Student Advocate tips for… staying motivated

 

Two students running with trees in the background

Our Bristol Futures Student Advocates come from every faculty in the university, and are here to support you to grow your skills and become an even better student.

In this post, Martina and Anaya share their top tips for staying motivated…

Speak positively 

Martina, 2nd year Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry

My top tips are:
– Doing my best to find the topics I’m studying interesting (even if they aren’t my favourite or I don’t really like them)
– Keeping a positive mindset but most importantly speaking positively (avoid saying something is boring, a drag etc…) this makes it less hard to complete tasks (words have a huge impact on our mood/mind without us even realising!)
– Thinking of the bigger picture and working towards future plans!

Stay organised

Anaya, 2nd year Law student

My top tip is to create a study timetable and daily to-do lists. If you’re anything like me, being organised keeps you motivated and not overwhelmed.

– I usually create a weekly planner and colour code any commitments I have for the upcoming week (lectures, revision, free time etc.) It is essential to be realistic with your time and the amount of work you need to complete. Always allocate time for rest, so you do not become burned out.
– As exams are approaching, my planner outlines what topics I will be reviewing on particular days (and for how long), as well as when my courseworks are due and what days I plan to complete them. Again this is colour coded, which helps me better visualise what I need to do, and makes the process slightly more enjoyable.
– I also create daily to-do lists because I enjoy crossing off a task once completed. Therefore, I am motivated to work on the tasks during the day so that I can look at my completed list with pride at the end of the day.

Creating manageable tasks and taking reasonable breaks throughout the day will help you stay motivated and productive without it all being too overwhelming.

 

Bristol Futures Student Advocates run peer support sessions for students in their faculty. Check out the Study Skills Blackboard page to see what’s coming up.

 

 

Student perspective: Beating burnout in the final stages of dissertation writing

Jasmin in Royal Fort Gardens holding a printed dissertationby Jasmin Rahman, Cellular and Molecular Medicine student and Bristol Futures Advocate

Perhaps you started working on your dissertation months ago, maybe you started a few weeks ago. Regardless one of the most universal experiences whilst writing your dissertation is the frustration when you’re almost done, yet it still doesn’t ever feel truly finished. The last 2 weeks in February before I submitted my dissertation were so difficult as I felt like the 3 years of my degree culminated in a pretty average dissertation (this wasn’t true!).

During that slump of being unhappy with my progress, I figured out some quick fixes to stay motivated during the last stages of dissertation writing:

1. Track your progress

One of the main things me and my coursemates complained about was how we felt like we were working so hard on editing our dissertation everyday, yet we weren’t making any progress and it always looked exactly the same. But logically this was never true!

Tracking your progress, whether it’s downloading a printable progress tracker from the internet or simply saving a copy of your dissertation from a few days ago can be a practical way to beat the feelings of frustration that nothing is changing.

2. Avoid obsessing over details

For me, obsessing over the tiny details like perfecting my sub-headings was a really convenient excuse to avoid editing the harder sections of my dissertation. Although that definitely isn’t the case for everyone, if you find yourself obsessing for hours over a single sentence – it could be an indication to move on or take a break. My editing process sometimes involved cutting down entire paragraphs, critically considering what your sentence actually adds to the dissertation or sub-section as a whole can be useful in helping to take an evaluative approach whilst editing.

3. Take breaks and time to celebrate accomplishments

It’s definitely a cliché, especially whilst surrounded by friends and coursemates in a similar caffeine-driven push to cross the dissertation finish line. However, that state of complete fixation on finally finishing and the relief you’ll feel when it’s all over is definitely not worth compromising your health! Sometimes taking breaks and time to celebrate your accomplishments (however small) can be very useful in allowing you to come back to your dissertation with fresh eyes – especially useful whilst writing your reflections in the discussion section. So no matter if it’s only an hour break, burnout during dissertation writing is both very common and unfortunately very difficult to bounce back from. So taking some time to ensure your mental wellbeing before your hand-in deadline is both better for your dissertation quality and yourself in the long-term.

I hope this post was helpful and good luck to everyone still writing and congratulations once you hand in – you should all be very proud as it’s such a big achievement!

Student perspective: Keeping up motivation over the Easter break

Photo of Josie, the author of the blog postby Josie Rahman, Bristol Futures Advocate

Maintaining motivation over semester breaks can be difficult at the best of times – throwing in the challenge of online learning only makes it more of a struggle! Through running a peer-led workshop surrounding motivation and how we can cultivate it, it has became even more apparent just how universal this worry is for students. I hope that this blog can offer a few tips and tricks on how to keep on going with important assignments throughout the Easter break, whether that is spent at university or elsewhere.

Score a goal!

It is more important than ever when you are free from synchronous teaching over the Easter period to ensure that you have a plan and goals set for the time off. It goes without saying that you need a rest, so make sure to allocate time off in the week to catch up with friends (socially distanced!), fit in some exercise and make sure you’re getting plenty of rest to look after yourself. However, I find my motivation is at its best when I set really focused goals – I use the SMART goals acronym for this so give it a google! Check in with yourself at the start and end of each day – have you achieved the goals you set out to do? If not – were your goals too ambitious or were there other obstacles that got in the way of your studies?

What is your WHY?

