If you’re anything like me, shutting yourself in your room and committing to 10 hours of revision per day is a whole lot easier said than done. With one slip of the track pad, you’ve somehow gone from Project Muse to watching duck videos on YouTube, or just staring aimlessly into the near future wondering what exact events have brought you to this moment in time, or more importantly what you’ll cook for dinner. Here’s five ways serial procrastinators and daydreamers like me can find that extra kick of motivation they need during exam season.
- Make a To-Do Chart
Photo: Georgia Wakeley
That’s right, a To-Do Chart. Bear with me.
2 years ago my counsellor taught me this excellent alternative to a to-do list and I’ve been using them ever since. Unlike a to-do list, the chart allows you to allocate different weight to different tasks, making it more representative, as well as being visually much less daunting and depressing. To make one, you simply jot down everything you’ve got to do (however big or small) scattered over a large piece of plain paper (A3 if you have it). Then draw a box around each task: a large red box if it is very difficult or time-consuming, a small green box if it is relatively easy and straight-forward and a neutral medium-sized box for anything in between. Once you’ve completed a task, cross out the box with a black marker. The To-Do Chart is an excellent way of gaining some perspective over what you’ve got to do, and to recognise what you’ve already achieved.
- Location, Location, Location
The extent to which the environment we’re working in affects our productivity is remarkable. Keeping your workplace tidy, for instance, is one of the easiest ways you can help yourself feel more motivated. While I admit to often finding myself drowning in a sea of scruffy revision notes and textbooks, simple things like making your bed and not leaving dirty dishes around quickly dispel some of that bogged-down groggy study feeling we’re all too familiar with. Varying your study location can also be really beneficial, as it tricks your brain into thinking you’re doing lots of different things, even if in reality you’ve been reading the same 70-page chapter for the past nine and a half years. Try mixing it up between your bedroom, cafés, the library, your kitchen, and anywhere else you find useful.
- Get a Motivational App
Photo: Georgia Wakeley
It’s easy to point a finger at technology and lay the blame there for every problem with modern society, but every now and again something comes along to prove the whiny baby-boomers and cynical wannabe-hipsters wrong. This time, it’s the surging popularity of motivational apps. My personal favourite is Forest, which allows you to grow a tree for every task you do (the longer the task, the bigger the tree) and gradually accumulate a forest of all your accomplishments. The app also kills the tree you’re growing instantly if you try to leave the app for a sneaky peak at Facebook or Yik Yak, ensuring you don’t get distracted. It does cost about 79p on the App Store but for the amount it’s helped my stress levels and time management, for me it has definitely been worth the money.
- Get active
Exercising is an excellent way to get yourself feeling more motivated, as it releases endorphins. These help you to feel happier, to have better concentration, and they can be effective against mental illnesses. Exercising can also help you to establish a routine, and socialise more, particularly if you get involved with a team sport. Not all exercises are for everyone, but there are loads of different opportunities that the Students’ Union and the Jubilee Sports Hall has to offer, so it might just be worth seeing if there is something that would suit you.
- Draw a Line Between Work and Play
Photo: Georgia Wakeley
In college I was the worst for sitting on my bed with an empty Word document open on one half of the page as I scrolled absent-mindedly through Tumblr on the other half. I’d spend literal hours on just a couple of paragraphs because I was too preoccupied with checking Facebook or Pinterest or whatever else I found my mind wandering off to. At last I’ve managed to stick to the rule of studying and only studying, and leaving whatever else I want to do until afterwards, and it’s incredible how much more work I can get done in a small amount of time. Another really important part of this ties back into my second point: location. Never work in the same place that you play/rest/sleep, as your brain will subconsciously assimilate the two. Not only will you not be able to work without being tempted to take a break, but you also won’t feel fully rested during your down time as you will be more mentally focused on the work you have to do.