If you read my last post you will remember that I wrote on getting out and about this summer, including clubs you can join and places you can go to get active. We are now in the heart of the summer and what a summer it has been! The sun, blue skies and lack of rain have made frolicking with Mother Nature so easy. I don’t know about you but I have felt drawn to the lakes, restaurant patios, and just simply basking in the sun’s rays. Even with the extra daylight, summer days seem fly by in a flash. We Canadians have to put up with dreary, cold winters, so when the summer arrives we can’t help but want to make the most of every sunny, warm day. But us grad students have a predicament we must battle with: How do we stay motivated on our studies when the summer weather is such a gift?
This past month I took a summer course that involved three hours of class most mornings, additional readings in between classes, and assignments that required extensive research. Since it was an intensive course I had no choice but to stay on top of the work. However, when there was nothing left to do but the final assignment I struggled once again to stay on task/get focused/get in the flow/type, type, type, and all that jazz. A year into my program and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to plan my days and stay motivated. So how do we do it? Everyone has his or her own plan/tricks/scheme (whatever you want to call it). The following are some that I have discovered work for me:
Avoid noisy places. Sure it’s nice to be surrounded by people and music, but that’s what the Grizzly Grill is for. If it’s work that you want to get done then stick to quiet places like libraries, home offices, faculty offices, labs, or even a park bench if it’s not too busy. Even though I know this is a good rule I still can’t tear myself away from cafes. I’m sitting in one right now as I write. Coldplay is playing through the speaker system and I have been stopping every five minutes to people watch….(scan the room….man, I love this song…scan the room…nice summer dress on that girl…scan the room…I wonder what those people are meeting about…)
Plan ahead. So you decide to head to the library or an office for a productive day of research and writing – like me this past weekend – you arrive, open your laptop, organize your books, pens and highlighters, and five minutes later you feel your tummy rumble or the need for caffeine. Just a little boost to get you into the swing of it all. Five minutes after that you are packing up your things and heading to the closest Starbucks for fuel. There’s nothing wrong with this routine unless it becomes just that – a routine. Think of all the time wasted on food or coffee runs when you could be well into productive mode. Consider packing a lunch to bring with you (even if you’re not hungry) and bringing coffee or tea with you. Does your working environment have a kettle? Saves you a trip to Tim Horton’s.
Find balance. Doctors, therapists, religious leaders, and even Oprah have all emphasized the benefits of living a balanced life. So spending all day on our studies, or even thinking about our work, is just not good enough. Plan your week in advance. When are you going to fit in your physical activities? Write it down. When are you going to dedicate time to your work? Write it down. When are you going to spend time with your family or friends? Write it down. When are you going to do something entirely just for you, like reading a book for pleasure or engaging in a hobby? Write that down too. If you know that you want to make that all happen then you will probably be more inclined to focus on your work during the time you have allotted.
These are only some ideas. What are some of your tricks for staying motivated as a grad student, especially during the summer months? We’ve got to help each other out here. Share the advice and words of wisdom!