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How to Motivate Yourself After The Winter Break: 10 Tips For a Productive Semester

Female student learning how to motivate yourself to get on track at school It’s something every student struggles with when they come back from winter break: figuring out how to motivate yourself to get back in the school routine.

Many students end up in this predicament: you just spent a few weeks doing nothing but hanging out with your favourite people, lounging around, catching up on your shows, and even indulging in those holiday treats. Now, it’s time to go back to school and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to find the motivation to leave the couch.

It’s not just winter break, either – finding the motivation to go back to work or school after a vacation, a leave of absence, or even a long weekend can be difficult. The longer you leave your to do list to pile up, the worse it gets.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. This blog contains tons of great tips and tricks you can use to learn how to motivate yourself to get back on track after the winter break. With our help, you’ll be back to the school grind in no time.

Female student presenting a persuasive speech to a friend with a megaphone

What Causes Lack of Motivation?

When you come back from a long break, like the holidays, your body has already adjusted to those days of doing nothing and getting a lot of rest. That is great, as everyone needs a reset from time to time, but it can be a nightmare when you’re trying to get back on top of your schoolwork.

Going home for a long period of time can throw off the regular routine that you’re used to, which can be a difficult habit to break. This is especially true if you’re a senior and are in your final year, and all you can focus on is how excited you are to graduate and set off in your career. However, while it might feel impossible to get motivated to go back to your school routine, it’s easier than you’d think – especially if you follow the right advice. Keep reading to help solve those back to school blues once and for all.

How to Motivate Yourself After the Winter Break: 10 Tips You Need to Know

Let’s get down to the real reason you came to this blog: learning how to motivate yourself to get back into school mode after the winter break is over. As we mentioned before, it’s not as difficult as it feels to get yourself back on track. You just have to know the right tips and tricks to use.

We’re going to go over 10 tips you can use to help yourself get motivated and keep that motivation for the rest of the semester. Each of these tips touches on a specific aspect of the psychology behind motivation and can be tailored to suit your own lifestyle or the course you’re taking.

1. Figure Out Your Motivation Behaviours

Everyone is motivated by something, and it’s important to determine what helps you get motivated because you can build a reward system around it. Therefore, understanding which type of motivation works for the tasks on your to do list is the first step in learning how to motivate yourself when you return to school.

Motivation itself comes in two core forms: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Learn about each one and see if you can apply it to the tasks you’re having trouble with.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation occurs when you perform tasks for internal rewards. It is a core concept of self-determination theory in the field of psychology and psychological wellness. Ultimately, you’re performing a task or doing an activity to fulfill a psychological need.

Internal rewards might include some of the following:

● The task is interesting or enjoyable

● You want to challenge yourself and feel good when you accomplish something

● The task makes you feel good (like exercising or spending time with family)

● You are curious about something (such as travelling because you’re curious about other cultures)

● Self-improvement or personal growth (such as learning a new language or skill)

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation occurs when you perform tasks for external rewards. In this case, you aren’t trying to satisfy any personal or psychological needs and are instead looking for the reward you’ll gain.

Here are some examples of external rewards:

● Receiving payment such as a paycheck or allowance

● Getting a good grade for completing an assignment

● Gaining awareness and exposure (for example, posting TikTok videos)

● To avoid consequences (such as completing your homework so you don’t get a failing grade)

College student spending outdoor time reading and studying

2. Don’t Overload Yourself on Day 1

One of the key things to remember when learning how to motivate yourself after an extended break is to avoid overdoing it and let yourself ease back into the swing of things. If you start to overload yourself with a ton of things you have to do, you’re going to become very overwhelmed very quickly.

Set goals for yourself, but make sure they’re set at a reasonable pace. Take it one step at a time and build up your to do list slowly. Once you find yourself on a good productive streak, start adding more to your plate. However, only add things to your plate if you feel like you’re managing everything pretty well and are comfortable with your workload.

Think of it the same way you would think of starting a new job. You don’t jump right in and take on every task and responsibility on your first day. Instead, you start with orientation, learn about how the company works, and learn basic things first. Then, once you know how to do the basic things, you start to work your way up to more responsibilities.

