Although this time of year is often defined by falling leaves, it can be easy to also let your midterm motivation fall. This mid-semester slump can cause major problems for college students who become burnt out from the continuous cycle of studying. This slump can result in slipping grades and reduced effort overall.
To avoid this hiccup, here are seven study suggestions to maintain your internal drive and make it all the way to finals on a high note.
1. Change your study location.
One way to increase your incentive to study on a lazy, dreary Sunday is to find a fun, novel setting to actually study in. I have found that going to the same place over and over to study increases the banality and drudgery of studying by falling into a boring routine.
This is especially pertinent to places like the school library that have built-in connotations of late nights, stress, and dim lighting. Try to find a new place in your area to buckle down and concentrate on your studies. While coffee shops and libraries are the common standbys, sometimes a non-conventional place like a museum will have an area to study in. Just ensure beforehand you have access to a strong Wi-Fi connection along with functioning outlets and you’ll be good to go!
If you want to stay in your pajamas and study from home (totally not judging — sometimes we’re the most productive when we’re comfortable ), check out these tips for creating a space where you can maintain focus. Not having your phone within arm’s length when studying can reduce distractions by leaps and bounds for example. A change in scenery can definitely help invigorate your studying routine and provide a little excitement to the doldrums of studying.
2. Take it one week at a time.
I have been guilty of looking way too far ahead in the semester and either feel overwhelmed at the barrage of assignments and deadlines coming my way or compiling a list way too early of all the eventual things I will have to accomplish (which often produces a feeling of discouragement by the immediate lack of progress).
Obviously, some assignments demand a lot of preparation but try to break your workload into as manageable amounts as possible. This could consist of dividing a semester-long project into weekly tasks such as ‘read these five sources’ or ‘write the first draft of the conclusion’ that are much more manageable.
Viewing the remainder of the semester as a set of weekly tasks rather than a swath of impending deadlines helps to prevent feeling overwhelmed. When taking it one week at a time, it suddenly seems possible to finish out the semester strong.
3. Keep going to class!
The temptation to sleep in on a chilly November morning is as strong as the coffee needed to actually get out of bed in the first place. However, maintaining attendance is crucial at this point in the semester. It can be easy to start skipping the larger lecture-style classes where no one will realize your absence, but usually, the subject matter becomes more challenging and cumulative after midterms.
Therefore, missing a handful of classes can set you back and make you feel behind. Keeping a semblance of a schedule is also important as skipping one lecture can eventually lead to another. Pretty soon, your entire academic routine has been negatively altered. So, bring a big thermos of coffee and some snacks, keep in mind you can always nap after your 9 a.m., and muster the energy to attend class.
4. Break up screen time.
Once the weather minimizes the frequency of outdoor activities, it becomes much more difficult to limit screen time — especially when studying requires a computer the majority of the time. No one likes to stare at a screen all day. It becomes tiresome and can result in vision issues and headaches.
Thus, it is imperative to set breaks on time spent staring at your computer. Try to find an activity where no technology is required- reading, baking, or grabbing coffee with a friend for example- to break up the monotony of using your laptop day after day. A relaxing activity like meditation can help rest your eyes (don’t let it turn into a nap!) and reset your mind.
Not only will this improve your overall mentality, it will also assist in making your studying timeslots as productive and efficient as possible. When you set a schedule of studying for two hours followed by an activity break, those two hours will be much more productive than if you sit down at your computer at noon on a Sunday will no real plan or timeline.
5. Organization is key.
One of the biggest deterrents of motivation for working on a semester-long project is the overwhelming disorganization caused when many different sources of information about the project are scattered around various platforms.
For example, say that the project guidelines are on whichever online class portal your university uses, the professor emailed some clarifications two weeks ago, you have notes of general tips given in class last week, and to top it off, there are three different tabs open of potential sources on your computer. I just got stressed writing that sentence so I know actually living out a similar situation is the pinnacle of stress. Disorganization of information can halt any progress when you don’t even know where to start.
My suggestion would be to spend time solely to compile all the information about a singular project into one document or browser window. That way, you have one place where all the relevant information can be easily accessed. This compilation can then be easily synthesized and further action steps can be created. For further writing-specific tips, head here. Eliminating that enduring anxiety of where to begin a project or essay is crucial in avoiding a procrastination-induced mid-semester slump.
6. Read smarter, not harder.
One of the first things to slip during the mid-semester burnout is time spent reading for class. Many articles and textbook chapters can be less than interesting and often it is possible to skate by during class without being completely prepared. Nevertheless, don’t let today’s lack of midterm motivation come back to get its revenge when an essay question appears on the final referencing the skipped reading.
Let’s be honest, though: there will always be weeks when there is not enough time to complete a reading in totality. That’s why it is essential to read smarter and not harder. By this, I mean being able to deduce what the most critical parts of the reading are and focusing on those first ( you also may take notes!). Prioritizing sections of an assigned reading instead of trying to go straight through will aid in actually absorbing what you read and also not running out of time.
Sometimes it’s beneficial to skip a long anecdote that doesn’t contain any new information and head straight to the most information-heavy portions of the reading. Implementing strategies for active reading can help to avoid the temptation to not read altogether.
7. Maintain Midterm Motivation.
Sometimes stress about a particular assignment can get way out of hand. When a certain project begins to slowly take over your life, that’s when it is time to take a step back and remember two things. First, no project is insurmountable. You would not be given an assignment if there was no way to complete it. If you think this is incorrect, then definitely reach out to the professor to ask for help.
Second, no assignment is more important than your well-being. If an assignment begins to make you so overwhelmed that it becomes all-consuming, reassure yourself that this one assignment does not define who you are in any way nor does it define your future. Just because that one paper isn’t perfect does not mean you won’t graduate and achieve your goals. In the moment, working on an assignment can seem like the most important thing in the world when in reality, it most definitely is not.
Reach out to the resources your university provides if the workload becomes too much and you need help. Study centers, academic advisors, and mental health professionals are at your disposal at most universities, so do not feel bad in the slightest for seeking out help when needed. Read more here about the best methods to get academic help in college, here for a strong list of resources available to help you thrive in college, and here for further information on preserving your mental health during college.
The mid-semester slump can affect anyone, but it can be thwarted from derailing an entire semester with proper diagnosis and treatment. So don’t worry if there’s a week that goes awry! You can start again. As long as you’re aware of the situation and actively trying to improve it, the slump will merely become a brief blip on your collegiate journey. In short, find ways to change your routine if you find yourself slipping to elude the slump and regain your motivation.
This article was written by BookScouter contributor Parker Stubhar.
Parker Strubhar is a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma and currently resides and works in Washington D.C. He is also a freelance writer. Business inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.