How to Stay Motivated Past The First Month of School

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

If I could come up with an object or solution with magical properties it wouldn’t be an elixir that preserves youth, an oil that prevents hair loss, or a stone that turns metal to gold.

You know what I’d develop? Motivation in a bottle.

Can you imagine? If we could take that combination of hope, fearlessness, and drive that consumes us before New Year, at the start of the school year, or after great words of encouragement and turn it into a perfume we could spray on at will we’d be doing some great things – like writing multiple drafts of our essays.

But until an adorable nerd somewhere whips up this magical concoction we are forced to stick with tried and true methods to do the hard work required to accomplish our goals. Here are a few strategies to keep you grinding well past mid-terms.

Maintain a Neat Work Environment

Your physical surroundings have a significant impact on your mental state. Have you ever decided you were going to go home and tackle a reading only to remember the mess waiting for you? That image instantly drains your energy and convinces you that you can’t get to work until you clean. So you turn on music, start cleaning, look around at all the clothes to hang up, sink to the floor and mumble, “Nope.”

There’s no need to aim to become a domestic god or goddess. Commit 15 minutes each day to picking up everything off the floor. A little bit goes a long way, especially when it comes to cleaning. As you witness the tremendous impact a small amount of cleaning every day has, you will become more motivated to develop a rigorous cleaning schedule and by extension, get things done in your work space.

Attend Every Class (Even If You Can Get Away With Skipping)

When 3 out of 4 of your professors are just reading slides off a screen, it’s hard to find the motivation to drag your butt to their 9am class. In theory, you could read all the slides later and show up for the exams, but the key words there are “in theory”.

As the number of slides to catch up on grows larger and larger, the amount of work you’re faced with will get even more overwhelming. You’d be surprised at how much you can absorb by simply showing up. And even if you do wind up slacking on the readings, when you eventually decide to tackle the syllabus and play catch-up, you won’t be starting from nothing.

And remember: you picked these classes for a reason. With the exception of a few pesky mandatory classes, you chose these lectures because the subject matter seemed interesting. Follow up with that initial curiosity by attending.

Stop Joking About How Lazy You Are

It’s as simple as this: if you keep saying you’re lazy, you are going to act lazy. If you spend time joking with your friends about what a bum you are, you will cultivate a social group within which self-pity is acceptable and poor performance is not embarrassing. If you do nothing else on this list, start telling yourself that you are a hard worker and that you get shit done, even if it is not true in the moment. Your actions will catch up with your words.

Set Micro-goals to Make Your Larger Goals Manageable

Saying “I will get an A in all of my classes this semester” is a lovely statement, but it lacks something important: a plan. If you made this same goal last semester and you didn’t get the marks you desired, consider what behaviours brought you up short.

Was it often difficult for you to get started leading to procrastination and then hastily submitted work?

Instead of deciding you will spend every evening in the library, commit to spending at least ten minutes on a given activity. Reading an article. Studying a chapter. Even cleaning your room. Promise yourself if you can perform that activity for ten straight minutes, you can watch Netflix or go out, guilt-free. Chances are after ten minutes, you’ll be on a roll and hesitant to slow your momentum. If you feel your thoughts drifting to social media or your phone, tell yourself you can look at it in ten minutes (or five if the itch is particularly strong).

When the chemical engineer and the botanist I’m keeping – uh, hosting – in my basement finalize the formula for liquid motivation, I’ll hit you all up with some prices. In the meantime…

GET TO WORK!

How To Find Your Squad in University

It’s September, and that means new classes, new supplies, and…new people. Forging friendships is one of the best parts of life. Yet in the flurry of frosh week and in the desperation to make any allies in a large lecture hall, you may wind up with people who just won’t make it past the first midterm. So what to do?

Know Your Values and Don’t “Edit” Your Personality

A good strategy for entering any unfamiliar place is knowing who you are and who you aren’t. Sure, we’re all works in progress, but there are interests you have, values you hold dear, and things you will not compromise on like your family, your health, your time, and your self-respect. Don’t edit your personality in order to be more palatable to everyone you meet. But on that note…

Have an Open Mind

You can be true to yourself and also be receptive to different personalities and new ideas. Going to a new college or university or simply beginning a new year means you will be exposed to a variety of people with a range of experiences and world views. Some of the strongest relationships are formed by people who differ a lot at the surface level (and yes, your “hard core” political opinions are not that deep) but are similar when it comes to their values like integrity, hard work, and respect. Be willing to engage in constructive conversations and hear people out when they say something that diverges from your point of view.

Don’t Make Time For Time Wasters

People will only give you as much shit as you allow them to. Stop forgiving flakes and quit extending invitations to people who can’t be bothered. Shit happens, but when people cancel make it clear that you were looking forward to your plans and are disappointed. One of two things happen:

1. people start respecting your time, OR

2. you weed out those who weren’t worth your time in the first place

Stop Being So Afraid To Look Stupid

This Toronto attitude of “he or she who cares the least is the coolest” has made no one happy. Instead, it’s led to angsty social media posts and a generation of lonely people. Make plans. Risk the fact that no one will show up. Let them know how awful you felt when they couldn’t keep plans. Life’s too short to make decisions out of fear of embarrassment or rejection.

Respect Boundaries (That Includes Yours)

The kind of friendships where you can borrow money or invest a lot of energy into helping someone through a tough situation are built over time. If a new friend is making unfair demands on your time, money, and emotional energy very early into meeting you, be careful not to get stuck in an asymmetrical friendship or worse, become co-dependent.

Recognize That Friendships are Work

Somewhere along the line we became convinced that friendship is something that happens spontaneously (you fight a troll together in a bathroom, you share detention with a bunch of other misfits) and that magically sustains itself forever and ever. And if it doesn’t sustain itself? Poof! It wasn’t meant to be.

This is so far from the truth. Relationships take work. There isn’t always a party to go to. Sometimes being a friend means grabbing a coffee, putting your phone away, and listening when the person tells you what’s up. It also means honouring plans when something better comes up. There’s “busy” and then there’s “I don’t care to make the time for you”.

Friendships don’t have to be 0 or 100. It’s not a choice between “seeing each other every day” or “lol I’ll let you know if I can make it…might be working”. Create a life for yourself outside of others, and then make the time to share it with people who will hopefully become some solid ass friends.