3. Reduce the Stress in Your Life

Stress can make it really difficult to maintain any interest in school. The more stressed you are, the harder it is to figure out how to motivate yourself to do the tasks you just don’t want to do. Things will start to pile up, you’ll start to get more stressed, and then you’ll be at risk of suffering from burnout syndrome before you even get into a routine.

Here are a few ways you can reduce the stress in your life to help you stay focused and motivated:

Declutter your space. Clutter causes stress, and it can also cause distractions when you’re trying to focus. Make sure your study space and living spaces are decluttered before you dig deep into tackling that to do list.

Practice self-care regularly. Taking care of your wellbeing will keep you at the top of your game and make sure you’re in the right place to be productive. Use our core list of self-care ideas for students to get some ideas that will work for you.

Keep a healthy work life balance. Maintaining a good work life balance helps you stay happy, productive, and healthy both mentally and physically.

Go outside and get some fresh air. Take a walk around the block, work on your paper at the park, or even go for a hike with some friends. Fresh air is great for the mind and the body and keeps your stress levels down.

Do some breathing exercises. Whether you need to meditate, just take a few deep breaths, or close your eyes for a few minutes, practicing your breathing is a good way to promote mindfulness and wellbeing.

Eat well and stay healthy. Giving your body the right nutrition is an important step in making sure your brain has the fuel it needs to stay motivated. When you constantly eat junk, you might enjoy it in the moment, but your brain won’t be getting those powerful nutrients that help you concentrate, focus, and be productive.

Female student in a tank top using running to practice self care

4. Develop Good Study Habits as Early as Possible

The earlier you start to adopt good study habits, the easier it is to start getting yourself into a routine that will help you stay motivated. When studying and schoolwork become part of your routine, you’re more likely to continue to stay motivated because it’s a core part of your daily life.

Forming a good study routine is also a task in and of itself. But the sooner you start, the earlier your routine will become a habit. If you start forming these habits and routines at the beginning of the semester when you come back from break, you’ll be in excellent shape when the big mid term projects, essays, and final exams start to roll in. Eventually, it will be easier to get motivated because it’s already part of your daily routine.

Once upon a time, it was a popular belief that it takes 21 days of repetition to form a habit. However, scientific research has shown that it actually takes an average of up to 66 days, but it depends on the individual person. So, if you’ve been going at this for a couple weeks and don’t feel that it’s working, just be patient and don’t give up.

5. Work on Your Time Management Skills

It’s a lot easier to figure out how to motivate yourself to stay focused when you have the time to do everything. When you aren’t managing your time properly, it’s easy to fall out of your routine and become extremely stressed. To fix that, you need to work on your time management skills.

We could write 100 articles on time management, but in the meantime here are a few tips you can try while you’re trying to form those good habits and routines.

Make a schedule and stick to it. Include your personal time, social time, school work, part-time job, and anything else going on in your life so you can make sure you have time for it all.

Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get tasks done. Be realistic. You’re doing this for yourself, so no one’s going to know if it takes you 3 hours to do something most people do in 2. It helps to add an extra block between tasks incase there’s any overflow.

Do a “time audit” on yourself. Use a time tracker app or even a stopwatch to time yourself while you work on various tasks. This will help you figure out how long it takes you to complete each task, where your time is being wasted, and where your limits need to be.

Start your assignments as early as you can. Leaving everything to the last minute is a common mistake students make, but this can be detrimental to your time management routine (and the quality of your assignment).

Work on your biggest tasks first. Starting with smaller tasks might make you feel like you’re being more productive, but hammering out those big projects last can add extra stress you don’t need in your life. On the contrary, finishing a huge project can give you a major sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to keep going through the rest of your to do list.

Remove any distractions and time wasters. Put your phone on airplane mode while you’re studying, or lock it up in a drawer so you aren’t tempted to stop and scroll through Instagram every few minutes.

Plan out your week on Sunday evening. This way, you’ll wake up Monday morning ready to go and you can get right into the swing of things.

Female student taking some time to study in her dorm room bed

6. Break Big Tasks Down Into Smaller Ones

If you have a big task you need to do but zero motivation to do it, breaking it down into smaller tasks is very helpful. This makes everything a lot easier to manage, and can also make those difficult tasks seem a lot less intimidating.

