Prevent the end of semester Burn Out + Keep your motivation and momentum going Strong all semester long
Since you’re reading about how to stay motivated this semester, I’m going to guess you are feeling emotionally drained, burned out, stuck, procrastinating, and generally feel your motivation is gone. How did I guess? These are exact phrases that so many students email me about.
And it makes complete sense.
A college degree is a long-term goal. You work at it for many years and it’s hard to see what you’re gaining along the way while you wait for the final degree. I remember being really frustrated in my college astronomy course. I didn’t feel helpful for my future to have worked so hard for an exam. But with nearly 15 years of distance, I see lots of valuable lessons I learned in the course. It made me a better student and a more tenacious person, which has paid off in my career.
Why we burn out and lose motivation in College
This is a big question, and I have lots of thoughts about how motivation and mindset are tied together. It really boils down to a few big reasons we tend to reach peak burn-out towards the end of the semester:
- pressure builds with final exams
- stakes are high
- we haven’t planned for obstacles
The first two are likely what we think of most often, and I’ll let you in on a secret…lean in…we like those two reasons best because they feel like things are happening to us. They’re not our fault.
But the last one…dang it…it’s all me. If I haven’t planned for obstacles, it feels terrible and I can easily spin into the self-blame game, which then turns into the shame game, and now I’m watching Netflix instead of studying because The Flash always makes me feel better. My motivation is gone and I’m stuck, not making progress.
I hate the feeling of being unprepared and try to always think about as many things ahead of time as possible. When I have failed to plan ahead in school, it is much more difficult to stay motivated this semester. Experience has taught me one thing:
There are always obstacles to want I want to achieve.
The bigger the goals, the bigger the obstacles may be. Don’t worry, ’cause you know I’m here to help you with a plan to tackle these obstacles and find your energy to finish out the semester strong.
Our family likes to scare each other from time to time (well, mostly me). One of us waits around a corner and shouts BOO to an unsuspecting family member. Fun, right?!? 🙂 When this happens to me, I jump, scream, and have this wave of fear wash over me. All I can do is react instinctually and it ain’t pretty.
But sometimes I hear my daughter creeping and giggling around a corner, ready to jump out. I get a big grin and when I round the corner I fake a good scare or plaster her with a kiss attack! I’m ready for her. I anticipate she’s about to scare me and decide how I want to react. It’s a completely different feeling when I know it’s coming.
Back to you. If you allow the end of the semester obstacles to surprise you, you can only react. And it probably won’t be pretty. The power move is to anticipate the obstacles ahead of time and plan for them. Don’t let them sneak up and surprise you.
Be waiting for them.
solve obstacles ahead of time to stay motivated this semester
First up, if your semester is wrapping up right now and you are feeling stuck today, these steps will help you. It is harder, but they will help. It is more difficult to process and plan while you’re knee-deep in the unmotivated feeling, but we can do hard things, and it is the best step to get unstuck now.
No matter where you’re at right now, also think about next semester and plan ahead so you don’t feel drained and can plan to stay motivated this semester. Here’s how:
1. List Things that Will Get in Your Way
First, anticipate things that will get in your way. What will be your obstacles this semester? Grab a pencil and paper and make a list. It might include:
- Christmas activities/Summer activities
- So many exams at once
- All assignments due at once
- Friends asking to hang out
- Kid’s sport schedule
Think about what your biggest obstacles are at the end of the spring, summer, or fall semester you are about to enter. Consider the time of year and what usually goes on for you. You might even pull out your calendar from last year for a quick reminder.
Step one is to make a list of all the potential or real challenges to get in your way during and at the end of the semester. It’s kind of satisfying to vent it out, no?
Satisfying, but not yet helpful, so roll into step two!
2. Brainstorm Solutions
Here’s where you create a power plan. Take each potential obstacle and make a plan to solve it. There isn’t one perfect solution, but the powerful part is to have a realistic solution ahead of time. Some examples:
Problem: Kids soccer schedule takes up the usual evening study time
- Work with my spouse so they can cover more duties.
- Find study materials to use offline and study in the car during practices.
- Create a team rideshare group to lower the number of times I have to drive
Problem: There is too much work during exam time when all courses need to be studied.
- At the beginning of the semester include a daily comprehensive review of my study habits. (this means less cramming needed at the end)
- Plan your final exam review to begin four weeks before tests. Map out a schedule allowing you to spread out the work over time and lesson what you have to do each day.
- Plan a monthly review with exams in mind. During this review for one course, go through what you have covered so far and sort out your facts for memorization and concepts to practice. Then work on those items ahead of time so you aren’t cramming for final exams.
I quickly came up with three different solutions to overcome each of these challenges, and there are more options. Some challenges are easy to solve, and some are more difficult. Your challenge is to not accept “I don’t know” as an answer. It’s a lazy answer. Add a YET on to it and tell yourself, “I don’t know YET”. ‘Cause you’re going to figure it out.
You can figure it out.
Literally, any solution is better than “I don’t know”! Don’t critique your solutions, just brainstorm, and trust yourself to find a solution no matter what.
I hope this strategy of planning for obstacles helps relieve as much stress and anxiety ahead of time as it has for me. Because you’ve written everything out, refer back to it when you face these actual obstacles. They will come up, but you won’t have to stress or miss a beat because you already know what to do.
Try It Yourself: 30-minute stay motivated this semester Challenge
- Grab a pen and paper, set a timer for 10 minutes and challenge yourself to list every challenge you might face this semester. Doesn’t matter if it’s big or small. Challenge yourself to keep writing for the full time.
- Take a 5-minute break.
- Set your timer for 15 minutes and brainstorm solutions for each obstacle. If you don’t finish each one in 15 minutes, take a break and come back to wrap up.