How To Stay Motivated
Eight days from now, at this exact time (9:50 AM), I will be sitting in my first lecture of Spring 2015 (Neuroscience) about 20 minutes into the start of the class, probably grinning from ear-to-ear and wearing my meticulously planned first day of school outfit. Fresh nails, fresh contact lenses, fresh pens, and a fresh sense of motivation will be joining me. Eight weeks from now, I will be sitting in the same Neuroscience lecture furiously clacking away notes on my laptop probably wearing a sweatshirt, yoga pants, and my glasses. Chipped nails (or bare if it’s a desperate situation), a pen that I dug out of the bottom of a backpack in disarray, and a very large cup of coffee will be with me. Before every single semester, I start out very strong and excited for the upcoming months. My respective break (summer or winter) has renewed me, and my goals for the year seem very achievable. Yet towards the middle of the semester, I’m usually pretty silent on the blog because I feel swamped by all of the work I have to do, and am usually going through tissue boxes and over-the-counter medications due to a weakened immune system. How can I make this “New Year, New Me” motivation last? Let’s look at some of the ways:
- Break up large tasks into small chunks – This is one strategy we’ve all heard before, but I never really thought deeply about it until I came across this article from Lifehacker (http://lifehacker.com/break-bad-habits-by-tricking-your-inner-caveman-1678100814). It talks about how to trick your “inner caveman” into working for you. For example, let’s say you have a large final paper due in a couple of weeks. Sitting down to write 12 pages in one sitting seems horrifying, but spreading out your work over the time you have left seems less daunting. Your inner caveman (AKA yourself/conscious) would be more likely to work on two pages a week than pull an all-nighter the day the paper is due. As the self-proclaimed resolution Queen, I work on multiple goals at a time, but only a few make it to the end of the year as successfully-achieved resolutions. As a bad stress eater and someone with horrible nutrition, I want to work on eating wholesome, nutritious meals throughout the day and avoid snacking on bad choice, sodium-filled foods. My usual strategy was to go cold-turkey (like with Netflix, Buzzfeed, and other elimination resolutions). Yet that ended up not working at all, resulting in a chips and guac binge while watching Packers football (GO GREEN BAY!!) However, by starting off each morning with a cup of green tea, that simple change tricked my inner caveman into being more conscientious about what I was putting in my body, and is even easing me back into some sort of an exercise regimen!
- Find Your Inspiration Board – This doesn’t have to be a tangible thing you make, but find something that works for you to look at whenever you’re running low on motivation. I turn to a variety of sources for this. Every time my work seems really difficult, or I just do not feel like studying, I head to YouTube to watch medical school parody videos and residency match day celebrations. This helps me remind myself that the path to becoming a doctor is long and arduous, filled with hard work along the way. If I can’t think of any new blog posts, websites like HackCollege.com and even reading the posts of other Illinois bloggers help give my brain a boost to think of issues common to college students. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror wearing the same clothes from a late night of studying, Pinterest and my actual inspiration board that I made last summer remind me to look good, feel good, and stay good. I know people who leave themselves quotes on post-it notes around their apartment and bathroom mirror to keep them on track. Quotes are incredibly powerful, and I think a great idea would be to write a new one each week in your planner/assignment notebook, like in the Passion Planner that I’ve lauded so many times in previous posts.
- If you Fail to Plan…- you plan to fail! Every goal starts out strong – you visit the gym to transform your life, head to the library the first day of school to do your required reading, put down the french fries and head to the salad bar. However in just a few weeks, you start to ease the diligence – working out three days a week instead of five, skipping the library on days that require you to have classes later in the evening, neglecting the required reading to play catch up in another class. Before you know it, it’s like that resolution didn’t even exist anymore! A personal favorite of mine is to notice just how many students stop showing up to the library early in the morning because they got tired of their “study in the morning before class” resolution. Planning helps eliminate the self-diligence of a resolution, because it really does become part of your routine. “Meal prep” has become a popular idea among weight-watchers and body-builders, as it involves pre-cooking all of your meals on Sunday and storing them in containers for the entire week. That way, they are not tempted to indulge because they have their healthy meals ready to go. Planning your schedule for the week on Sunday night is a great way to see how much work you have to do and when you can do it (account for location too, because if you are living in the Ikenberry Commons area, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to wake up at 6 am to be at Grainger Engineering Library by 7:15 am to study every morning). Packing your backpack the night before and laying out the next day’s clothes will be helping me stay calm and not be frantic in the morning.
We’ll work to keep that motivation alive this semester, and complete our 2015 Resolutions successfully! Enjoy the remaining days of winter break!