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About University of Galway
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At University of Galway, we believe that the best learning takes place when you apply what you learn in a real world context. That's why many of our courses include work placements or community projects.
At times the pressure and stress to achieve academically can feel overwhelming and daunting. However, it is important to always remember that you are not alone in this feeling - almost everyone in University feels almost exactly the same way. There are a few things that you can remember when you are feeling the weight of academic pressure.
- A certain amount of stress is OK, and can help you to perform better. But after a certain point it can make studying harder. When that happens, there are ways to manage stress to help get you back on track.
- You are not alone when feeling under pressure. Everyone feels it. Some just hide it better.
- You should never allow yourself to feel weak, incompetent or stupid if you need to ask for help. Few things can be accomplished totally alone.
- Take time to relax - At times, especially around exam/deadline season, it’s possible to descend into a sort of mania where you feel you need to be studying/writing constantly with no room for any breaks or chances to turn your brain off. While it’s understandable that you’d be stressed around this time it is also important to realise that even Olympic Athletes don’t train 24/7. They couldn’t. They would burn out and become shells of people, unable to perform or speak. Even at the most stressful points, it is so important to allow yourself blocks of time in a day to relax your brain and focus on something other than stress. This will be of the upmost benefit to both your studies and your mental wellbeing.
Things to keep in mind
There are many reasons why you may be finding keeping up with your academic work to be difficult. Read on for few things to keep in mind to help you deal with academic pressures.
Procrastination means delaying or putting off tasks and takes many different forms. There are a number of reasons why people procrastinate, and knowing why you do so may help in overcoming it!
1. Lack of motivation - People often put things off because they don't feel like doing them or because they are not in the 'right' mood. They believe that motivation comes first, then productive action. In reality, it is often action that leads to motivation, which leads to more action. As motivation plays a vital role in determining academic success, you can train yourself to work efficiently instead of waiting until you 'feel like it!'
One way to improve your motivation is through goal setting. Try the technique SMART:
S - Specific. Get started by getting clear and specific goals. Put down a specific time and day that you are planning to do some study.
M - Measurable. You need to measure progress towards your goal. For example, count pages or tick off items from a 'To Do' list.
A - Action Related. Specify the necessary steps required to accomplish your goal. If you have to write an essay, the first step might be to choose suitable books. The second step would be to do some preliminary reading on the subject, the third, to decide on a particular topic, and so forth.
R - Realistic. Make sure that your study goals are realistic and achievable.
T - Time Based. It is often best to work back from a deadline when planning your study. Incorporate some flexible time in your schedule.
Other actions that will help to improve your motivation include:
- Establish a study routine
- Finish your study by preparing for the next time.
- Give yourself credit or rewards for accomplishing study goals.
2. Fear of failure - If success is overly important to someone, then, instead of risking failure, he/she may prefer to do nothing at all. People who are afraid of failure usually base their self-esteem on their accomplishments. If you think that failing at your work means that you are a failure as a human being, then maybe you need to challenge this attitude.
4. Being a perfectionist - The underlying belief of perfectionists is that they should always try to do things perfectly. They put enormous pressure on themselves and subsequently feel so stressed that they procrastinate and do nothing at all. A healthy concern for excellence differs from compulsive perfectionism and is far more beneficial. A healthy concern for excellence means you are enthusiastic about the creative process itself, you get a sense of accomplishment from your efforts, and you don’t feel that you have to 'earn' self-esteem by impressing people with success. On the other hand, perfectionists are usually motivated by a fear of failure, are never satisfied with their accomplishments and feel that they must always be successful to be loved.
5. Putting yourself down and lack of self confidence - It is important to give credit to yourself for what you do and this in turn will make you feel more excited and involved in your work.
Further suggestions on how to deal with procrastination
- Make it meaningful: Ask yourself what is important about the job you have been putting off. List all the benefits of completing it, including how you will feel when the task is done.
- Take it apart: Break big jobs into a series of small ones e.g. if you have a long reading assignment, divide it into two or three page sections. Make a list of the sections and cross them off as you finish them.
- Write an intention statement: On a card, write, for example: 'I intend to complete the first two paragraphs of my essay by 1 pm'. Put the card up in your study area where you can see it.
- Tell everyone: Tell your flatmates, classmates, family etc. what you intend to do. Make them your support group, they will ask whether you have completed your aim.
- Reward yourself: This is only if you complete the task. If you don't, withhold the reward.
- Settle it now: If you notice yourself procrastinating, dive right in. Do it now! Just like getting into the cold sea, it is often less painful to leap in.
- Befriend your discomfort: Acknowledge your discomfort by speaking it aloud, and stay with it without judging it as good or bad. This acceptance can rob the thoughts of their power over you.
- Sweeten the task: By changing your environment - sit in a sunny corner, for example.
