For the last week I’ve been lacking in concentration and motivation for my university work. I really want to get on with the prep for my modules and engage in the subjects, and this should be the time where I’m really geared-up and in the zone, as I’ve just received a distinction for my last piece of coursework. But…the motivation is just not there.
The last two days had been set aside for me to start work on my reading and literature review for a seminar in a week and a half. Yesterday I started one journal article, fidgeted, got distracted easily, procrastinated (a lot), ate anything I could get my hands on. Anything, except read and make notes on the article. I have trampolining training on a Thursday evening, so I told myself that all I needed to do was read just that one article and then I could go. I eventually forced myself to speed-read and finish it in time to make it to training. Today it’s been more of the same. Knowing that I only managed to get through one article yesterday, I set myself up to be in a good frame of mind by having a relaxing bath first thing, with the aim of reading and making notes on two journal articles during the day. Nuh-uh! My concentration went out of the window, I couldn’t focus, and I didn’t have the motivation to read. Depending on the length and complexity of a journal article, I can usually read and make notes in a few hours. Sometimes the reading takes longer than the note-taking, and sometimes it’s the other way around, especially if I have a strong opinion on the subject.
So what is causing this lack of motivation?
This term’s new module, Introduction to Digital Curation, has been getting more complex as the weeks have gone by. It’s a pretty huge subject to fit into just one term of lectures and practical lessons, and there is absolutely no way that we can possibly learn everything that there is to know about digital curation in that length of time. Digital curation is a completely new topic for me, so the fact that I don’t immediately know and understand what we’re learning is probably weighing on my mind quite a bit.
I also found last week’s Concepts and Contexts seminar quite tricky. The 500-word literature review that I submitted for the seminar was not one of my best, and I think I missed the point of the article I was reviewing a bit. I left the seminar feeling a little dejected, knowing that I could have done better. The two articles that I have finally finished reading and taking notes on for the next seminar have been a little tricky. I still find academic language quite hard to navigate at times, and I also find that the continuous use of the author/date system of referencing (Example, 2017) throughout a lengthly and complex article makes it harder to take in the arguments, as the writing doesn’t flow as well as it might using footnotes.
I don’t feel particularly stressed about my university work. I’ve had two very good grades so far, and, as a part-time student, I only have two more pieces of coursework to hand in before the summer, I don’t have a dissertation to submit this year, and I’m not behind in any work, so I’m in the fortunate situation of not feeling too rushed. Perhaps I’m putting a little too much pressure on myself to do well, having had good grades for my first pieces of coursework.
I don’t think that I’ve yet found my ideal study space. My university, University College London, is a very long way from where I live. I commute two days a week for lectures, and so I’m usually at home when I’m doing (or trying to do) my university prep. I have my own office at home where I can close the door and have my own space, but recently it’s just not been working for me. There is the lure of the fridge and its foodie treats, the Internet, and a wealth of ‘stuff’ in my office and around the house to cause distraction.
It seems then, that there are some areas for improvement…
Take a break: for the last two days I’ve been glued to my desk, adamant that I will finish the prep that I set myself to do. I think that I need to work on listening to what my mind is telling me. If I’m not focussed, unable to concentrate, and I’m constantly seeking out distractions, then I’m probably not in the right frame of mind to sit down and read for long periods of time. So, instead of attempting a few hours of reading at a time, breaking down the reading into smaller chunks of time, or a few paragraphs at a time followed by a five minute break might be a good start, and a break away from my desk and my office.
Positive thinking: Yes things might be hard, but I’ve not done too badly so far! One step at a time, no-one is asking me to know and understand everything.
Try a new study space: The University of Northampton, where I studied for my BA (and only 10 minutes drive away) has an open library, so I might have to pop up there and see if their silent study area works for me. A new study space doesn’t have to be a permanent change; I’m probably attaching a negative mindset to my office at the moment, so a short-term switch-up might be helpful to kick things back into gear.
Hydration: I can’t imagine that the amount of caffeine I’ve consumed over the last two days has been entirely helpful. More water and regular glasses of water are going to be much better.
(Image sources: The Shadow Sanctuary, For the Love of PR, CanItBeSaturdayNow.com).
Header image from TED.