February 26, 2010
Do you have the spring semester blahs?
Our part of Texas has had an abnormal winter. In my 6 years here, I do not remember so much bitter cold, sleet, and snow. I have had to use my snow shovel more than I ever remember. (At least I own one compliments of years in Ohio and Central Virginia.) Every time it gets nice (like yesterday at 70 degrees), the weather switches again. The cold front is moving in and "rain or wintry mix" is predicted.
Those of you in typical snow country have been snowed under more than usual. Those of you who have not seen snow in at least a decade have seen snow also. As if the weather were not bad enough, students and staff are at home with flu, colds, and other ailments.
Even during better winters, students always seem to have the blahs during January, February, and the beginning of March. After all, there isn't any of the excitement that accompanies fall semester with its "new start" and optimism. Spring semester is more of the same. Add shorter daylight. Add 1L professors moving more quickly through harder material than in the fall semester. Add 3L students who no longer care and just count the days. Add the stress of too many student organization responsibilities. Add the stress of a less than stellar job market.
It is no wonder that students have a lack of motivation. Exam period is getting closer. But, Spring Break does not seem close enough. Here are some hints for staying focused despite rampant blahs:
- Take one day at a time. Groaning that the break is too distant or that exams are coming up focuses somewhere outside today's realm of possibility. You can control what happens today.
- Large tasks often encourage lethargy. Break the task into small pieces. Forty pages of Payment Systems reading becomes eight blocks of five pages. A trial brief becomes a list of small research, writing, and editing tasks.
- Add more rewards into your schedule for staying on task. By having something to look forward to, you can convince yourself it is okay to work. Choose rewards with meaning for you personally (a bubble bath, a 1/2-hour sitcom, a longer lunch) and match them to the difficulty of the task (bigger rewards for bigger accomplishments).
- Find an accountability partner. Keep each other on track by asking one another if the tasks for the day were accomplished. If you have to "report in" to someone else, you are more likely to stop procrastinating.
- Avoid those people who turn grouchy with winter. Some folks are like hibernating bears awakened too early and really angry about it. They can color your view of life. Everyone is allowed to groan a bit, but it gets old fast if it is endless.
- Get some exercise. It doesn't have to be skiing or ice hockey. If you hate the cold, bundle up and go to a warm swimming pool or indoor running circuit. It is easy to let the weather make us all sedentary lumps.
Students usually brighten up once daylight starts to get longer and hints of spring turn into the real thing. The trick is staying focused until that happens. (Amy Jarmon)
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