new year

Remotivate yourself after the summer break. New year, new you?

Remotivate Yourself After the Summer Break. New Year, New You?

Don’t you just love/hate the gap between one academic year and another? ūüôā

In some ways the summer break feels too short. In other ways it seems far too long.

You relaxed. You got some cash from a summer job. You saw your mates back home.

But your work and your focus gets a bit rusty. You feel unpractised.

As soon as you return to university, you’re expected to get back to work and pick up where you left off.

It’s time to remotivate yourself.

But a new academic year also brings with it new challenges for your learning. Challenges that could stump you even further.

In my second year, I remember people’s unease and worry with the sudden uptake in expectations. Especially as many thought (and still do think) that first year doesn’t count. [Hint: It really does count…]

The new academic year not only meant we had to re-evaluate what we’d already learned, but also meant we had to push toward a higher level.

Not surprising, but a challenge on top of a challenge is…well, a challenge!

How do you recover from a summer away AND build on top of that too?

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

little and often

1. Little and often

It’s so easy to slip into an “I’ll do it later” mindset. Yes, there’s plenty of time, but that time rushes by fast.

Next thing you know, you’ve only got a day before that essay is due in. Or you’re just a few hours before a seminar where you are expected to engage in discussion.

Panic!

There’s a better way. Start when you get it, but only a small amount.

Little and often means that you spend a few minutes each day working on the subject at hand and not overwhelming yourself with too much content.

You may only need 10 minutes a day, you may need half an hour. However long you need, it’s much better spaced out in chunks.

By¬†committing¬†to just a short amount of time, you may be spurred on to continue doing more once you feel a flow. Or you can give up after a bad session, safe in the knowledge that you actually have the next day. And the next. And the next! You weren’t in the mood today, but you’re not forced to carry on regardless.

So the longer you have, the more chance you’ll have for inspiration to hit. If that’s not a reason to start early and not leave everything for the last minute, I don’t know what is.

This is the same method I suggest for working on essays too. The more time you give yourself to do the coursework, the more likely you are to hand in a piece of work that is worthy of you.

prepare in advance

2. Prepare in advance

Preparation shields you from surprises.

You usually get a timetable and reading lists and information on what to expect throughout the module or semester. When you look at this in advance, you can highlight common themes and the types of work that you’re expected to do.

With this information at hand, you’re not actively learning, but you’ve now got an idea of what you’ll need. Then you can focus on any areas you’re uncertain about.

Planning the coming weeks will also help you to find ways of making unenjoyable tasks more friendly and palatable. You may still draw a blank, but at least you’ve got more time to force yourself into a more inspired place. Good luck!

schedule your free time

3. Schedule your free time

Use your timetables and to-do lists for EVERYTHING. Even free time and fun activities.

It sounds strange to schedule free time, but it helps you to focus on the pleasure of leisure.

Without this, you won’t make the most of your free time. It tends to just get lost.

I spoke to¬†Bethany Wren, VP Academic Experience at University of Brighton Students’ Union.¬†Bethany suggests that you should “rota in some ‘you’ time every day, even if it is an hour in the bath with a vanilla candle, this will keep you sane“.

By scheduling ALL your time, including when you just want to do absolutely nothing or when you’re happy to do something on a whim, that free time can be used with more purpose. Even if that purpose is just to relax.

And sometimes the purpose is to gain some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Bethany says:

“Remember your friends once a month. My friends and I had a meal out in Brighton ‚Äď it reminded us that there was oxygen outside of the library but also that we were all feeling the same kind of stresses, and that was comforting.”

Your summer may have been quiet, lazy and carefree. So keep some of those summer memories and schedule those relaxing times when you’ve genuinely got nothing on. The next day may be back to work, but that can truly wait until tomorrow.

All you need now is a hammock.

find something new to do

4. Find something new to do

In my final year, I had a lot more on my plate. There as the small matter of a dissertation, I was living back on the student village with first years, and I was now a senior student.

But I still wanted to find new things to do.

For instance, I wanted to read a selection of Sunday newspapers to check out subjects that I’d never paid much attention to, and to get a taste of the different perspectives that come from a single story.

I would wake up early on Sunday morning. That way, practically every other student in the student village was sleeping, or had gone home for the weekend. I’d walk to the shop, buy a selection of papers, and wash my clothes in the invariably empty laundry.

As the washing machine spun around, I would sit back and read. A peaceful way to find out what’s going on in the world and expand my horizons without interrupting my other plans.

No need for sacrifices.

Okay, getting up early on a Sunday isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But by using the points above, it shouldn’t be hard to find what suits you. There’s always more time than you think.

And if you really are THAT strapped for time, maybe you DO need to make a sacrifice or two. That can be tough, but one you’ll thank yourself for in the long run.

I’m thankful for developing that new habit in my final year of engaging with new content. It’s helped me to build up good curation systems over the years.

ask for help

5. Ask for help

One of Bethany Wren’s top survival tips for getting back on track at university is to always ask for help when you need it:

“Nobody is expecting you to do this by yourself and there are a lot of people out there who are ready to give you a helping hand, all you have to do is ASK. We [at Brighton] have our Support service, SUSS at the SU who you can contact via email any time. Equally, if there is a member of staff such as your personal tutor who you can talk to, do!”

