Mindset matters: Strategies to boost motivation in crunch time

It can be hard to maintain your academic motivation. Finish the semester strong with these tips.
Thursday, March 28, 2024

Even though finals are weeks away, the end of the semester will come more quickly than you realize! It can be hard to maintain your academic motivation.

Check out these tips from Learning at Iowa to help you finish the semester strong!

Proactively combat procrastination

While procrastination may work in the short term, it is related to burnout in the long term. Act proactively to combat the natural temptation to procrastinate:

  • If you haven’t yet, enter deadlines for your remaining assignments and exams into your planner or calendar. Set up reminders leading up to those deadlines so you can space out your learning.
  • Be intentional about setting time aside ahead of the due date to start on assignments or review for an exam. Start at least a day before the deadline so you have time to take breaks and not get overwhelmed when life happens!
  • Schedule out your week in advance and decide what needs to be finished each day. Then take it one day at a time, working on one assignment or class at a time.
  • Break down your assignments into smaller goals, i.e. do the first three problems vs. complete the entire assignment.
  • If it is hard to get started, try setting a 5-minute timer to do work.
  • Reward yourself when you power through and feel productive! Think about what positive reinforcements or rewards will help you celebrate your progress and motivate you to do it again.

For more information, check out:

Bounce back from burnout

If you start feeling the initial stages of burnout, try the following:

  • Instead of focusing on getting As in every class, set behavioral goals that will help contribute to that desired end result, like “I will go to office hours to seek clarifications.”
  • Remind yourself it is ok to make mistakes and that you are a beginner in your field of study. Give yourself permission to ask questions and reach out for help from your support team (instructors, advisors, peers, family, etc.).
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating and exercising regularly, and taking breaks to do things not related to your academics!

For more information, check out:

Remind yourself why you came to college in the first place

To keep up your motivation during challenging times of the semester, ask yourself:

  • What kind of information do you want to learn? What kinds of big questions do you want to know the answers to? What type of career are you preparing for?
  • How can each course you are taking this semester help you get closer to these goals? How does each course provide an opportunity to grow in ways that are important to you academically, personally, or creatively?
  • If you are in a class that you aren’t as passionate about, consider how it can help you achieve a longer-term goal, like fulfilling a requirement for your major or learning a skill that will make you more competitive for an internship.

For more information, check out:

A  student studying

Problem-solve in advance

Anticipating the challenges you might face helps you to problem-solve ahead of time, minimizing the impact these roadblocks have on your semester. The first step to overcoming challenges is to notice when they are occurring and in what situations they are most likely to occur for you:

  • What are your most common academic roadblocks? Many students struggle with distractions, procrastination, and feeling overwhelmed.
  • What strategies and resources are you already using to address them that are working well for you? Try adding 1-2 new strategies to address the specific roadblocks you identified. Check out these videos for some practical tips to boost your success: Metacognition and Memory.

For more information, check out:

Celebrate small wins

When the semester gets hard, take time to acknowledge and savor small victories. This will motivate you to stay present and focused as you continue to make progress towards your goals:

  • Save reminders of these wins by keeping a journal, creating an email folder for congratulatory notes, or keep a folder of assignments and projects that you are proud of. 
  • When you are feeling discouraged, remind yourself of how far you've come and everything you have already learned this semester.
  • Remember, you’ve successfully overcome academic challenges before, and you can do it again!

For more information, check out:

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.