One question I am often asked is how to stay motivated. Especially in busy times it can be hard. Time has flown by so fast this year. One minute I was moving to a new city to start my very first co-op job; the next I’m home, having finished my job, writing this post. How did this happen?
With another term coming to a close, I thought it would be fun to start a series that recaps each of my university terms. I will share lessons I learned, big events that happened and what’s in store for the next semester. This will be helpful for anyone going off to university for the first time, already in university, looking for a job or even if you just find the topic relevant to you. I think it will also be fun to reflect back on each of my terms to see how I’ve grown.
This term marks the end of my fourth term of university. If I were in a normal program I would have been halfway through my university degree already (that’s insane to think about, considering I feel like I just started first year!) My program is five years because of co-op, so I still have a ways to go.
Term highlight: My first co-op job
If you aren’t familiar how co-op programs work, essentially you alternate your school terms between classes and working. I took a full class schedule (5 courses) in the Fall term, which was my 2A term (i.e. first term of second year). This past Winter would have been my 2B term (second study term of second year) but because of co-op I will be in 2B this Spring. I have 4 more co-op terms to go before graduating (hopefully) in 2022.
Co-op is great because you get up to 20 months of real-world working experience, try out jobs all different jobs, make decent money and may even get a job lined up after graduation. The process itself can be stressful because you are applying to jobs and going to on-campus interviews while attending classes, studying for exams and more, but it also teaches you serious time-management skills. From this co-op I have learned what I like in the workplace, what my ideal work term would look like, how to work in a municipal setting plus plenty of soft skills that employers value. All great things that will surely benefit me in the future.
Term lesson: Picking yourself up when motivation dwindles
Now that Winter term is over it’s time to head home. It’s the time that everyone reunites to enjoy the nice, 4-month-long summer.
In contrast to others, because of my co-op program I’ll be back on campus for the 4-month Spring term. I can’t visit home too often because of my on-campus commitments, which as much fun as I’ll have, I am a little disappointed about. Many of my UW friends are in programs with opposite co-op sequences from mine so they also won’t be on campus this Spring.
From this point on I’ll go straight from school to work to school again; I finished co-op on the 26th and move back to campus next week. It doesn’t give me much time to recharge or rest. After an intense 2A study term followed by a busy co-op term, I found my motivation dwindling in the middle of the semester. I was contemplating how I’d be able to go straight back to university after co-op, hammer through courses, then go straight into co-op again in the Fall.
Like almost every university student, I was also questioning my program, whether I was in the right place, what I wanted to do in the future, and if I was taking the right steps to get to where I want to be. Throughout this term I also worked part-time job at UW, had multiple interviews and training sessions requiring me to travel throughout the term, switched my minor and a whole bunch of other crazy things that left me physically and mentally exhausted.
How to regain motivation in three steps
One main thing keeping me going the last few weeks of the term: my excitement for the future. I have learned that when I’m feeling bored, unmotivated or dissuaded, the best thing to do is create excitement for myself. I need to do things that make me look forward to the future. I don’t want to wake up every morning dreading the day – talk about serious motivation loss. But when I’m doing things I enjoy, following my passions and learning about topics that interest me, motivation will come naturally. During this stressful, busy and confusing time, I recognized that my motivation was dwindling and that I needed to create exciting moments. This could mean planning a trip home on the weekend, treating myself to dinner downtown, researching future job opportunities, or simply being artistic.
When motivation dwindled, three words got it back:
Reflecting on this co-op helped me better define my ideal job, where my interests lie, and plan where I want to go in the future. I can’t wait to act on my discoveries by applying to new jobs for my next co-op term.
By reflecting deeply on my interests and where I see myself in the future, I know that changing my minor was the right decision to make. My previous minor (Human Nutrition) was interesting, but I felt it was no longer relevant to my interests or the field I plan to work in. I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to fit enough courses in before graduation to get the minor, but after some planning I realized I can do it. I acted on my interests, going through the process to change my minor; as a result I have created a Spring course schedule that I am excited about.
I reflected on my past involvement on campus and realized that I wanted to take on a greater leadership role. After researching and planning my options, I acted by applying to various positions. I’ll be a Don (a.k.a. an RA) and a Student Ambassador that give tours of the university, attending recruitment events and writing blog posts for the school’s website. I love educating and leading others, so these positions combine my favourite things while allowing me to help others.
This time last fall I was dreading the Spring term. I knew how hectic second year could get and wasn’t sure how to balance all of my responsibilities. Now I am more excited for Spring than any other term so far!
The moral of the story is that if you ever feel dissuaded by an event, a multitude of events or just life in general, don’t give up. Remember to reflect, plan and act. Things may be hard and you might be swamped with work, but that’s okay. You may lose your sense of direction, completing courses that you don’t enjoy. It will be frustrating and seem pointless and you may just want to give up, but before you do just stop and ask yourself: what are your long-term goals?
Where do you see yourself going in the future? Do you want to be a doctor? Then you’ll have to put up with several years of intense schooling, but just know that you can make it through. Do you want to be an artist? Then go for it, and don’t force yourself into a science-based program just because your family wants you to.
Not sure what you want to do, or don’t think school is the right place for your learning? That’s totally fine. Take a break, find some hobbies, do clubs or get a job outside of school that will help you find your passion. There are so many successful individuals out there who don’t attend post-secondary school (Oprah, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, just to name a few). Don’t force yourself to do things that make you unhappy. Do things that fill you with excitement every day.
Being honest, I thought about dropping out of university in first year. That or switching programs (or even schools) but I couldn’t find anything that really suited my interests. I thought I made a mistake because the courses weren’t interesting to me, I felt like I wasn’t learning and was facing more stress than what I thought was good for my health.
Overcoming “the block”
Instead of dropping everything I sat on the idea for a few weeks. I knew that my first year had to be basic so everyone in my program developed the fundamental knowledge and skills required for my field. To regain my motivation, I researched the upper year courses I could take that required my current courses as prerequisites and potential co-op opportunities. I found ways to keep me excited about my program and see the long-term benefits of staying in it.
Second semester rolled around, and I am so happy that I stuck with the program. I enjoyed my courses, learned new skills, theories and made new friends. My passion for the environment really grew in second semester; without what I learned that term, I wouldn’t have been inspired to start writing sustainability posts on my blog. My first semester of second year was even busier and more stressful, but I enjoyed it so much. The courses challenged me, taught me to think critically and showed me whole new fields I could get a career in. Now I can’t wait for the courses I’ll be taking this Spring term.
We all have to face tough times in life. It’s normal. It’s also normal to feel less motivated during these stressful, busy seasons. The important thing is to pick yourself up from those tough times, brush yourself off and keep going. One day you’ll look back at this moment and be thankful that you pushed on.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out these other ones that can help you boost productivity, regain your motivation and crush any task you face:
- Why daily goals are essential for success
- How to be “successful”
- Expectations for the school year
- What to expect in university
Do you know how to stay motivated during busy times in life? Have you ever felt unmotivated in school/work? What did you do to regain your motivation? How did you feel about the decisions you made? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time!