Edition 2

How to stay motivated: study tips and tricks for virtual finals

As we approach the most stressful time of the year, here's how to stay motivated with regular homework and manage new challenges

Written by Chloe Daugherty-Brunak.

As students everywhere are facing a lot of unknowns amidst the pandemic, staying on top of schoolwork may feel overwhelming. This is not uncommon.  Results of the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium student survey at UPS found that 20% of students rated their ability as “poor” in terms of pushing themselves to stay motivated in a pandemic. 40% reported this ability as fair, and only 37% of students who took the survey reported their abilities in this area as good. In terms of finding healthy ways to manage the challenges, 32% of students reported their abilities as “poor”.

One student reported that their professor had decided not to do virtual classes and instead sent documents of their lectures four times a week. This meant that they had to teach themselves much of the material. Notwithstanding difficult experiences like this, the simple reality of being in college during a pandemic is why studying properly and being organized can have a major impact on your ability to succeed in this difficult time. 

I spoke to a few students about the challenges of the pandemic, and they agreed on the following strategies as being most applicable for this challenging time: 

Take care of your wellbeing first. Making a plan and adjusting your studying may help you feel even a little sense of control. Another key suggestion is to set a schedule. As the pandemic continues, you may have fewer social commitments, group meetings or work hours. Setting a schedule for yourself can help provide structure and keep you motivated. If you don’t already keep a weekly or daily calendar, doing so is immensely helpful. Including time for exercise and self-care is also crucial.

If you usually study in a coffee shop or library, rethinking your study environment at home is helpful. See if you can recreate that at home. Maybe it’s studying in a chair, rather than on your bed or couch, or moving to a new spot when you change tasks. If you feel you need background noise, consider using white noise. 

One of these issues that I and many other students have struggled with is getting on a daily routine.  Following a routine as similar as possible to your normal day in college can help, but if work and other things get in the way, creating any routine that you can stick to weekly helps immensely.  

Having a routine will help you procrastinate less. When you stick to a routine, you end up completing your tasks habitually, without needing to summon the determination and willpower that can be so hard to find.

In these house-bound times, finding communities and participating in them is more important than ever. If you can, keep in touch with your friends and course mates regularly. You can create a group chat for students studying a particular module, or even a group study session on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Because we are spending hours staring at a screen, whether it is for our classes, meetings, or doing homework, it can be hard to break away from the computer. One thing that I and other students have found to be useful is to write essays on paper, as opposed to writing them by hand. This helps to give yourself a brief screen break. In addition, writing things by hand can help one process information when studying for an exam, so giving yourself a break to take notes by hand, while more time-consuming, can help you both retain and regurgitate information more easily. 

Setting daily goals can help you to make your day as productive as possible, but be realistic with the goals you set. Big goals may seem insurmountable right now; instead, focus on small goals for each day that you can cross off your list. Get through the assigned articles for your upcoming class. Finish the first draft of a paper. Read half of your assigned writing, and then do the second half the next day.

Setting aside time to relax is also very important. Scheduling when you will work and when you will relax can help you to manage a healthy work-life balance at home. Even giving yourself a small period of time to relax at the end of the day, whether it’s 30 minutes or two2 hours, can help you reset for the next day. Delaying gratification over time helps improve your self-control, which in turn will help you achieve your long-term goals. Ideally, you should give yourself some time at the end of the day, before you go to sleep, to relax. However, for students with jobs that end later in the day, or for students who run out of time, taking any kind of break, whether it’s at 12 p.m., or at 3 p.m., can be useful to recharge your energy.