Aug. 21, 2021

Maintain your motivation: Five tips for staying focused throughout the semester

Have you ever had one of those days, or maybe weeks, where it feels a little bit harder to get things done? If so, you’re not alone – I often meet with students who express difficulty staying motivated, especially once the excitement of a new term wears off.
Maintain your motivation: Five tips for staying focused throughout the semester

The good news is that there are strategies you can use to overcome moments of motivation loss and regain your focus. Here are five tips you can try to maintain or refresh your motivation.

1. Set and revisit goals

Did you know that goal setting works equally well for long-term and short-term aspirations? Setting and revisiting your goals can be motivating because it is a reminder of what you hope to achieve. Longer-term goals highlight the big picture – perhaps the career you hope to start after completing your degree – while shorter-term goals identify milestones along the way.

The key to a strong goal is to make it SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. For example, a short-term goal for the semester might be: I will spend the hour after each PSYC 203 lecture in the library, where I will create a summary note sheet.

Practice setting your own SMART goals with our SMART Goal Worksheet!

2. Divide up large tasks

A 2000-word paper, an upcoming midterm, or a group project...these tasks might feel overwhelming at first glance. Overcome the potential to lose your motivation by dividing your larger projects into smaller tasks. This way, you can tackle the work one step at a time, with each completed task refuelling your motivation to reach the finish line.

3. Ask for help when you need it

Staying motivated often involves seeking help from our support networks, including friends, family, mentors, professors, and student service staff. Reaching out to brainstorm with someone, share your concerns, or ask for an accountability buddy might provide that boost you need to get started.

4. Exercise self-care

It’s hard to stay focused on schoolwork when your overall wellbeing is neglected. Taking breaks and incorporating time for self-care is an important part of maintaining motivation. When you feel rested, nourished and happy, it will be easier to focus on academic tasks.

5. Celebrate your accomplishments

When was the last time you congratulated yourself for reaching a goal, checking an item off your to-do list, seeking support, or exercising self-care? Remember to celebrate your accomplishments! There will always be more work to do; stay motivated by making time to reward yourself for a job well done before moving onto the next task. Soon enough, you’re likely to find yourself at the end of a successful semester!