Black font on yellow background says '2023 Goals 1. Get Motivated 2. Stay Motivated', next to an image of an open laptop and a cup of coffee

How to find (and maintain) that elusive new year motivation

There’s no better feeling than finishing your last exam for the year, knowing that you have three months of freedom ahead of you. But when those three months end? We’ve all been there – your brain has been blissfully free from the shackles of academia over the summer, and the motivation to complete your weekly readings or sit through a lecture is at an all-time low. The struggle is real, but thankfully, so are the solutions! I spoke to University of Newcastle Wellbeing Advisor Kristen McQualter to find out how to establish motivation at the start of a new semester and most importantly, how to maintain it.

First of all, it’s important to know that if you struggle with re-entering a study mindset after a break, you are not alone. Lack of motivation at the beginning of a new semester is extremely common, even though after a break is (in theory) when we should be most energised to continue our studies. Kristen explains that this is often because breaks are spent focusing on fulfilling other goals such as employment, social, spiritual or recreational pursuits. “Certainly, a break can be very energising but it may draw our focus away from our studies to focus on other things. It can be a tough adjustment refocusing our minds and daily routines on study” Kristen says. 
So, how can we overcome the challenges that come with shifting back into a study mindset? Kristen outlines six key strategies to implement to create and maintain motivation throughout the semester. 

Tip 1: Reflect on your past experiences of study

Reflecting on what has worked for you (or what hasn’t) in the past can give valuable insight into how to better manage your future studies. What went well? What are the things you are most likely to neglect? Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is essential in being able to identify why you may struggle with motivation, and how to resolve it utilising your strengths.

An image showing a stopwatch and the words Pause & Reflect

Tip 2: Get organised

Kristen explains that having a clear plan is essential to maintaining motivation throughout the semester. Spend time constructing a plan for your semester based on what you want to achieve each week in addition to your scheduled classes. For example, if your course has only a couple of big assessments, plan a time each week to chip away at them. Or does your semester have big exams? You may want to allocate time each week to complete revision notes.

Tip 3: Make your study goals small, clear and achievable

Kristen points out that often we assume that motivation is required for action – however it is often the other way around! She recommends having easier tasks on hand for when your motivation is dwindling. As Kristen says, “small steps in the right direction are great for developing and maintaining motivation”.

Sticky notes with different coloured backgrounds, with the words 'Set Goal', 'Make Plan', 'Get To Work', 'Stick To It' and 'Reach Goal'

Tip 4: Reconnect with your study goals

Spend time reflecting on your reasons for being at university. Why are you studying your degree? Writing these down and placing them where you’ll see them often (your desk, computer, mirror, etc.) can be a small but impactful way to inspire motivation daily.

Tip 5: Create a weekly routine

Kristen recommends creating a routine that makes study as easy and accessible as possible. Having a visible schedule can act as a great reminder but also an effective way to identify any potential issues. Kristen suggests keeping an eye out for: 

  • Clashes between paid employment and study 
  • Commitments that can be rearranged if they get in the way of study e.g. caring duties, gym routines and social commitments 
  • Times within your week that you can set aside for study. For example, if you find that you are more productive when studying on campus, plan your study sessions after class when you’re already there 
Image of a weekly planner, with Weekly Priorities at the top and checklists for each day of the week

Tip 6: Prepare before the semester really kicks off

Maintaining a healthy mindset can greatly aid the transition back into study. Try and stick to a basic routine, making sure to stay consistent with healthy eating, exercise and sleep schedule. As Kristen explains, “making some small adjustments before the semester really kicks off to make space for study is much easier than starting a routine from scratch.” 
Remember that if you do get overwhelmed, support is always available from the Uni Newcastle Student Wellbeing team. Good luck with the rest of semester! 

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