Hello, I am Ruby from the Seychelles Islands. I am a second year law student. For my first blog, I would like to share some of the things I do to stay motivated while studying. Interestingly, the word “motivation” derives from the Latin word “movere”, which means “to move”. Thus, when thinking about motivation, it is good to ask two questions “What moves me to study?” and “What moves me to persist in studying?” Perhaps the answer to the first question is the value we attach to obtaining a degree, or the interest we have in the subject, or it may well be the feeling of accomplishment that comes with graduating. While it is important to understand what motivates us to study, this blog post will focus on the second question “What moves me to persist in studying?”, in other words, how I stay motivated to study.
1 Know exactly how much time you have left
As soon as the exam timetable was released, I circled the dates on my desk calendar. I then downloaded a countdown widget on my phone and entered the dates of all four of my upcoming exams. Knowing exactly how much time I have to prepare for exams (and it never feels like there is enough time) keeps me on my toes. It moves me to keep on reading, to keep on going over flashcards until I have memorised the cases, to keep on attempting exam questions. In other words, it makes me accountable for the way I spend my time.
2 Plan your week and set realistic study goals
Knowing how much time you have to prepare for exams also makes planning your time easier. I find that it’s easier to stay motivated if I know what I want to get done during the week. For example, I will tell myself, this week I will cover the chapter on Resulting Trusts. I will then make a checklist:
- Read Study Guide
- Read Textbook
- Make notes
- Do activities in Study Guide
- Read one or two articles from Further Readings
- Attempt one or two exam questions
- File documents.
I usually have one ring binder per module. On each ring binder, I have a post it with my tasks for the week. In this way, I have a general idea of my workload for the week, so I can plan my day around my study goals. Ticking off tasks from the checklist gives me a sense of accomplishment and drives me to keep on studying.
3 Vary your study method
Sometimes I just get tired of sitting at a desk and reading. When this happens, I usually take a break (discussed below) and when I resume studying, I interact with the material differently. For example, I listen to audio lectures or watch video presentations available on the VLE. Sometimes I watch Youtube videos as well. I can call one of my classmates and we can talk about the topic we are working on. I also find it helpful to do at least one group study session per month.
If it is not possible to organise a group study session, and I advise you to try this one in private, you can pretend that you are giving a lecture. But in reality, you’re just talking to yourself. You talk about the material you’ve read, you can even make notes on a whiteboard if you have one. While you listen to yourself talking, there might be things that you find difficult to remember or to explain. Make a note of these, and revisit them again later, either in your notes or in your textbook. If you aren’t camera-shy, make short videos of yourself “lecturing”. Maybe you can share the videos with your colleagues and ask them for feedback. Facetiming or video calls work as well. The idea is to remain focused on the study material by interacting with it in different ways.
4 Take breaks
I find it helpful to plan out my study sessions in 2-hour blocks, followed by a 30-minute break. Before I take a break, I stretch my arms and just feel happy that I am being productive and that I am one step closer to my goal. I study at home, so naturally, I head to the kitchen to grab a light snack. The point is to do something that makes you feel energised, something that uplifts you. Everyone has their own way of doing this. I have one friend, a medical student, who goes jogging around her apartment block during her study breaks. I admire her energy, but I prefer snacking for now.
I also take a day off every week. I spend this time catching up with friends and family, watching series, cleaning, tending to my spice garden and giving my pets a bit more attention. Sometimes, I am too exhausted and I find myself napping all afternoon. What I do on my day off reflects my needs, both emotional and physical. Whatever I choose to do though, must recharge and reinvigorate me.
5 Sharing is caring!
A good way to do this is to create a Facebook group or a WhatsApp group where you can share useful resources you come across while studying. Having several people working on a google document is also a great way to make and share notes. It is also a good idea to participate in the Discussion Forums on the VLE. Sometimes you will find that other students are having the same difficulty understanding a topic, and then another student posts something that really helps. I have come across links to great study materials in some of the discussion forums.
If you’re getting support from a local institution, why not plan a hike or a picnic with your colleagues? It’s a great team-building activity and you get to talk about your experience as a student.
I have found reading the blogs here really helpful, especially during the exam period when I was stressed out and felt like giving up. Fellow bloggers shared their struggles and how they overcame them. I felt inspired not as much by their successes as by their resilience and their drive to keep moving forward.
To summarise, the things that keep me motivated are knowing exactly how much time I have left, planning my week around a set of realistic study goals, varying the way I study, taking study breaks, and sharing resources and my experience with other students.
Ruby studies our Postgraduate Laws Programme at a Teaching Institution in Seychelles.