Ahhh school holidays. The perfect two weeks to catch up on homework and forget about the stresses of school. Now, this scenario isn’t what the majority of our school holidays actually look like. For some, school holidays present a challenge whereby we don’t have direct access to our teachers to ask for help and we ultimately find ourselves in a bit of a ‘motivation downslide’.
Personally, the school holidays were a great time for me to go through all the concepts that I found tricky during the term. Yet, I always found myself running into a bit of trouble with what I like to call ‘the procrastination jungle’, especially with English. So, here are a few tips that can help you find some sparks of motivation for when you feel like there is simply no road ahead.
1: Write Down/Outline/Revisit Your Goals
Often the best way to figure out how you’re travelling through the year is to pause, breathe and reflect back (cue Disney’s Mulan, Reflection) on what was a busy and hectic term.
I always found it useful to revisit some of my previous goals that I had set for myself and tick them off if I had accomplished them. For instance, a goal that I had for the start of Term 2 was to ask my teachers more questions about concepts that I was still unsure of. When it came to the Term 2 holidays, I revisited this goal and was able to tick it off which gave me an incredible sense of achievement and reassured me that I was on track to finish the year off with a score that I was going to be super proud of in the end.
You might be asking, ‘what if I haven’t written down any goals throughout the year?’ Not to worry! It is never too late to start contemplating what your objectives are for the year. In fact, use this time now during the start of your holidays as a stepping stone to building up a habit of doing just this. This will help you tremendously in defining your journey towards accomplishing your aspirations and offer you perspective on any improvement areas you may need to address in your subjects.
But, how exactly are you supposed to make goals? Some may say that this process is somewhat ‘tedious’, but I’m here to help take the guesswork out of making, revisiting and addressing your goals using the ‘SMART’ technique:
- Be specific (S) and measurable (M) with your goal → Maybe your aim is to get a 90+ ATAR by the end of Year 12 or maybe your goal is to improve your grade average from 80% to 85%. No matter what your goal is, be sure to make note of what needs to be accomplished and what steps need to be taken to achieve it. Let’s have a look at an example:
‘My goal before the end of Term 3 is to have written one English Essay for all of my novels every week and have it marked by my teacher’.
Notice how to the point this is? I’ve mentioned exactly what it is that I want to see completed, by when and the frequency - ‘one essay per week’.
- Is your goal going to be achievable (A) and is it going to be relevant (R)? → While goal setting might encourage you to be ambitious, sometimes we need to take a step back and think to ourselves, is this goal realistic and is it relevant to what you personally want to achieve at the end of an academic year? Let’s have a look at another example:
‘My goal before the end of term is to read all four of my novels three times a week, write 10 essays for each novel every week and complete a three-hour practice exam every second day of every week’
Now I know what you’re thinking, anything is possible if you put your mind to it, but writing 10 essays for each novel and completing a three-hour practice exam every week?! Not only is this goal simply not realistic, but what relevance is this goal going to have when you’ll inevitably feel burnt out and tired from writing all those essays!
- And last but not least, when will your goal be completed? This point stresses the importance of ensuring that your goal is realistic and attainable so that you can achieve it within a given time frame (T). We’ve been specifying in our examples that we would like to complete our goals by the end of the term but feel free to critically consider how long your goal may take in reality. Is the goal of wanting to improve your Language Analysis skills really going to be achieved within a matter of days?
2: Look for Gaps in Your Understanding
Pinpointing what you still need to go through and what you’ve already mastered is guaranteed to save you time and effort studying when it comes to SACs and eventually the exam. By doing this, you’ll feel a sense of control and direction when you begin another term, without experiencing the often icky feeling of being lost and unsure.
The way that I went about this was to:
1) Source the study design for each of your subjects (you can do this by going to the VCAA website) and either print them or have them saved onto your desktop.
2) Read through the study design and start to familiarise yourself with the dot points and what you have already covered in class.
3) Go through the study design and, using highlighters or coloured pens, come up with a colour coordinating system. I personally opted for:
- Red = areas that you’re still unsure about and need further improvement
- Green = areas of mastery
- Orange = areas of the study design where you’re in the middle and could do with some polishing up
4) Link your existing notes to the study design dot points and if you haven’t already covered a particular dot point in your notes, take the time to study and add these in.
3: Pomodoro Technique
If you didn’t believe in magic before then you definitely will with the Pomodoro Technique. I used this method religiously back in Year 12 and still do at University. It involves breaking up your study into bite-size chunks whereby you complete intervals of 50 minutes of study followed by a 10-minute break. After every 3-4 cycles, add in a 20-minute break.
Let’s have a look at an example of my typical morning back in Year 12:
- 9:00am - 9:50am: Select an essay prompt for Rear Window from the 2019 VCAA English Exam to dissect and write a detailed essay plan
- 9:50am - 10:00am: Breaktime! Quick trip to the fridge for snacks.
- 10:00am - 10:50am: Write out a full essay for the prompt (check out this blog for prompt ideas) and email my teacher for feedback
- 10:50am - 11:00am: Watch some Youtube and make a cup of tea
- 11:00am -11:50am: Select an essay prompt for The Crucible and The Dressmaker comparative and write a full essay
- 11:50am -12:10pm: An extended break! Make some lunch and play with my dog
What I love about this is that it enables you to break up the work into manageable pieces so that you focus solely on one task before taking a well-deserved break. This ensures that you don’t burn out from constantly studying without scheduling time for relaxation, recovery and recharge.
How you use your break time is completely up to you. Do anything to take your mind off your work for a few minutes before diving back into your studies!
4: Prioritise Your Mental and Physical Health
While it may feel productive to be studying and revisiting content covered in previous terms, there is no understating the importance of taking the time to practice good habits that improve your mental and physical health.
Consider taking your dog for a walk while listening to a few songs along the way, or going to your local swimming pool and doing a few laps! Anything to get your body moving will help to ensure that you break your routine up a little bit and experience something different to the often mundane task of studying and completing work. Maybe also get your friends involved too! You can try organising a volleyball game or whatever activity you are all keen on!
5: Don’t Compare Your Motivation Levels to Others
Everyone is sitting somewhere different on the motivation scale. Some may be extremely motivated to reread their texts, write up essay plans, write timed essays, etc. and others may find it difficult to achieve consistent motivation all the time, and that’s okay. To feel motivated all the time is failing to step back and reflect on how far you’ve come as a person in your personal journey.
Often it is when we compare ourselves to others and say ‘but look at how motivated they are’ or ‘they’ve already done so many practice exams and are going to get a really good study score’ that we fall into this trap of finding ‘flaws’ within ourselves. Comparing your diligence and beliefs in terms of your studies to others is only ever going to do you harm. Focus on your own journey and know that it is absolutely necessary to not expect to be motivated to study all the time. It’s simply not realistic.
6: Remind Yourself That This Won’t Go on Forever
The powerful verse ‘this too shall pass’ is something I had to always remind myself of back when I was in Year 12. Months and months of SACs, practice exams and feeling burnt out felt like an eternity and it started to impact my own sense of willingness to continue my personal academic journey. If it gives you any reassurance, however, know that one day you’ll look back on this chapter of your life with nothing but memories and perhaps even have a laugh or two at how young you were in your school photos!