It’s that month once again. Finals are nearing, big projects are coming due, and motivation couldn’t be more depleted. Or so it goes for many students anyway. Is it a possibility of finishing your semester strong?
Students call it “senioritis.” That experience that strikes those in their last year of school. You know the one we’re talking about, right? When you just can’t find it in you to keep going; when the taste of the finish line is so palpable.
Interestingly, senioritis finds a lot more students than just seniors. Perhaps we should call the experience “end-of-the-semester-itis.” When we’ve been working at something for nearly 16 weeks straight, it can be difficult to maintain the pace and the focus.
So, here are some key tips you can implement as your semester comes to a close. These tips are designed to help you retain your focus, improve your motivation, and finish strong the semester.
1. Write Out Your To-Dos
Part of what makes the end of a semester so stressful for students is knowing in your head that you have a lot to do, but not knowing exactly what those demands are. As students, it’s tempting to think you can keep it all organized in your head. However, having to manage everything in your head is actually a contributor to stress.
Write out everything you have to do. Go class by class, and make a list of all the assignments, papers, finals and projects. Attach due dates to them and then list any sub tasks any of the assignments require. Then, once you start completing what’s on the last, you get the satisfaction of crossing things off the list. This is crucial.
2. Fight For Good Sleep and Finishing Your Semester Strong
Even more crucial than lists, though, is your sleep. Matthew Walker, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at UC Berkeley and renown sleep expert, reminds us that our brains our constantly undergoing low-level brain damage just from being awake and doing our days. Sleep, then, is critical for many things, one of which is to offer us recovery from our days. The less sleep we get, the more challenging our semesters will be.
Fight for good sleep, then. According to Walker, you’ll do best to limit your contact with light about an hour before you fall a sleep, aim for 8-9 hours a night, and try to fall asleep in a cool environment—it’s more difficult to fall asleep if we’re overheated. Quality sleep can be a huge positive factor for finishing your semester strong.
3. Plan Micro Celebrations
Do not underestimate the power of positive reinforcements. As humans, we’re driven by incentives. As you’re working through the last month or two of classes, plan some micro celebrations. It could be going out to your favorite restaurant after you turn in a big paper; it could be playing a round of golf after completing your first final.
Pepper in some micro-celebrations throughout the weeks. Having something you can look forward to each week can have an enormous impact on your drive and motivation to finish assignments and projects.
4. Make Sure You Have Fun to Finishing Your Semester Strong
Similar to the above point, we’re motivated by incentives. Having genuine fun is one of these incentives. What is that you love to do in your free time? Are there sports you enjoy playing? Do you like to surf? Are you a food connoisseur? Figure out what you love to do for fun and incorporate it into your schedule. Plan it in between homework sessions if you can.
Having fun is, believe it or not, a central part of our well being. So no surprise that it helps finishing the semester strong.
5. Prioritize Your Mental Health
This is the most important thing you can do to finish your semester strong. In a way, all of the other tips are in service of this one. Your mental health will be the determinant of how you finish your semester. Unfortunately, we don’t always have complete control over our mental health, so we’ve got to be somewhat flexible here.
What do you genuinely need for you mental health? Do you attend weekly therapy? Then try to do whatever you can to not miss your session even though you’re stressed by due dates. Are you in the habit of meditating daily or weekly? Find a way to keep the habit alive and well. Do you spend regular time with your good friends? Try and keep that practice up throughout the end of the semester.
Our mental health is the driving force of all that we do. It only makes sense that we would prioritize it during one of the most challenging seasons of school.
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