Renewed motivation can only manifest when you get the right type of assistance. Without it, you only feel overwhelmed.

A.S.K. – Asking Secures Knowledge

—-

Armed with these five tips, you should be well on your way to feeling remotivated.

And if you’re on a real hardcore productivity trip, I heartily recommend Graham Allcott’s books, “How to be a Productivity Ninja”¬†and “How to be a Knowledge Ninja.

No matter what your summer break was like, there’s more than enough scope to remotivate yourself and feel ready for anything as you hit campus once again.

What’s your main focus for this year?

 

Take a Different Approach to New Year Resolutions

I’m not a fan of New Year Resolutions. I don’t make them.

The start of another year doesn’t automatically make for a great starting point to change your life. I’ve heard countless people say they want to start the new year as they mean to go on. Unfortunately, they usually start the year with a sore head and a desire to ignore the world around them until their hangover has disappeared…

photo by Charlie P Barker

photo by Charlie P Barker

Instead of a New Year Resolution that you’re more likely than not to break, would you be willing to try something new and/or limiting to push you further and help you discover things you may not have found otherwise?

This year, I’m trying out something that’s more a cross between a resolution and an information diet.

While an information diet is usually about reassessing the content you read and view, I want to do something similar that focuses on the music I listen to.

Music is one of my weaknesses. I listen so much of the stuff that I don’t have enough time to listen to it all. My Spotify playlists grow, I continue to go oldskool and buy CDs, and I even buy high-quality FLAC files for some classical music.

If I didn’t listen to so many different genres, the situation may not be so difficult. But my range is too eclectic for my own good and I’m always on the lookout for more, not less. In terms of keeping an open mind, musical diversity is great. In terms of my attention and my time, it’s not so wonderful.

So I’m going to try something new with my listening this year. Like an information diet, I’ll limit and prioritise my intake of music to assess where I can save time while appreciating the music even more.

The big difference is that I’ll listen only to music that is released in 2012. That way, I intend to get more out of my listening rather than face an overwhelming mass of stuff that I can’t properly appreciate.

There will still be plenty of time for older music, because music is everywhere. My friends and family listen to all sorts when I’m around, I hear it on the radio, it’s played at pubs and clubs, people send me recommendations (old and new) that I’ll still happily spend time on.

And the variation of older music needn’t stop there. What about bands releasing ‘best of’ albums in 2012? That counts. And there’s no end to the classical music releases every month. Take Beethoven, for instance. When I searched Spotify on January 4th 2012 for Beethoven CDs released in the first few days of the new year, I wasn’t left wanting. Already available are recordings of most of Beethoven’s symphonies, his late piano works, some earlier piano sonatas, a violin concerto, and a selection of cello works. That’s around 10 hours of Beethoven in the first few days of the new year. I’m unlikely to get bored through lack of choice…

I’ve already earmarked over 30 hours of music on Spotify to check out. Some, perhaps most of it, will get removed from my Spotify playlists. But there will be some keepers. And as the year moves on, I should have a more reasonable stock to work from, yet still not feel any type of overwhelm.

More importantly, I won’t end up spending too much time working through gargantuan amounts of music instead of spending my time more fruitfully elsewhere.

Music is for enjoyment, but I don’t want to end up enjoying it too much and forget about my responsibilities and the rest of the world around me. Adapting the way I listen to music and limiting the content to music released in 2012 may well add to my enjoyment, rather than take enjoyment away.

And if I am desperate to listen to a specific track for sentimental reasons…well, I won’t deny myself. After all, I’m trying to enhance my experience, not punish myself and force unhappiness. Information diets and other limitation exercises are meant to free you and give you greater scope.

Like I say, this isn’t a New Year Resolution. I’m not pledging to ignore all other music outside the 2012 publication period. That would be nuts. However, it is a reasonable boundary to focus on.

I have no set date to finish the exercise. I may find it works amazingly well if I’m disciplined enough about it and I could continue indefinitely. Alternatively, I may learn a few time-saving tricks here and there, but quickly change plans to something more agreeable.

Have you made any resolutions for 2012? Or will you be taking a different approach? Have you found a better time to make particular resolutions?

photo by jaxxon

photo by jaxxon

12 Links to Help You Make Great New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year to you!

Yes, it’s that time of year when people start setting New Year Resolutions. Losing weight, learning a language, developing a new skill…It’s all to play for. Just as it was last year!¬† And it’s just as likely to fail for most of us.

To Do 2010 (photo by Gavin Luhrs)

To Do 2010 (photo by Gavin Luhrs)

I may be posting this on January 1 2010, so there may be a few aching heads out there. But it’s time to shake off that hangover and start thinking about the future!