To keep yourself going without the help of scheduled time with tutors over the Easter period, it can be really helpful to ensure you know WHY you are studying – what are the factors that motivate you? Motivation is split into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is where motivation arises within yourself – you are doing something that personally feels rewarding – whereas extrinsic motivation involves wanting to do something in order to achieve a reward or avoid a negative consequence (e.g. exam deadlines!). Understanding what factors may contribute to both of these can help sustain motivation. For example, I study medicine and am lucky enough to be genuinely passionate about certain aspects of my course, such as learning more about the signs and symptoms of interesting diseases, which is my intrinsic motivation. My extrinsic motivation is the fact that if I complete my degree, I will go on to become a doctor, an external long term reward! Remember to give yourself little external rewards too – a nice meal or a walk outside after work towards an assignment can be very gratifying.

The end is in sight!

Whilst exam season and deadlines loom after Easter, Easter break is a great chance to safely catch up with friends and family, and the balance of this is paramount for motivation. After deadlines are over, Summer is waiting ahead – and fingers crossed it’ll be a Covid-free one. Making plans for after deadlines and exams to look forward to is one thing that hugely motivates me during the breaks – the light at the end of the tunnel!

 

Bringing this all together, it’s great to consider what will motivate YOU over the Easter break? Let me know in the comments!

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?

Student perspective: Disconnecting and reconnecting

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

When brainstorming solutions to feeling isolated, a friend mentioned the word ‘disconnected’ to describe their current state whilst in isolation. It resonated, both in that it’s a powerful word, but also one which also has many interpretations. So, here’s some ways you can reconnect whilst in isolation, to help you study more effectively:

1)    Reconnect with yourself. (because it turns out you don’t need a gap year for that, just government mandated quarantine). Something I’ve heard a lot is ‘my degree feels less valuable now.’ So, take the time to work out the value you find in it. The fact it will provide you with future opportunities? The enjoyment you’ve found from learning about the subject? Or even the friends you’ve made along the way. Take some time to reflect, and work out what is most important for you to focus on right now. And give meditation a go while you’re at it! If you find yourself in need of some support, rest assured the wellbeing service is still running, as is the Students’ Health Service (phone appointments).

2)    Reconnect with the online world. A struggle for many in isolation has been adjusting to a new way of living. I’ve been struggling with the idea of being online a lot, especially since I enjoy being in a library whilst working. But the University have set up a bunch of resources beyond online teaching for specific courses. My personal favourites have been the Global Lounge’s online language cafes, virtual dissertation writing retreats and events put on by societies (check out their Facebook pages or websites for all the info!) I find the combination of learning something new, getting motivated to write my diss., and having some down time an effective way to get online whilst not scrolling mindlessly through Instagram all day.

3)    Reconnect with friends. Talk to your course mates about what you’re all doing to stay focused, and have open conversations about how everyone’s getting on. Start an online revision club; come up with a new project; go along to an online society event together. That one person on your course you got on with in first year but gradually drifted from? I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking for a sign, this is it.

And as for disconnecting? Disconnect from any news sources which are making you feel anxious whilst trying to write or study and disconnect from using social media too much (cliché but true). Finally, disconnect with the idea that this part of your degree is any less valuable than any other parts. Because despite the chaos, this is a powerful opportunity to reconnect with a new way of learning.

What are some of the ways you intend to reconnect with the world throughout isolation? Leave some inspiration in the comments to connect with the next person who comes along.

Student perspective: Finding the motivation to study whilst in isolation

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

Hey, I’m Beth. I’m studying Neuroscience at the University of Bristol and I’ve been unapologetically living in my pj’s for the last 2 weeks. My once (sort of…) motivation to study has been shattered and honestly, it felt like a huge set back. Initially, I thought I’d swiftly slip into a new routine, but this hasn’t happened. Therefore, after an hour or so of searching, I thought I’d share my 3 favourite tips on finding new motivations to study when your old ones have been lost to a global pandemic. (Well that’s a sentence I never thought I’d never use…):

1) Try bullet journaling. This is a great tool for those who like planning, but are often met with the barrier of stress-induced procrastination. It’s a fantastic and personable goal setting tool & there’s a bunch of creative things you can do with it – the basics can be found here:  https://bulletjournal.com/


2)  Get someone to hold you accountable. Is it just me who feels like getting up and leaving the ASSL after an hour ​is a sign of defeat in the eyes of those around you? Something which has worked well for me is setting up a ‘Journal Club’ within my course, where each course mate involved will read the same paper, and then discuss it on a Zoom call. Other suggestions include asking a friend or family member to help you to revise for an hour, or signing up to an online dissertation retreat or study lounge day with the UoB Study Skills service. Utilise the collective motivations of others, because I’m sure you’re not the only one who feels like this.

3) Find some internal motivation. Being held accountable for studying is great, but what about on the days where there’s no online groups running? Think about what genuinely motivates you to study. Graduating with a good grade? Being able to apply for the PhD position you’ve always wanted? For the love of your subject? Write down three things which motivate you to study on a post it note, and stick it on your wall as a reminder. Working out why you want to do something is a surprisingly effective tool to get you started.

What are your motivations to study whilst in isolation? Leave a comment and see what everyone else has to say!