even better – If you find that working in your room is just too distracting, try a few other places. The Bill Bryson library is good for some people, while others might find college libraries less intense. Alternatively, if you live out of college, you might find a cafe that you really like working in (the top floor of Esquires is designed for studying, and has wifi/plugs).

Divide your Work into Manageable Parts

Who it’s good for – People who have a big deadline coming up and are stressed about it.

How to do it – If you have a big deadline coming up and the pure stress of it is preventing you from starting, breaking it up into steps can help it look more approachable. Write down a list of the individual parts – this might be researching in particular places, or planning a specific paragraph.

How to make it even better – Spread these tasks out over multiple days and do other pieces of work in between them if you feel yourself getting overloaded by one deadline. Keep your mind fresh by doing other work, rather than letting this deadline consume you.

Putting Things into Perspective

Who it’s good for – Perfectionists.

How to do it – If you’re scared of starting because you don’t want to do it wrong, or you’re stressed about the result not being perfect, try to remember that you have time to make adjustments and to improve your work. It doesn’t have to be perfect first time round, so accepting this will make it easier to start. Knowing the faults in your work can also be used to your advantage in the drafting phase!

How to make it even better – To track your progress, you might find it helpful to hold yourself accountable by creating a ‘studygram’ on Instagram, where you can post pictures of your work. This is ideal for perfectionists as you can make something nice out of your work, as well as reminding yourself to post an update on your progress, even if it isn’t perfect yet.

Watch more of my study tips in my YouTube video.

Astrud Turner

Hi, I'm a Hild Bede student who has recently graduated in Law. While at Durham I loved spending my time volunteering, doing theatre (I don't act - I was a technical director!) and travelling! The majority of my student loan was spent in cafes and on stationery, which is 100% money well spent. You can find me on Instagram

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