I experience a range of feelings at the beginning of a new school year. Anxiety for the workload, excitement to reunite with friends and worry for the great mountain of responsibility underway with new classes beginning. At the base of this mountain of responsibility, I believe rests society’s expectation of individuals to maintain a steady flow of productivity, even during times meant for rest and recuperation.
I am usually the type of person who follows along with this mindset, feeling as if I should be doing something to feel competent and like I’m not wasting any time. In fact, this mindset normally carries on for me into the summer as well, but this year I felt quite differently. I felt a strange contentment with the opportunity to relax over my summer break, and I want to extend this same mindset into the school year, seizing opportunities to relax while finding the intrinsic motivation to tackle any new endeavors this semester may throw my way.
At home for the summer, I found myself with far fewer obligations than I now find myself with at the University, which meant that feeling intrinsically motivated became more of a challenge with nothing in place that I absolutely needed to do. What helped me during the summer was setting small goals for myself and writing down activities I wanted to try out in my free time. I placed no pressure on completing these small tasks, but writing them down helped me think about how I wanted to spend my time and actually manifest carrying out what I said I would like to do.
Applying this to my college semester, I feel like it’s beneficial to keep in mind how I want to spend my free time outside of class. Setting aside designated time for work and rest is important as well as developing the self-discipline to focus when needed to. I’ve found it important to place emphasis on expressing desire to carry out tasks that are personally beneficial and worthwhile rather than solely focusing on combating boredom.
Even things that genuinely interest me are hard to fully immerse myself in at times with all of the surrounding distractions of the current world we live in. It becomes so much easier to hop in bed and look through my Instagram than it is to shift my focus to myself and partake in actions that actually require me to think and feel.
It takes accountability and self-discipline to snap out of the metaverse that is social media and regroup towards something new. Some efforts I’ve placed towards remaining accountable for myself in this respect are not having many social media apps downloaded including TikTok and not carrying my phone around with me at all times. While I’m at home I’ll leave my phone out of my sight if I’m trying to do work, relax or make a meal for myself. In college, even with the additional obligations to tend to, it can be easy to push them to the side, but as students, it is up to us to remain focused. As I want to become an English major, my schedule is very reading intensive, so I must motivate myself to stay on track with there being few outside checks to make sure that I’m doing the expected readings.
Establishing a simple routine to ensure success is key, but a routine that is forgiving and allows for more than one chance to complete something. For example, having my week lined up on my calendar helps immensely for me to work around any obstacles that may rule out certain times for getting work done.
Additionally, implementing a routine of mundane tasks after waking up like brushing my teeth, washing my face and picking out my outfit has helped me feel motivated throughout my day as well. Even if I don’t intend to do anything super significant, focusing on my well-being at the start of each day brings me a sense of groundedness.
With all of this in mind, I would say one of the biggest things I strive toward is protecting my inner energy. This could mean a plethora of different things to different people, but to me, it means taking whatever action necessary to remain content with my surroundings and my place in the world. I allow myself to take breaks often, take time to reflect and meditate and spend time outdoors. Just being with the self in all aspects and aware of what is needed of the body at all times is extremely beneficial.
Although pressure may always be placed on remaining productive throughout life, it’s important to take advantage of free time to rest and create a thoughtful plan geared towards personal needs to be successful. It’s a tough reality to think that the time I spend in college is setting me up for my entire life’s path, which creates an urgency in itself to want to do more and be more. The truth is, I can only do so much, and by accepting this it becomes easier to remain content in my current place, enjoying the time I have now to be and explore everything that I am.