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Motivation matters: strategies for semester two

A new semester; a new start. This can be exciting but can also feel overwhelming. So, to help you stay motivated during these cold and dark winter days, here are some suggestions from Careers Service staff:

1. Take it step by step

“Don’t look at your studies as one huge step that will lead you to graduation, as this can feel overwhelming. Your studies consist of many small steps, which help you learn new skills and develop both academically and personally, and will finally take you to what you aspire to. Every now and then, stop and see how far you’ve come, and what you have achieved to be where you are now.”

Sara Tsompanidi, Careers Information Adviser

2. Avoid unhelpful comparisons

“Try not to compare yourself to your coursemates. Instead set personal goals that are meaningful to you, focusing on your strengths and progress.”

Sarah Johnston, Link Careers Consultant for the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and the School of Divinity

3. Spend time outdoors

“Try not to spend too much time inside studying when there is already limited light outside in these dark January days! Make sure you are out and about when it’s daylight; getting out a walk or running errands.” 

Laura Reid, Employer Engagement Coordinator

4. Use a study technique that works for you

“If you are starting to get overwhelmed with the number of things you have to do, try working along with a Study with Me video. I discovered this genre of videos a couple years ago and they have saved me so many times when I couldn’t get myself to sit down and start studying.  When I really don’t want to study but have to do it, I sit down, play my favourite video and try my best to follow along and get started. If you’re looking for something to give your study sessions more structure, give Study with Me videos a try.”

[The Timer method of study, or Pomodoro Technique, which many of these videos use, can really help you focus and use your time effectively. It’s one of the methods suggested by our Institute for Academic Development in their advice on time management.]

Alima, Careers Service Assistant

5. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them

“Remember that, unless you are extremely lucky, things will not always turn out exactly how you would wish them to. Mistakes and failure are a natural part of being a human, and it’s unnatural to pressure yourself to never slip up. Be kind to yourself and remember that sometimes the very best learning experiences are also the most uncomfortable.”

Alasdair McMillan, Careers Consultant

6. Take time out

“Little treats help to energise and power through these long and dark afternoons; whether it would be a cup of coffee, or an hour to yourself at the gym – give it a try!”

Vilte, Careers Service Assistant

7. Have fun!

 “Make time in the week to do little things you enjoy, whether that is reading a book or exercising. The beginning of a new semester is also the perfect time to join a new society. Make new friends and find something new that you enjoy!”

Emma, Careers Service Assistant

8. Take time to reflect

“If possible, try and take some time out for quiet contemplation and reflection, there are valuable messages in silence. We are often bombarded by sensory input, as well as numerous tasks and deadlines, and having the chance to check in with ourselves, even if it’s just briefly, can really help us to identify what we need in that moment. It might be rest, food, social connection, exercise, creativity and many more besides.

Kyla Atkinson, Link Careers Consultant for the School of Biological Sciences, Edinburgh Medical School and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

9. Focus on the outcome

“Remember that university life can be challenging and take you out of your comfort zone. Think about hiking up Arthur’s Seat; it can be steep and rocky, with often wind and mud to contend with but it’s well worth the effort when you reach the summit and see the superb views of Edinburgh and beyond. So, focus on the outcome and not the struggle to get there!”

Nicola Meikle, Careers Information Adviser

Here at the Careers Service, we provide a wide range of information and support on career choice, employers, further study, applying for jobs, interview techniques, and so much more – we’re all about inspiring futures.

Our Quick Links page signposts the support we offer in areas we’re often asked about.

(Image credit: Canva)


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