Student perspective: Staying motivated in the lead up to and during Winter Break

Photo of Tiegan, author of this blog postby Tiegan Bingham-Roberts, Y3 BA English student & Bristol Futures Advocate

There are only three weeks left of TB1… congratulations on making it this far! I for one am certainly looking forward to a break, especially to spend some time doing activities that do not involve staring into the abyss of my laptop screen all day every day. I might do some baking, go for some walks in the countryside of my hometown (weather dependent of course, which does is not a great dependent if you live in the UK like me), read some books that are completely unrelated to my English degree, and catch up on the extra hours of sleep that ran away from me this term. I hope you are also planning on doing some relaxing activities, whatever they may be for you.

Before you can do those activities, though, you must get past the finish line. Especially with the recent updates that all teaching is going to be moved online gradually from the 3rd December, you might be feeling worried about how to stay motivated. If you are staying on-campus, the lack of in-person teaching may impact your motivation because you feel as though you are being held less accountable for how much work you put into your studies. If you really enjoyed the in-person teaching, you might be worried about being less engaged with your learning materials. In general, you may be feeling unmotivated purely for the fact that you are tired of 2020 and all the changes it continues to bring to our lives. If you are returning to your non-term time address, if you have one, you might struggle to stay motivated because you are no longer surrounded by other students and so it feels as if the Winter Break has started early, even though it has not.

However, and this is a big however, it is hard to escape from the reality that Winter Break is not truly a ‘break’, because unfortunately we cannot switch off our student status as soon as we leave the classroom. I know that every student, no matter what course they are studying or what year group they are in, will have tasks to complete over the Winter Break – whether that be essays, reports, research, exam revision, reading, proposals, job applications, internship applications, volunteering, part-time jobs, the list goes on and on…

Alongside these tasks, comes the big distraction of Winter Holiday Celebrations. During the final few weeks of term and in the month and a half that follows, you might be participating in one of the many festivals happening across the globe, perhaps in a different capacity this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Between the tasks you have been set to complete over the Winter Break, and the festivities of the season, it is understandable why many students get sucked into the intoxicating fun of it all only to soberly panic as our deadlines or exams quickly approach before our TB2 timetables start.

Here are some things you can do to stay motivated amidst all the chaos, excitement, and relaxation:

· Remind yourself of what you have achieved so far in such strange circumstances of a global pandemic, why you are here at University, and why you want to do well. Sometimes it is easy to forget how far you have come as you get wrapped up in deadlines and what can feel like aimless days of staring at your screen, but there is a point to all of it – to get your degree from a top University. This is very cliché, but the phrase ‘it will all be worth it in the end’ is apt here.

· Make sure your goals are realistic. Whether these are daily or weekly goals, have them noted down somewhere such as on a physical or virtual notepad or calendar. Make sure they do not completely fill your time, as often unexpected things come up or things may take longer to complete than you initially realised. Allowing flexibility means that you will be much more likely to achieve the goal by the end of the day or week. I get so much satisfaction from being able to tick things off my to do list and go to sleep each night knowing that I can truly relax and watch a bit of Netflix without feeling guilty for it.

· Create a study space. This is going to be easier for some students than others depending on your living situation, and my advice here is to work with what you have got to the best of your ability; try to get creative. It might be that you clear one area of the room you are staying in to be a blank canvas so that you are able to focus, it might mean stacking up a pile of academic books in your space to serve as a reminder that you are still a student!

· Check in with your peers on your course or other students you know who are studying different subjects – ask them how they are doing, what work they have managed to do, discuss deadlines, peer review each other’s work. I find that having somebody to hold you accountable for what you have been up to can be a great motivator, and even having a small conversation about University life can help to jog your memory and get you back into the right mindset of being a driven and determined student.

· Book onto one of the Bristol Study Skills Online Study Lounges. These are a fantastic way to study with and meet other students whilst studying remotely.

· Check out the Bristol Study Skills resource online about Studying From Home, which breaks down different ways of studying remotely which is what we will all be doing from between 3rd-9th December onwards until the end of January (if in-person teaching resumes of course).

I hope the rest of term goes well for you and that you have found this post useful for thinking about motivation over the Winter Break. What activities are you most looking forward to during your rest days?

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