1. Be Social
Managing social and academic time is one of the biggest challenges for undergraduates. Personally, I have experienced the consequences of both ends of the spectrum – too much social with too little studying, and vice versa. Consistently eschewing school work for social time (a common first-year mistake) will undoubtedly lead to panic and disappointing grades down the line. As a result, students are often pressured by parents and professors to spend large amounts of time studying and not ‘wasting time’ with friends. However, the reverse is no better. Isolating yourself from social interaction in favor of studying will inevitably lead to a lack of motivation. This can be just as harmful academically when you hit a wall due to lack of drive and ambition.
If you are currently feeling unmotivated, reflect on the last semester and ask yourself if perhaps you were too far on one end of this spectrum. Of course, there is no balance between social and academics that will work for everyone – each student must find what works for them. Some tricks that I have found helpful:
- a. Set Limits for Social Time – for example, allow for two social activities a week: I will go out Thursday and Saturday, but no other evenings.
- b. Use Social Time as a Reward – If I want to go out Thursday I have to read Chapters 1-5 before then.
Instead of looking at everything that’s ahead of you, take some time to look at what you have already accomplished. If it’s your first year, congratulate yourself on a first semester at university! If you’re in your fourth year, feel proud of your success through three years of undergrad. Try writing down all your achievements from the past semester (ie. getting that B + in that really tricky course, or being elected to an extra-curricular position).
Constantly looking forward will keep you on track, but taking time to look back at what you have already done will give you a sense of confidence and fulfillment.
3. Keep Your Eye on the Prize
When you are feeling completely overwhelmed or uninspired it helps to think about your end goal: What is your reason for being here? Perhaps your dream is to become a doctor, so your undergrad degree is only the first step, or maybe you are majoring in Political Science, and hope to score an awesome internship after graduation. Regardless, it is important to keep that goal in mind when you are feeling lost or unmotivated. Essays and labs may seem irrelevant and futile, but in the large scheme of things, they are the small stepping stones towards your larger goal!
Maybe you don’t know what your dream is, and that is contributing to your lack of motivation. If this is the case, you could definitely benefit by visiting the university career centre (http://www.careers.utoronto.ca/index.aspx), or doing some solo research on possible careers. Find something you are passionate about to work towards!
4. Plan Your week – Set Micro Goals
Schedule times for friends can help you feel like your working towards goals. “I have a paper due Tuesday, but I’m going out for drinks Wednesday, so after it done, I can relax”.