The snow has melted, the grass is green and you’re finally swapping clunky winter boots for sassy spring sandals. But like it or not, there are still a few weeks left in the semester, which means you can’t kiss the campus library goodbye just yet. Between daydreams about summer travel plans, the internship of a lifetime you’ve just landed or just simpler days spent in the sun, here are a few ways to get yourself motivated and finish the semester strong.
1. Stay studious in the sun
On those days when beams of sunlight are coming through the blinds and the thought of spending one more minute among stacks of books or in your stuffy dorm room is too much to bear, take it outside! It might sound challenging, but studying can be done outside. The trick is to find something on your massive to-do list that can be checked off while getting your daily dose of Vitamin D.
“I try to find something that can be done outside that’s not on a computer, like reading or sketching,” said Julie Herbert, a senior collegiette at the University of Maine.
So when warm weather calls, don’t ignore it — just grab your shades and a textbook to combine cramming with satisfying your spring fever. Leave the laptop behind and you might find yourself actually reading that hefty anthropology textbook instead of checking Facebook every five minutes. And no, that doesn’t count as studying anthropology.
2. Learn your study style
If you’re the type of person who can sit in a silent room for hours on end and get everything on your to-do list checked off, great. But if you need to set up regular study breaks for yourself in order to get through a term paper or the study guide for a final exam, be realistic. Holing up in your apartment with the blinds closed or hiding away in the library while your friends work on their tan might not be the answer.
Instead of fighting your personal study style, work with it. Write down every task that you need to finish within your day or weekend and get started, item by item. Putting everything you need to do down on paper will not only ensure that you don’t forget anything but also will show you exactly what needs to be done. Finish as much as you can in, say, 20-minute blocks of time, and take short breaks in between.
Study break ideas:
- Make a quick call home
- Tidy up your apartment or dorm room (think spring cleaning!)
- Check Facebook (you know you want to)
- Respond to a few e-mails
- Catch up on your favorite web site
- Do some stretches
3. Reward yourself
Making good use of your time is important, but you know what they say about all work and no play. Once you finish the last chapter of a challenging novel or work out that last equation, find an active way to celebrate your determination and the warmer weather. Grab a group of friends and throw a Frisbee around or just lay out on the quad to catch some rays.
“I’ll go for a run outside once I read my reading for one class or go get ice cream with my friends,” said Colleen O’Neil, a junior collegiette™ at the University of Pittsburgh. Rather than slogging away, Colleen keeps rewards in mind while she works, knowing that as soon as she finishes she’ll be able to go out and enjoy the day.
Dr. Wayne Weiten, psychology professor at the University of Nevada and author of Psychology Applied to Modern Life recommends short-term rewards for studying.
“It is easier to motivate yourself to study if you reward yourself with a tangible payoff, such as a snack, TV show, or phone call to a friend when you finish. You should set realistic study goals and then reward yourself when you meet them,” Weiten said.
Rewards to keep you on track:
- Schedule a girls’ night — dinner, dancing, you name it — you won’t want to have the stress of schoolwork weighing you down while you’re living it up!
- Watch an episode of your favorite TV show
- Go to a campus event — a play, concert or free bingo
- Steam off stress in the gym sauna
4. Do the worst first
Usually, if you have a big pile of work to do you’ll work on the little things first to get them out of the way and put the most difficult project or assignment off. This is all well and good for the other 7 months of the semester, but when spring rolls around and there are festivals, formals and flings filling up your schedule, the last thing you’ll have room for is a time-consuming assignment.
By finishing this assignment as soon as possible, you’ll free up your time for fun and have plenty of time left in between your social commitments for smaller assignments. As always, making lists helps.
“I make to-do lists of everything I have to do short term and long term, and that always helps me visually see what I have to get done and from there I break it up into what I do every day,” Colleen said. “Sometimes it doesn’t always go as planned but it works better than trying to fit it all in my head.”
It’s not always easy to tackle the biggest project first. Sometimes it takes a little self-convincing, but it’s worth it in the end. “I have to convince myself that I’ll feel better once it’s over, and I do feel great when it is so it’s positive reinforcement,” Colleen said.
5. Work out before you work it out
Let’s face it — beautiful weather is distracting. It can seem almost impossible to commit to spending an afternoon with flashcards and highlighters when the temperature finally reaches livable digits. Try swinging into spring with a jog around campus or a bike ride with a friend.
”Usually I go for a run before doing a big assignment,” Colleen said. “It makes me feel good after and ready to accomplish something.”
Some collegiettes can find it difficult to focus outside. If you fit in that category, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of spring weather.
“I can’t get much done outside, there are too many distractions. It can be too tempting to fall asleep,” Julie said. “If it’s really nice out, I might start out in the morning with homework and then give myself a break for the nice hours of the day.”
Just as Elle Woods taught us, exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Put those wise words into action and get moving. Go for a brisk walk down the block or find a nature trail near campus. Once you’ve enjoyed the wonderful weather, you might just find it a whole lot easier to focus on that pile of schoolwork you have waiting for you.
How do you get yourself motivated when summer is just weeks away? Leave a comment!
Julie Herbert, University of Maine collegiette
Colleen O’Neil, University of Pittsburgh collegiette
Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st Century, Dr. Wayne Weiten