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Jess McNamara

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Ask the Advocate: Staying Motivated

  1. Are you thinking a lot about studying but not actually reading, writing, watching, responding or learning? Questioning the whole Uni thing? Making excuses for why it is hard to study now? Out of your routine, at home, missing your friends, online lectures are boring, are you going to be able to get a job at the end of this…?
    Tip 1. Acknowledge that thinking about all the negatives isn’t helping you feel better and isn’t helping you do what you want to do. Invite yourself to change your thinking.

  2. Do you remember applying for your Uni course? How excited you were? How hopeful you were at being accepted and getting a place? Do you remember why you chose this particular course? What was your dream?
    Tip 2. Write down or draw your dream – why this Uni degree is important to you – and stick it up where you will see it every day. Then every day, look at it. Read it. Add to it. Imagine yourself living that dream. What would that mean to you?

  3. Have you received any results from subjects yet, this semester, or in previous years? Look at them and be honest with yourself. Did you genuinely have a go? Did you give it your all? When were you motivated and enthusiastic? When were you not? What are you proud of? What are your regrets?
    Tip 3. You will get out of your studies what you put in – if you want to enjoy your studies and learn as much as you can (and why wouldn’t you? You’re paying $$$ for your studies!), then give your studies your attention and your passion!

  4. How much STUFF do you have to do RIGHT NOW? There’s the online lectures and videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, the forums to read and contribute to, assignments, readings, social media, house mates or family, the dog, the washing, …How are you supposed to do ALL OF THAT right now and you’re still in pyjamas? And you’re probably going to spend most of your day in your bedroom?
    Tip 4. Start. Start anywhere. Just do something. Make a list and prioritise, if that helps. But just do something from start to finish. Break it down to make it achievable. So if you have an assignment due in a fortnight, today’s task is to read through the assessment description, what is required of you, and the grading scheme, and ask the assessor a question to check you have understood the task correctly. If it is really hard to do anything, then choose an easy win. BSA is offering Study Ninja workshops – see for updates - you may like to join one!

  5. Personally, each week day morning, I have a shower. I do my hair. I put on work clothes. I check my work emails and calendar. I look at my work diary and tasks for the day. I start my work day with the mindset “today I’m working”. Even on the days I want to sleep in (and there are lots of those!). I still have a coffee break and lunch break – when I take the dog for a walk or sneak in a Netflix episode. But I make sure I wholeheartedly work. My work is important to me because 1) it provides me with an income, 2) it contributes to my identity and self-worth, and 3) I can make a positive difference in a person’s life. These are my motivators. When I hate my job (yes, I have those days!), I think about what my life would be like without it. And I don’t want to. And that encourages me to reframe my frustrations for that day as surmountable challenges. Sometimes, my strategy is to accept that failure is inevitable. Or to acknowledge some days are harder than others. But always, I return to why my work is important to me. And the question, how can I best help this student right now? For you, you may like to ask, how can I best help myself right now? What do I really, really care about?
    Tip 5. Keep doing what matters to you. Be active in your own life. Make choices that help you experience satisfaction, pride, and gratitude. If you’re genuinely struggling with this, it is time to reach out to a counsellor, your student advocate, or someone you can trust.

  6. It’s all a bit surreal and disconnected right now. Does University even exist anymore? Life seems to have changed so completely. Social media keeps it real for me. I choose what groups I follow carefully, and I don’t hesitate ‘unfriending’ or to stop ‘following’. Seeing people in their own homes and how they get through the day lets me know I’m not alone. There is a real world out there. Reading emails from the Uni and Zooming into meetings reminds me that there are a lot of people working hard right now to make things better for students, as much as they can. Lecturers genuinely care about students. Support staff genuinely care. We are in the midst of an enormous change we cannot yet fully comprehend. That’s ok. We are struggling with money, accommodation, home schooling, being in our home or room all day, every day. This is real. We will get through this.
    Tip 6. Life continues. We are here for you. Email us, call us, Zoom us – we are here!