University Diaries: How to self motivate


Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.


― Nathan W. Morris

University is a big change from high school, and one of the biggest differences is independence. I remember being in high school like it was yesterday – getting homework tasks every week and your teacher getting on your back about it. How things change.

For some people – independence is the best thing about going to university. When I talk about independence it’s not just about living away from home, buying your own groceries or doing your own washing – it’s also about the huge transition from being told what to do to self motivation. For me, as a pupil who didn’t take high school too seriously and, being completely honest, done the bare minimum (spending my free periods chatting and doing not much else), it was a big shock coming to university. You are fully expected to do things yourself. Don’t get me wrong – there is a huge support network. At Edinburgh – all students are assigned personal tutors who you go to with any issues and there is an advice place for all and any types of queries or difficulties.

The biggest difference is not having people tell you what to do. Currently, I in uni 4 days per week, two of the four I am in for one hour. ONE HOUR!!! It would be super easy to just sleep, laze around and do not much (basically my first year, and maybe second) but you will never achieve your goals if you do this. So, how do you self motivate? I have found these tips to be super useful.

  1. Be organised. Have a diary, write down all of your deadlines and make a to do list each day. Even if you don’t get everything done, it is super useful to set yourself tasks which you can tick off as you go along.
  2. Have a schedule. I have found this to always work for me, but I’m super guilty of not following this rule until now. I have found what works for me and although sometimes I might not feel like following it – it works. Currently, I get up at the crack of dawn and go to the gym when it is super quiet. I then come back for about 6:30, if I’m tired I’ll snooze until about half 7 then get up, shower, get ready and make lunch. I then go to the library to do any tasks that need to be done (there is always something to do) and I go to my classes. I try to stay at the library until about 5, then I can come back to my flat and do nothing – and feel no guilt about it since I’ve had a productive day and done what I need to. If you prefer lying in – do that – and work your schedule around it.
  3. Reward yourself. Done everything you planned to? Give yourself a treat. Whether that be having a Jaffa cake (or the whole packet – who can only eat one???) or taking a long hot shower. Do it because you deserve it. Creating habits like this is great in the long term; you know that if you complete tasks you can reward yourself. It can even just be for a couple of weeks, until you have a routine. Then maybe start putting a pound in a jar every good day you have and eventually you can book a nice massage or even a mini break somewhere.
  4. Set long term and short term goals. Want an A in that essay? Start reading for it now. Want a first class degree? Put the effort in now. Setting ourselves both big/long-term and small/short-term goals is essential for being self motivated in all aspects of life. Focus on what you want, and make sure you go out and get it. Imagine yourself 10 years down the line and how regretful you would be if you didn’t at least try your best. Funny story: I hated the first two years of my degree (a story for another blog post), almost dropped out about 300 times but do you know what kept me going? My sister had a graduation photo in the living room and I wanted one too. Literally. Do what works for you.
  5. Tell people your goals. Call your mum, your friend, tell them everything you need to do. Telling someone almost makes us feel responsible to do something. If that feeling of slight responsibility or pressure helps you, then do it.
  6. Be accountable for your failures and your successes. Failed that essay? Don’t blame the prof who marked it. Sometimes we need failure to pick ourselves back up and to get on with it. Aced that essay? Don’t say you got lucky with the question. You put the work in.
  7. Make time for yourself. It is easy to get caught up in the world of studying, especially if you have a job or volunteer. Stop feeling guilty for taking an hour out of your day to read or watch a movie or a day at the weekend to be with your family. If you deserve it, it is the least you can do for yourself.
  8. Own it! We all work in different ways and it certainly isn’t always easy to be on top form. When you do really well, tell people about it. If they aren’t happy for you, please exit their life immediately. You deserve positivity and encouragement.

Just remember, you create your own success.

R x

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