For example, if you have a big research paper to write, try breaking it down into smaller tasks: planning, outlining, writing a thesis statement, writing the body paragraphs, writing the conclusion, and so on. Cross each task off as you complete it.

Breaking down big tasks into smaller ones also gives you a sense of accomplishment because you have more things to check off your to do list. The more things you check off your list, the more you feel like you’re being really productive and getting a lot done – even if all of those things are contributing to the same project or assignment. When you start feeling productive, you start to feel good about yourself, and you’ll want to keep the momentum going.

7. Try “Temptation Bundling”

Temptation bundling is a technique coined in a 2014 behavioural study by Katie Milkman, a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Essentially, it’s a reward-based system to help encourage self motivation, with a bit of a twist.

The concept is pretty straightforward: you take something that you really enjoy and “bundle” it with a task or activity you are struggling to get motivated to do. For example, if you’re having trouble motivating yourself to work out but you find yourself spending a lot of time on TikTok, make an agreement with yourself that you will only watch TikTok videos while you’re on the treadmill (with earphones on if you’re in public, of course). This way, you’ll be more willing to hop on the treadmill more often because you get your TikTok time in.

This method works because instead of constantly telling yourself “no” to try to resist temptations and distractions, you’re saying “yes” with limitations. Therefore, it becomes easier to do those tasks you don’t like because you aren’t depriving yourself of things you enjoy. At the same time, you’re now associating the things you enjoy with the things you don’t, which helps your brain stay motivated to do them.

Student with the word focus written on their hand to help them get motivated

8. Give Yourself a Reasonable Amount of Breaks

No matter what you’re working on, whether it’s studying or working on an essay, it’s important to give yourself breaks – especially when you’re trying to motivate yourself after the holidays. If you start going to work nonstop right away, you’ll burn yourself out really quick.

It might seem counterproductive to throw in breaks when your entire goal is to get motivated after the holiday break. However, it’s an important way to make sure you stay productive during study sessions, long writing assignments, and any other grueling tasks you have to do. Giving yourself a break every so often helps you take care of yourself while keeping your brain working at peak performance.

Not only that, but it’s been scientifically proven that your brain can’t focus on one task for too long. Most studies have indicated that the human brain has about 90 minutes of straight concentration before you start to become less alert, easily distracted, and less motivated. Adding a 15-minute break every hour and a half or so is a good way to give yourself a rest and get your brain back into focus mode for a fresh new perspective.

9. Create Your Own Support Network

The people around you have a bigger impact on your self motivation than you realize. They can be there for you when you need to vent, hold you accountable when you start to stray off task, and even remind you to take your breaks.

Surround yourself with friends, colleagues, and family members who will support you through even the most stressful times. This could be classmates, sorority or fraternity siblings, or even your high school friends back home. Anyone who can be just a call or video chat away is helpful enough to support you.

At the same time, it’s important to avoid the people who aren’t going to support you. That friend who is always trying to convince you to blow off your schoolwork and go out doesn’t really have your best interests at heart. However, the one that will call you to make sure you’re feeling okay or meet you for coffee when you need to vent will be a strong asset to your ability to stay motivated and keep going.

Student’s latte art being used as motivation to study in a coffee house

10. Think About the Bigger Picture

Another really important thing you should always do when you’re trying to motivate yourself is to remember why you’re doing this in the first place. This is especially important for those tasks that you hate doing, like writing essays or going to work at your part-time job.

For example, if you’re having trouble motivating yourself to study for an upcoming test, remember why you’re taking this test and why you need to do well. You want to have the career you’ve always dreamed about, which means you need to apply and ace the job interview to get hired. To get noticed by the recruiters, you need to graduate with good marks in order to get a shot at an interview. In turn, graduating with good marks means passing all of your tests and assignments. How do you pass those tests and assignments? By studying and putting your best effort into your assignments.

You can use this same thought process for anything on your to do list. When you don’t want to go to work, remember that you’re going there to make money to pay your rent or bills, or maybe your tuition. Without that money, you can’t afford to stay in school.

Student holding a notebook to help get motivated during class

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