Don’t let your goals fail. Here are 12 great posts around the Interweb on making your resolutions stick in 2010:

1. Penelope Trunk – How to keep a New Year’s resolution
Tips on how to make that change, whatever time of year. These from Penelope Trunk who, like me, isn’t a fan of New Year’s Resolutions.
2. Study Hacks – Resolve to Make 2010 a Year of Radical Simplicity
“Take back control of your life,” says Cal Newport. It’s time to cut out the burn out.
3. MakeUseOf – 5 Online Tools To Help You Keep Your New Year Resolutions
Since we do so much online now, there should be no harm in using the Net to hold down those resolutions.
4. Dan Pink – A Simple Idea for 2010
Dan suggests we give ourselves DIY performance reviews.
5. Zen Habits – The Definitive Guide to Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions
Not only does Leo Babauta produce a great guide here, he also introduces his new site dedicated to making changes in 2010, which is my next link.
6. 6changes.com
Leo keeps it simple, just like with Zen Habits.¬† He says, “Choose 6 habits for 2010.¬† I’ll help you form them.”¬† Why 6 habits? Because that makes it 2 months per habit.¬† So it’s fine if you have fewer habits to form!
7. Dumb Little Man – How to Make 2010 the Year That Your Diet Succeeds
Ali Hale tackles a resolution that features on so many people’s resolution list: Weight Loss.
8. Brazen Careerist – 5 New Year’s Resolutions For Young PR Pros
Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a “Young PR Pro” yet. No matter, this’ll help you get started!
9. Management Craft – Ready for a Great New Year? Try SMART Resolutions
“SMART goals have a higher chance of getting implemented,” according to this piece. Are you happy to be SMART?
10. Positively Present – New Year, Same Me: 6 Stay-The-Same Resolutions
What about considering those things in life you *don’t* want to change? Resolve to stay the same this year!
11. Self Confidence – Forget New Year Resolutions
Develop a dream, introduce a life plan.  Succeed through a much bigger picture than a simple New Year Resolution.
12. Scott Young – Why New Years Resolutions Suck
And oldie, but a goodie. Scott explains why there’s a problem in the process of setting resolutions.

It’s that time of year again when peoplestart thinking about New YearResolutions.¬† Losing weight, learning a

language, developing a new skill…It’s

all to play for.  Just as it was last

year!

I may be posting this on January 1 2010,

so there may be a few aching heads out

there. But that’s all the more reason to

shake off that hangover and start

thinking about the future!

Here are 12 great posts from the

Interwebs on making your resolutions

stick in 2010:

Penelope Trunk – How to keep a New Year’s

resolution
http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2009/12/29/

how-to-keep-a-new-years-resolution/
Tips on how to make that change, whatever

time of year. These from Penelope Trunk

who, like me, isn’t a fan of New Year’s

Resolutions.
Study Hacks – Resolve to Make 2010 a Year

of Radical Simplicity
http://calnewport.com/blog/2009/12/31/res

olve-to-make-2010-a-year-of-radical-

simplicity/
“Take back control of your life,” says

Cal Newport.¬† It’s time to cut out the

burn out.
MakeUseOf – 5 Online Tools To Help You

Keep Your New Year Resolutions
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-online-

tools-to-help-you-keep-your-new-year-

resolutions/
Since we do so much online now, there

should be no harm in using the Net to

hold down those resolutions.
Dan Pink – A Simple Idea for 2010
http://www.danpink.com/archives/2009/12/a

-simple-idea-for-2010
Dan suggests we give ourselves DIY

performance reviews.
Zen Habits – The Definitive Guide to

Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions
http://zenhabits.net/2009/12/the-

definitive-guide-to-sticking-to-your-new

-years-resolutions/
Not only does Leo produce a great guide

here, he also introduces his new site

dedicated to making changes in 2010,

6changes.com [http://6changes.com/].
Dumb Little Man – How to Make 2010 the

Year That Your Diet Succeeds
http://www.dumblittleman.com/2009/12/how

-to-make-2010-year-that-your-diet.html
Ali Hale tackles a resolution that

features on so many people’s resolution

list: Weight Loss.
Brazen Careerist – 5 New Year’s

Resolutions For Young PR Pros
http://www.brazencareerist.com/2009/12/19

/5-new-year-s-resolutions-for-young-pr-

pros
Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a

“Young PR Pro” yet.¬† No matter, this’ll

help you get started!
Management Craft – Ready for a Great New

Year? Try SMART Resolutions
http://www.managementcraft.com/2009/12/re

ady-for-a-great-new-year-try-smart-

resolutions.html
“SMART goals have a higher chance of

getting implemented,” according to this

piece. Are you happy to be SMART?
Positively Present – New Year, Same Me: 6

Stay-The-Same Resolutions
http://www.positivelypresent.com/2010/01/

a-new-year-the-same-me.html
What about considering those things in

life you *don’t* want to change? Resolve

to stay the same this year!
Self Confidence – Forget New Year

Resolutions
http://confident1.com/forget-year-

resolutions
Develop a dream, introduce a life plan.

Succeed through a much bigger picture

than a simple New Year Resolution.
Scott Young – Why New Years Resolutions

Suck
http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2006/12/2

1/why-new-years-resolutions-suck/
And oldie, but a goodie.  Scott explains

why there’s a problem in the process of

setting resolutions.