Every PhD student is different so there is no fixed way of staying motivated all the time. The beginning of a new term can often be both very exciting and stressful but during a PhD, there comes a point when you are not sure at what stage you are at. This can make it even harder to start work again after a break or holiday period. Here are a few ways to get motivated when a new term starts and these tips will help establish good work routines for the long term too.
Getting things done
A new start is a great time to get organised; luckily there are several occasions that get us to assess our routines. Be it a new year, a new term, or even a new day. However, when you think about getting organised it often seems like hard work or another job on the list, and that you are in a constant cycle of failing to plan and planning to fail. Get rid of all that unnecessary thinking. There is only one thing that needs to be completely organised and that is your mind. The best way to stay motivated is to have none of yesterday’s jobs hanging over your head dragging you away from the task at hand. If there is an email in your inbox, take a minute or two then and there to read, reply or delete it. If there is a bill, pay it, file it and its over with. Use the smart technology available to get things done promptly.
New starts are also a great time to change your habits. Make the most of this opportunity of starting afresh. If you have to wake up early for a new morning class you can also do some exercise beforehand. If you are moving to new accommodation maybe it’s also time to stop buying junk food. Use the changes in your life to change your small habits and you will get big results.
Inspiration over motivation
The ‘will’ to do something must be from inside. Motivation is great but it won’t last too long. Inspiration on the other hand will be inside constantly driving you. For a PhD there is often a personal goal such as a successful career or a passion for the topic. But there is always a bigger picture; remember the global impact of your research on the world and the importance of your findings. Lack of clarity is a huge motivation killer. Remind yourself why your work matters. Clarity gives focus and perspective to what you are doing so be sure to remind yourself every now and then to stay inspired.
Things do not happen over night
By now you can see that things don’t happen over night. The best things often take time and hard work. Staying motivated is difficult but if you look at the pattern it’s the ‘keep going’ part that matters. Take a break when you need to but be sure to get back up again. Break down the large tasks into small fun ones. The literature review can seem daunting to start with so… don’t start it. Instead, begin by just mind mapping your ideas about the key themes. Or search Google Scholar for the most cited articles on your topic. This way, it seems much easier and can take a lot of weight off your shoulders.
No is a complete sentence
This may sound simple but one essential pointer to help you stay motivated is to focus on your own work. By all means, be nice and help others but know when to say no. Learn from your supervisors - they tell people to think for themselves. Show people what to do but don’t necessarily do it for them. Be honest when you have no time and do not start explaining yourself. Self-impose deadlines that need to be followed - there are no short cuts so be firm, not just with yourself, but also with those around you.
Question things and don’t just do what everyone else does. Dare to be the one who speaks their mind. It is good to be scared sometimes. Challenge yourself to enter a competition, do the speech or presentation in front of the class. Speak to someone new. Motivation will come easily if your mind is stimulated and not bored but for those harder days when you can’t focus, remember that being motivated in simple terms is having a reason to act. Half the work is done just by you turning up ready and acting like you belong so get up, get dressed and look the part.