As you may know, I’m an active member of Campus Society, a UK based platform for students around the world to host blog channels and network with other students. Recently, another student reached out to me for advice or guidance on how they remain focused for the rest of their time at university despite what’s happening around them.
Firstly, I am flattered and humbled that I have been asked for advice. I never thought that would happen.
Secondly, I am no expert, nor am I a model student, but I am in my last year of Uni (9 months and 7 days to go) and I have made it this far. So I would like to share with you, some of the tips that have served me well over the last two and a bit years as I worked my way through the minefield of full time work and study to achieve the goals I set. I hope this helps and can be translated to any goal you have, I guess with maybe a little tweaking to suit your situation.
Start with identifying your end goal. When I started my degree, I did it because I was bored and it seemed like a good idea at the time. At least that’s what I tell people, Really it’s because an Ex told me I would never be anything or finish a Uni degree. Long story. In part I did it to prove him wrong, in part I did it so I could be the first in my immediate family to hold a bachelor degree and in part to prove to myself I could do it. So my end goal has always been to finish the degree, simply to say I have a degree. Over time of course that changed, I wanted to finish my degree so I was in line with my peers and to secure a job I loved, doing what I loved, with a degree I had earned.
Break it down into smaller pieces. It’s been proven that a large, long term goal does not in turn provide motivation to achieve it. Smaller, short term goals, give you the satisfaction of achieving something along the way. For me it was to pass each subject in each semester and I will be the first to tell you I considered giving up on more than one occasion. I had a lot of hurdles to jump through by working and studying full time but I didn’t lose sight of the end goal. So I broke it down. I celebrated finishing the equivalent of my first year (8 subjects) and this term I will celebrate finishing the equivalent of my second year (16 subjects) which technically I have actually already completed, but that’s an even longer story. My next goal is to pass the four subjects I have enrolled in and the final goal is the final four subjects. BOOM! Not only have I completed my short term goals, I’ve completed the long term and with each short term goal checked off the list, I get that extra kick of motivation.
Take the pressure off. If it feels like it’s all becoming too much, take a step away. Reassess. Do you need to have such a heavy workload? If the answer is no, then drop a subject of you can. If you can’t, then look to whatever else you have going on and see if some changes can’t be made. I knew in one particular term that my workload was exponentially increasing and I wouldn’t be able to dedicate enough time to assessment, so I dropped down to two subjects that term. I failed both.
Setbacks are a Thing
Setbacks happen, and you need to be prepared to deal with that. Life moves on and so will you. Take a moment to reflect and look at what you could have done better but don’t dwell on it. It will eat you alive. Simply pick yourself up and carry on. Set another goal to do better next semester. I could have finished my degree in two years, but I know the pressure and setbacks would have set me up to fail in the long term and I wasn’t prepared to do that.
This is poignant. You must be realistic with yourself. If you set goals, that your mind knows you won’t complete, you are already off to a bad start. If you know you have a lot of other things going on, reassess the importance of each component. Does it require your time now? If not, scrap it. If yes, plan it. Just like above, I planned to do four subjects each term and I’d be done with my degree. So far I don’t think I have done the same amount of subjects two terms in a row. I have always catered my subject load to my other commitments. Until this year where Uni takes precedence, given the closeness to finishing.
Set about creating a goals board. Fill it it with pictures of the trip you’re going to take as a reward for finishing. Fill it with motivational pictures of people graduating or whatever you find your motivation in. My reminders board has pictures of Melbourne, South Africa, and a Social media plan of what pictures I’m posting to which platforms and what captions I’ll be using when it comes time to graduate and I have that cap and gown on and that sweet degree in my hands. That inspires me. I want to post a picture of me with my new hard hat and gown on, with my degree to LinkedIn to show my peers that I did it, but I want to post a picture of my partner and I with a sappy appreciation caption about how I couldn’t have done it without his support to Instagram.
The World Around Us
There is no denying the world around us is turbulent and constantly changing. Attitudes are constantly changing and we are starting to see a swing to the Right in the bigger economies. Is this a good thing? Depends on which end of the political spectrum you sit. Either way, regardless of either political environment, there are things you will never escape. Racism, sexism, elitism, violence in some form. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in and we can only get through by living our own lives and following our own moral compass. Try not to let these things get in the way of you being your best self. If you are a victim of any of these and so much more, please find a trusted person to talk to, a friend, counsellor or in some cases the police or your campus security. You must find someone who will remain neutral and not fan the flames. Find someone who will de-escalate the situation and talk you through next steps.
The main take away point here is that to succeed, distractions must be eliminated, for optimum focus.
I hope this helps and if you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.