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Summer School Blues: Lessons in Motivation

I have been in school for two years.
Let me repeat, two whole years.

Three weeks for Christmas and Spring Break aside, I’m fairly confident my last summer vacation was the one following my senior year of high school. You never truly appreciate the luxury of “free time” until you realize you’ve lost it amidst rented textbooks, notes, and in my case—baby diapers. But I’m not bitter. It was my own choice to take two summer sessions; it was also my choice to take a job at a local daycare.

However, as I wandered into my bedroom last Thursday night—it really hit me. I glanced around my room and realized it was a physical representation of perhaps the most exhausted, stressed out, and frazzled time of my life. Empty water bottles, bowls, notebooks, Starbucks cups, miscellaneous beauty products, plastic bags, cardigans, and shoes—you get the idea.

I was burnt out and I knew something had to be done.
So for those of you Collegiates out there suffering the same plight, here are some tried and true ways to keep yourself motivated:

1. Do what makes you happy.
As advised by one of my closest friends, do what makes you happy. For some, it’s running (wishful thinking on my part) and for others it could be taking a power nap in the middle of the day. Take a second to assess what you enjoy doing the most. Is it writing? Is it baking? Is it blogging? Watching cat videos? Whatever it is, don’t forget to set aside some time to indulge yourself. It could be the little boost you need to keep your mind both fresh and active.

2. Invest in planning.
I was never the type to use a planner in high school. I would just go with the flow, use the occasional Myspace or Facebook status about homework from friends as a reminder to do work, and things fell into place. Once I left for college, however, I went from having lots of structure to virtually none. It was a bit of an adjustment, but I learned that planning ahead really helped with staying focused. Take a moment to record where you need to be and what you need to do. This, of course, has a learning curve and requires trial and error—but once you figure out what works for you, lazy days will be a thing of the past. Find a method that suits your style. Do you like making lists? Or do you like seeing your schedule as an hour-by-hour visual? Do you need an alarm? If you have a smart-phone, I would highly recommend syncing your calendar app to almost everything you need to do. It’s a lot easier to neglect important tasks when you’re still feeling the aftereffects of a tough summer. Planning allows you to feel in control, a key to staying motivated.

3. Make time for friends.
Seriously, just do it. My social relationships professor went about thirty minutes in lecture the other week stressing the importance of meaningful relationships and their effect on physical and mental health. Feeling under pressure? Feeling under the weather? Take a little time out of your week to reconnect with an old friend, someone you know who can lift your spirits. No man, or collegiate, is an island. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. Even a ten-minute conversation on Ring Road is enough to make your day feel ten times better, believe me.

4. Remember why you’re here and remind yourself how far you’ve come.
Put things into perspective. Why are you feeling run down? Why did you take time to put yourself into these situations? Constantly remind yourself that everything you are doing right now is meant to help you get a head start on your future. That internship that requires ten hours a week is going to look amazing on your resume. That volunteer position at UCI Medical Center is going provide you with experience that can give you an edge in future interviews. Those clubs you push yourself to keep up with on a weekly basis could be your gateway to coveted leadership positions. You chose to go to this college to help you succeed, you are in control of your future and while this can feel a little overwhelming, it is a very good way to stay motivated. You’re helping yourself and that’s amazing. Give yourself some credit!

5. Enjoy your small accomplishments.
You are working hard. Don’t let yourself lose sight of that. Try breaking down large intimidating tasks into small bite-sized micro-tasks. Instead of thinking about the big picture, such as an important presentation, think about the smaller things that will help you create it—like practicing what you’re going to say a few more times, creating top-notch graphics, or taking an extra minute to really research what you’re supposed to present on. Once you’ve done each step, don’t forget to give yourself a quick pat on the back.

6. Drink coffee.
Okay, I’ll be honest. This was added for fun, and from my personal experience. There’s a reason why lines get so crazy at our campus Starbucks. Coffee is one of my secrets for functioning, and I have no shame. I rack up the stamp cards at Java City and I am three drinks away from a Starbucks gold card. Coffee is the kick I need to get through those dreadful three-hour night classes, six-hour work shifts, and ten-hour orientations. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. As a side note, any products containing caffeine should be taken in moderation, as it’s definitely prone to addiction. My father used to get migraines if he didn’t get his morning cup, don’t let that happen to you. But let’s face it—seasonal pumpkin spice latte’s are the perfect Fall pick-me-up.

Going from months of light schooling to another ten weeks of jam- packed university life can be seriously draining. It’s going to take a little work, and a little change in mind-set, but I’m confident that if we all take the extra effort to refocus, stay positive and do things that cheer us up, everything will be fine. We may not have had three months to recharge, but we do have 24 hours each and every day to find small ways to stay motivated.

Hang in there this Fall Quarter!

Feel free to comment below with what helps you stay focused, we’d love to hear from you.

Stressed clipart above found on Google Images, original picture may be found here: http://mashable.com/2012/06/12/cities-need-a-break/

Nicole is currently a fourth year Public Health Policy major with a minor in Psychology and Social Behavior. She has been writing for HerCampus UC Irvine for over two years, editing for almost two. When she's not busy working closely with her co-editor and managing the writing staff of HC UCI, she spends a lot of time at Corona del Mar...or baking cookies. She is also an expert baby wrangler and works part time at the UCI Infant Toddler Center. Her true loves include the color pink and copious cups of coffee.
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