Finding focus: how to get motivated to do classwork after winter break

Nicole Thomas, DN Illustration
Nicole Thomas, DN Illustration

Students will have 75 weekdays of classes between the start and end of the spring 2021 semester. There are three study days built into the semester’s academic calendar: Feb. 24, March 23 and April 14. 

After spending nearly two months at home due to an adjusted fall and spring academic calendar in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students may be feeling unmotivated to pick up their pencils and open their textbooks again as they’ve returned to Ball State’s campus this semester. As you’re adjusting back to academic life after a month-long winter break, consider these tips to help you regain your energy and focus on your schoolwork to start off the semester on the right foot.

Take advantage of natural light

While the sun may not be shining as bright as it had at the beginning of the fall semester, working during the daylight, even on an overcast day, can help your motivation to complete assignments. Natural light can decrease depression and improve mood, energy, alertness and productivity, according to an article by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). By working on your assignments during the daytime rather than nighttime, you may feel less cooped up in your dorm room, house or apartment.

If your schedule doesn’t allow you the time to work on assignments during the day, try changing the lights throughout your workspace to ones that emit a cooler rather than warmer tone. According to the same UNC article, lights with a cooler temperature that appear blue-white lower melatonin levels, which reduces your fatigue while you’re working so you can stay attentive and productive.

Go on a walk

Take the chance to give your eyes a rest from staring at your computer screen by getting your heart pumping. Even if you can’t hit up the gym, either because your schedule doesn’t allow it or you aren’t feeling up to a full workout, going on a short walk is a physical activity that can help your motivation and productivity. Going on two 15-minute walks a day can reduce your stress and provide an enjoyable activity in your workday, as physical activity releases endorphins, according to a study published by Oxford University Press’ “Health Education Research” journal.

Breathe in some fresh air by visiting walking destinations around Muncie, such as the sidewalks throughout the Quad, Cardinal Greenway’s trails or Minnetrista’s paths. If the weather is too cold for you to venture outside, walk the halls of your residence hall, or move some furniture around your apartment or home to give you the space to pace and clear your head.

Set yourself timers to take breaks

When you’re working on an assignment or studying for an exam, it can be easy to get burnt out if you don’t allow yourself the chance to take a break. Studying or working for 50 minutes with a 10-minute break is one effective way of creating study blocks to give your mind an occasional rest, according to an article by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Building breaks into your class and work schedule can help ensure you don’t overwork yourself before you complete your tasks.

Plan a fun activity to look forward to after a long week

In addition to writing down your assignments’ and projects’ due dates in your planner, schedule a safe, socially distant and fun activity for Friday night or the weekend to give yourself something to look forward to throughout the week. Arrange a virtual movie night with your friends through Teleparty, plan to treat yourself to your favorite takeout meal or schedule some time to work on one of your creative outlets. Having a small yet enjoyable activity planned out ahead of time can help you stay energized to complete your responsibilities because you’ll be anticipating a rewarding activity after all your hard work.

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