7 Tips to Stay Motivated During the End of the Semester

It’s finally April, which means the semester is wrapping up. Combine the typical burn-out of a semester ending, add the urge to be outside in the nice weather, and you have a brutal combination. You already lack motivation, but now you also have the perfect excuse to procrastinate your work. This can be compounded for upperclassmen who are having their “last” experiences. If you find it hard to stay motivated you’re not the only one! Here are my favorite tips to muster up extra motivation.

  1. 1. Take Time to Reflect

    College is challenging, we already knew that. Students have to balance a full class load, part-time jobs, and a social life. That doesn’t leave much time for taking care of ourselves and keeping a baseline of motivation. Unfortunately, this tip requires you to take a hard look at your priorities and sacrifice any dead weight. 

    Our job is to be students and that can be easy to forget with all the entertainment around us. As the semester winds down toward finals week, many people start putting in more effort toward classes. There is nothing wrong with that! Except it can be hard to find motivation when you are missing out on the fun parts of college. 

    Don’t be too harsh on yourself with this tip. Sacrificing too much fun will make you miserable, but ignoring responsibilities will make college harder. Take a step back to see what you need to do to have a successful semester, and balance the rest of your life around those goals.

  2. 2. Develop a Fresh Study Routine

    Woman sitting on bed with laptop and books

    If the way you are operating isn't working, it’s time to make a change. Maybe the way you have been studying worked before, but now you are bored or there are additional factors setting you back. So, having a fresh start to your routine can be a huge motivator. You can even find a way to schedule the fun stuff during breaks or days off, and then it can be a reward system. 

    Do a quick google search on different ways to study and find something that works for you. The tips that have helped me the most are taking breaks, designating a study location, and bringing snacks or coffee.

  3. 3. Recruit Help

    Have you been in study groups? If that's a yes, then you already know studying is more enjoyable when done with peers. You are more productive because it becomes official and you suddenly have accountability partners. This one is super easy to implement, just text a few friends and set up a time to be productive together!

  4. 4. Make a Detailed Plan

    We all start homework or projects with a quick mental plan. For example, you have a project due in two weeks, so you plan to spend three hours on it two days per week to meet the deadline. That is a great start, but it is vague and unofficial. This method also doesn’t remind you of what the original plan was, and you might subconsciously change it each time you work on the project. 

    Try to take that plan and write it out. Break down what days you plan to work on the project and for how long. Get specific on how much progress you want to make or which task you’d like to complete during each session. Write this all down and make sure it’s visible when you’re working. When you complete something, cross it off and enjoy that rush of happy hormones! If you need a break, rewrite the plan to compensate--making it official and visible will help motivate you.

  5. 5. Use a Timer

    I lose motivation when I feel like I’m not making progress. One way to trick my brain into seeing all effort as forward progress is to set a timer. If I am able to work on an assignment for 40 minutes straight it’s a successful session. Regardless of how much I finish or if I did my best work, I made it 40 minutes attempting the assignment. Then, next time I open that assignment I feel pride and hope knowing I already put effort into its completion. In turn, my second attempt at the assignment is even more productive because I’m motivated to keep going.

    This tip can also be combined with your detailed plan or a reward system. Plan out study time and break time if you like to have every minute declared. You can also use this on a computer screen or phone alarm, which can prevent you from checking social media or answering emails. 

  6. 6. Send out Endorphins

    two friends walking big dogs on leashes on a bright grassy hill

    What are some of your favorite things? Do you like drinking coffee, treating yourself to a smoothie, or going for a walk? Take those happy-feeling activities and incorporate them into your study time. You can use them as an incentive or a kick-start. If you have a big assignment due tonight, buy yourself a smoothie as a “treat” before you start your work. Or, if you like taking walks you can reward yourself with an evening walk if you spend two hours on a project. 

    This is not a science and might not work for everyone. Yet, if you are able to put yourself in a good mood and jumpstart those endorphins, it will be easier to stay motivated while working. This works best as a way to set your mind into "study mode". When you break a routine or do something special, then you are less likely to move on autopilot and can have a more intentional study session. 

  7. 7. Last but not least: TAKE A BREAK

    Burnout is a very real thing. You will not work as well, won’t be in a good mood, and will fail more often than you will succeed if you feel burnt-out. School really sucks this semester because we have no breaks from our constant deadlines. You are still a human and deserve a second to catch your breath. If you feel burnt out or completely hopeless about the school, MAKE TIME to have a day off or do something you enjoy. Yes, you might miss an assignment or meeting, but getting back on your feet should take priority over continuing to burn yourself out. Don't forget that your professors and bosses are also human and have likely felt burnout before! Express some vulnerability and communicate your needs, you'd be surprised about how caring others can be when they know you need help.