The honeymoon phase of a new course is always filled with excitement and momentum, but even the most dedicated student will find the sparkle start to dim as assignments start piling up. Study is a marathon, not a sprint, so how do you keep the motivation high after the first leg of the race? The first step is recognising the roadblocks.
Fear of failure
Arguably the number one roadblock that gets in the way of turning those awesome late night ideas into reality, is the fear that we’ll fail. According to science fear is one of our earliest and strongest drivers, but there’s plenty of research saying that the first step to overcoming fears is recognising and sitting with them. Just remember that every scientist whose discoveries have aided humanity, every Olympian and every successful entrepreneur have failed more times than they’ve succeeded. Failure isn’t always pleasant, but it seems it is necessary and it can bring us closer to our ‘eureka moments’.
Break it down
Looking at a long list of assessment items can be a real motivation killer. Instead, tackle your dreams one simple list at a time. Keeping your brain on side and motivation levels high is much easier if big tasks are broken down into small, achievable jobs. Ticking off a heap of small tasks lights up the pleasure centre of our brains, keeping us motivated and on track.
Cat videos and viral memes are proof that we are all guilty of procrastination. Though procrastination has been given a bad name, it can be tamed into something useful. Structured procrastination is the art of getting important things done, while avoiding other important things. Next time you find yourself straying to Facebook in order to avoid an assignment instead answer important emails you’ve been putting off, book that appointment with your doctor that you’ve been talking about for months and organise that junk drawer that you can barely close. At least when you come back to your assignment you’ll feel less guilty than you would if you’d wasted 12 hours straight binge watching the latest Netflix series.
Handling negative feedback
Resisting the urge to calmly throw your computer into a river and resign yourself to a life under your doona is no mean feat when you receive a bad mark. Remember, it’s not personal. Grammatical errors and less-than-perfect referencing aren’t reflections on who you are as a person, so there’s no need to get defensive. Read the feedback the marker has left and ask questions about what you can do to improve. Be realistic about the work you submitted. If you know that it wasn’t your best, commit to giving yourself more time to research next time. If it was your best work, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and call on people for help if you need it.
Dealing with stress
Long-term or persistent stress changes our brains making us irritable and less able to take in complex information. Eating well, keeping hydrated, practicing mindfulness, meditation and exercise are all proven stress relievers. Trust that what you are doing is worth it and be kind to yourself.
And above all else, keep your eyes on the prize. Remember there will come a time where assignment and exam stress won’t exist any more. In the mean time, remind yourself why you’re studying, write and down and keep it somewhere close.
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