- List the payoffs and costs of procrastinating: Weigh the payoffs of procrastinating against the costs.
- Do it later: Some tasks are best left till later, when you have gathered all the necessary information. This, however, should be incorporated into your schedule and not used as an excuse to procrastinate.
- Say no: If you realise that you really don't intend to do something, stop telling yourself that you will. Just say NO. Then you are no longer procrastinating and you don't feel guilty about an undone task.
- DO IT!: If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.
Perfectionism may sometimes seem like a desirable trait, however, perfectionism can lead to self-defeating thoughts and behaviours associated with high and unrealistic goals. The desire to be perfect can deny you a sense of satisfaction and cause you to achieve far less than people with more realistic goals.
- Fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists often equate mistakes with failure. In building their lives around avoiding mistakes, perfectionists miss opportunities to learn and grow.
- Fear of failure. Perfectionists often equate failure to achieve their goals with a lack of personal worth or value.
- Fear of disapproval. If they let others see their flaws, perfectionists often fear that they will no longer be accepted. Trying to be perfect is a way of trying to protect themselves from criticism, rejection, and disapproval.
- All-or-nothing thinking. Perfectionists frequently believe that they are worthless if their accomplishments are not perfect. Perfectionists have difficulty seeing situations in perspective.
- Over-emphasis on 'should', 'must' and 'ought'. Perfectionists often live with an endless list of rigid rules for what they must accomplish. With the emphasis on how everything has to be done, perfectionists rarely listen to what they really feel like doing.
- Never good enough. Perfectionists tend to see others as achieving success with a minimum of effort, few errors, little emotional stress, and maximum self-confidence. At the same time, perfectionists view their own efforts as unending and forever.
Effective time management will prove to be just as significant to your academic success as hard work and diligence. Life will always get in the way of a time schedule, but at least having a foundational schedule will prove to be of incredible value. There are many ways in which you can improve your time management.
Monitor how you use your time during the week
First, calculate how much time (in hours) you spent on the following activities during the last week: sleeping, eating, self-care, travelling, errands, hobbies, exercise, lectures, homework, study, socialising.
Then consider the following questions:
- Which of these do you need to spend more time on?
- Which do you need to spend less time on?
- Were you surprised at the activities you spent so much time on?
- Were you surprised at the ones you spent so little time on?
Use a Timetable
- Schedule fixed blocks of time. Start with class time and work time. These time periods are usually determined in advance. Other activities must be scheduled around them. Then schedule essential daily activities such as eating and sleeping
- Include time for shopping, doing laundry, etc.
- Schedule time for fun. Fun is important. Brains that are constantly stimulated by new ideas and new challenges need time off to digest them.
- Set realistic goals: don't set yourself up for failure by telling yourself you can do a four-hour job in two hours!
- Allow flexibility in your schedule: recognise that unexpected things will happen and allow for them. Perhaps set aside some 'open time' each week.
- Avoid scheduling marathon study sessions. When possible, study in shorter sessions. If/when you study in long sessions, stop and rest for a few minutes every hour. Also, work on several subjects and avoid studying similar subjects back to back.
- Set clear starting and stopping times for specific tasks and stick to them.
Create a weekly To-do List
The same principles as compiling a timetable apply here. In addition:
- Set study goals for the week, and include some time for recall and review.
- Monitor your schedule at the end of the day and decide if it needs to be changed for the next day.
Remember you do have enough time for the things you want to do. All it takes is learning a few ways to manage your time.
Finding ways of getting motivated and keeping that momentum going can prove to be massively beneficial to you in both your studies and in all aspects of your life.
Types of Motivation
There are two kinds of motivation:
- Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do something because you want to.
- Extrinsic motivation is doing something to obtain rewards and avoid punishment.
Visualize yourself doing each activity
Rehearse activities in your head so you can see they are achievable. Visualize how you will appear when you have achieved some of your longer-term goals, such as when you graduate or when you are in your chosen career. Imagine the feeling of your wish fulfilled! Imagining vividly in your mind what it will feel like when the task is complete will motivate you to experience it for real.
Remain aware of your emotions
People find it hard to motivate themselves when they’re upset, anxious, depressed, stressed or worried. Think about how you manage these difficulties and how much you link the negative emotion to the work. Whatever the cause of this, such emotions impede your ability to work at full capacity. Talking to others, exercise, relaxation, sleeping well and other forms of care for the self can help you to manage the negativity. Try to manage your time effectively and recognize it is vital for you to have time for fun and relaxation.
Keep the ball rolling!
If you are on a roll in the middle of a task try to maintain that momentum for as long as you can. If you lose the motivation that you have achieved it may be hard to regain it again. If that does happen though, remember that you found motivation before and that you will be able to find it again.