A question from: Burnt-out
Dear AskUG, I am excited to start my second year and meet new people, but I feel like my motivation to succeed this year will fade after the first few weeks. How can I start my year on a good foot and keep my motivation to study going?

Dear Burnt-out,
I know how you feel, and I think a lot of us can relate.
All of us are excited to start new classes and meet new people at the beginning of the semester. This optimism makes us feel like we can conquer every challenge that comes our way; however, as the weeks go by, our motivation fades and we let procrastination take over until the work becomes overwhelming and we eventually give up.
A good analysis of this problem is found in a book titled The Power of Habit, in which the author, Charles Duhigg, states, “People are up to change their set patterns of regular behaviour more often during large life changes.” Which is good news for you! You’re starting a new year of university; therefore, you are more likely to change your behaviour so that it serves you well. To find out what you have been doing wrong, familiarize yourself with the UG article titled Study Habits that are ruining your GPA, which you can find on our website.
Now, let’s look at how you can start your semester strong and keep your motivation from burning out. The two biggest success factors are organization and time management: If you can get these right, the rest should be a breeze.

● Getting Organized And Keeping At It

To start your year off on the right foot, I suggest getting organized before your classes start. That means:
1. Familiarize yourself with your timetable.
Know what courses you’re taking, where your classes are and which books you will need for these courses. Luckily, UTSC’s Acorn (acorn.utoronto.ca) allows you to view information about your courses, your professors, and the time, day, and location of your lectures. You can find textbook information on UTSC’s bookstore website: uoftbookstore.com/textbooks.
2. Organize your university material on your laptop.
Create a folder for every subject you are taking. It may seem complicated, but you will be able to quickly find materials on your laptop if you organize it by years → semesters → courses → assignments and/or readings or lectures.
Also, save all the syllabi that professors hand out in class, or keep links handy to find them online: this is your key to staying informed on due-dates and tests.
Find what works best for you and keep at it. You can find additional materials on how to get organized and other helpful advice on wtfprofessor.com.

● Time Management

Once you have optimally organized yourself, you must determine how to manage your time. You know what it feels like to have a pile of homework that you constantly put off. You always find better things to do: eat, sleep, watch the newest Game of Thrones episode, or catch up on Supernatural. It is important to not let yourself get to this point in the first place. Plan ahead and manage your time appropriately. Here are some tools that can help you:

1. Keep several calendars.
a. Use a table application like Excel to create a weekly calendar to organize your week. Fill in the times of your classes, your travel time, the office hours of your professors, the schedule of your part-time job–if you have one, any extracurricular activities, and recreational/ miscellaneous activities. Print it out and hang it in front of your study space. An example of this calendar would look like this:

Alternatively, you could use online organizers if you’re environmentally conscious: weekplan.net, dayviewer.com, mystudylife.com, calendar.google.com.

b. Besides the weekly calendar you should also have a monthly calendar. On this calendar, you should note the due dates of your assignments, tests, exams, homework, and other important events like work meetings or extracurricular activities. An example would look like this:

2. Analyze Your Time.

a. Pinpoint where you’re losing time the most; then, realize that if you don’t stop wasting your time on these things, you will be forced to give up on your dreams of finding the cure for cancer–or whatever it is that you dream of; after all, you’re in university for a reason. Realizing what is important to you makes you more proactive.
b. A good way to look at where you spend most of your time is to keep a log of your activities throughout the day. A great tool that allows you to do this is the online resource ‘Bullet Journaling’ (bulletjournal.com). I know it sounds tedious, but if you truly want to succeed in academics, you will do everything it takes.
c. When you’re rearranging your schedule, don’t just cut out your activities and hope that you’ll find more useful things to do. Substitute the time you usually waste with something productive. For example, if you spend an hour a day on Facebook, sub it with reviewing a part of your lecture, or sub the time you’re picking out an outfit for the day with making a to-do list of readings you need to complete and begin reading.
d. Figure out how much time you need to spend actively studying. A useful tool for this is The 168-Hour Exercise, which you can find here:
I hope that your year goes well and that you keep up your motivation. These tools will help you have a successful year!

Erza Applebaum, Ask UG
Got questions? Email [email protected]!