- Set goals. Before you begin your work, it is important to recognize your goals for the summer semester. Try to make a list of the big projects you want to accomplish during this time period and then break them up into smaller, manageable tasks. You can also let others know of what you hope to accomplish as a source of healthy pressure to push you toward your end goals.
- Be efficient and effective. If you currently (or previously) struggle with reading and/or taking notes, try to be aware of that now as you plan for the types of courses you’ll take. Also, try to see much time you might need to spend on particular courses/course assignments in your summer classes. Noting what you are good at or stronger at will also be useful in making these decisions.
- Every day matters. Keep a regular work schedule and aim to put in the same hours each week. Try spending 10 to 15 minutes of solid writing each day – this writing habit is crucial for keeping you feeling fresh and on top of your work. Before going to bed each night, it also helps to write out what you plan to accomplish the next day; it is always easier to plan what you will work on before you sit down to do it.
- Organize your work periods in small blocks of time. These blocks could be as little as 15 minutes. This can help alleviate feeling overwhelmed and at least get the ball rolling on writing your project. In breaking your project into smaller sections, you are more likely to start (and eventually finish) what you set out to do.
- Create visual cues. These can take many forms. Whether in the form of notes or mind maps you post for yourself around your home, a large and visible wall calendar, graphs and charts to track your progress, or even changing up the writing format on your computer (i.e. using bulleted points rather than paragraphs) – all these forms of visual stimulation can act as a balm to sooth the overloaded mind.
- Reward yourself. It is important to reward yourself along the road toward your final project. These “prizes” should be daily, immediate and positive things that you associate with the writing process. After accomplishing a small block of writing, reward yourself with something that makes you happy, such as taking a walk, eating a snack, or calling a friend. These small prizes along the way can ease your stress and give you something to look forward to.
- Switch up your work environment. A change of scenery can help you see the project in a new light. Try going to a library or café; places where others are engaged in similar forms of writing may act as motivation for you to do the same. You can also try getting some work done outdoors – it is summertime, after all! If are unable to complete your work outside, try to take breaks that allow you to enjoy some sunshine; this can make a difference to improve your mood and keep you motivated.
- Bring summer inside. If you can’t get outside as much as you’d like to enjoy the sunshine, bring the outdoors to you! Try picking some flowers and keeping them at your workstation, change your computer background to an image of the beach, or open your windows to enjoy the warm summer breeze.
- Forgive yourself. If you miss a day or two of work or don’t meet the deadlines you set for yourself, try not to get too down on yourself! Don’t decide to do extra work – this negative message can lead to more procrastination. Instead, just start where you left off and aim to regain your motivation.
- Make time for fun. Schedule time for fun and fully enjoy it! Feeling guilty about taking time for yourself will not help to write a better final project. Create a schedule for work and play – it is important to have a balance between your work life and your social life. Take time to enjoy the summer months, as this can help you to feel rejuvenated and refreshed when coming back to your work.
Remember, there are always services available at the University of Guelph for students struggling to maintain focus and motivation throughout the somewhat distracting summer months. Check out some of the services offered for graduate students here:
This post was adapted from ‘Don’t Waste Your Summer!’ by Gina J. Hiatt (http://www.abdsurvivalguide.com/News/051905.htm), South University’s ‘Attending School in the Summer: How to Stay Motivated’ (http://online.southuniversity.edu/blog/post/Attending-School-in-the-Summer-How-to-Stay-Motivated.aspx), youthink’s ‘Tips to Stay Motivated in Summer School’ by Juliet Su (http://www.youthink.ca/yt/careers/advice/tips-stay-motivated-summer-school), The Academic Ladder’s ‘Three Psychological Tricks for Staying Motivated’ (http://www.academicladder.com/2008/Three-psychological-tricks-for-staying-motivated-sept-10-2008.htm), and Coach & Grow R.I.C.H.’s ‘How to Stay Motivated During the Summer Months’ by Deanna Maio (http://www.coachandgrowrich.com/coaching-blog/stay-motivated-during-the-summer-months/).