Motivation is something many university students are currently struggling with because learning is a lot different this year. In some ways, virtual learning and social distancing have made school more draining. It’s not as easy to get into a mindset of learning when our classrooms have become our homes, and our homes have become our classrooms.

It’s something I have personally struggled with throughout the pandemic, and a common theme of what I have heard from many other students. Although the pandemic does not seem to be going anywhere soon, there are things we can do to improve our motivation during this time. I hope the following five tips can help you stay on track this academic school year:

Create an ideal study station

If your space is not set up for success, it can be hard to get your mind into work mode. Everyone’s ideal study station is different. Some people may prefer having a minimalistic space, while others may prefer having a lot of objects or decorations for mental stimuli. Regardless of your preferences, it is important to eliminate distractions (people in your space, your phone) if possible.

You want to create an environment that calms you and brings you positive energy. This can be achieved by putting pictures around you that make you happy and calming scents in a diffuser. I personally have pictures of me from past trips and pictures with friends and family on the wall behind my desk, and I like to use lavender oil in my diffuser.

Consider ergonomics when creating your study space. Ergonomics involves creating a comfortable space that limits injury and increases productivity.  Aim to have a chair that provides ample back support as this creates good posture, which is important for concentration and reducing back pain. If you are using a laptop, consider investing in an external keyboard and laptop riser, or using some old textbooks or boxes to raise your laptop for better posture.

Set goals

It’s hard to work towards a task such as studying when you don’t have goals in mind to hold yourself accountable. Where do you want to be after you complete your degree? What GPA do you need to achieve to make your four-year goal happen? What do you need to achieve in your class and in your mid-term to make this happen?

If you answer these questions, it may give yourself a bigger purpose and allow you to hold yourself accountable to the work you need to put in. For example, one goal I am working towards right now is obtaining at least a 4.0 in my Advanced Market Planning course, and it is part of my larger goal of graduating with honours.

The best goals are SMARTER goals, and the ASC has a Goal Setting & Motivation tip sheet on how to create these goals. You can go the extra mile, and put your goals in visible places to remind yourself, such as on your wall behind your desk, or on your phone or computer desktop. Whenever you’re feeling like your goals are out of reach, try visualizing your success to relieve feelings of anxiety or as a method to remind yourself that you can do this.

Reward yourself

When you reach a goal, no matter how big or small, it is important to acknowledge your success. After an intense study session, try rewarding yourself with a snack you love, a call with a friend or time for a hobby you enjoy. I often like to reward myself by grabbing some gelato with my roommate or calling my friend from high school.

It can be hard to want to work on an assignment when it can just seem never-ending at times. By rewarding yourself, you are giving yourself something to look forward to, which allows you to stick to the task at hand.

Move your body at least once a day

We don’t have as many reasons as we once had to leave the house or move around, so we need to make an active effort to move our bodies now. This can be as simple as going for a walk around your block or something more intense like a 5K run or bike ride.

I personally like to walk or run along the water as I find it very calming, and it allows me to feel refreshed. If the weather isn’t your cup of tea, consider doing an online fitness class. After taking the time to get away from your desk and move your body, you will notice an increase in concentration and a more positive mindset.

Hold yourself accountable to others

Sometimes we need a little help beyond ourselves to stay motivated. Try telling your friends and family the goals you have set for yourself and what you are working towards. This can create a supportive environment, and it will also help you beat procrastination as you will want to share with your friends and family the positive strides you are making.

All Ted Rogers School of Management students are also able to hold themselves accountable by working with a Peer Academic Coach. They can book one-on-one appointments with Peer Academic Coaches to set goals and go over learning strategies and ways to stay motivated, and then book follow-up appointments to check in on their success toward their goals.

Students can also attend a Virtual Study Hall and set a goal for the two-hour study session that they wish to accomplish. At the end of the session, all students can share their progress towards their goals.

I hope these tips are helpful during your time learning online!

Posted by Emma Young-Buchalter

Emma is a 5th year Business Management Marketing Major Co-op student at TRSM. She is passionate about helping other students excel in their academics, taking on roles with the Academic Success Centre since second year to do just that (BUS100 Breakout Group Facilitator and a Peer Academic Coach).