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It’s hard to believe, but my first year at Hopkins is coming to a close. Classes are over, the weather is getting WAY too nice to be in the library for any amount of time, and the looming threat of final exams is now entirely unavoidable. In high school, I remember this point in the year was when motivation really started to drop—it’s often called “Senior Sliding,” but let’s be real, it doesn’t just happen to seniors—and the same seems to be true for college, too.

As tempting as it is to spend the whole day lounging on the quad or watching Netflix in bed, keeping up with studying is more important now than ever with finals over these next few weeks. Over the past few days, I’ve compiled some tips for staying focused and motivated during the final stretch of the semester:

Get Enough Sleep

When schedules get busy, sleep is often the first thing that is sacrificed. While staying up until 4am to finish an essay or project sometimes seems like a good idea at the time, I’ve learned that choosing to get your 8 hours of sleep is always the right move, especially during high-stress weeks. If you get enough shut-eye at night, you’ll work more efficiently the next day, pay more attention in classes, and feel less inclined to take naps in the middle of the day. Plus, finishing that essay after a good night’s rest will definitely be a lot easier than any attempts past 2am.

I use my fitbit app to track my sleep, and there are plenty of others that can help you stay on track!

Delete Your Social Media (Yes, Really)

This one was (and still is) probably the most difficult for me. I won’t deny the many hours I’ve spent scrolling through Instagram or watching Buzzfeed Food videos on Facebook, but I know that those hours are far better spent either getting work done or hanging out with friends in the real world. Since deleting just those two apps from my phone, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier for me to focus on the task at hand without the temptation of distraction just a few taps away.

Make a Schedule and Stick to It

When I have a busy week ahead, I set aside time on Sunday nights to go through my planner and figure out everything I have to do each day. If I’m feeling up to it, I even plan out the minor details, such as exactly what time I’ll get up or how many minutes I can waste passionately lip-synching to Ariana Grande in the shower. I also plan breaks for myself, such as going to the gym or watching an episode of Parks and Rec between study sessions—this helps me stay motivated and push away any temptations to procrastinate on work at other points in the day. Though everyone has different styles for planning and scheduling, I’ve found that excessively organizing my day makes any amount of work I have to do feel less overwhelming and far more manageable.

Plan Ahead, Realistically

The key word here is “realistically.” Too often, I’ve made the mistake of making extremely unrealistic plans for myself, such as spending a Friday afternoon in the library to finish a project or waking up early on a Sunday to cram for a midterm. When making a schedule, it’s important to be honest with yourself—don’t set goals that will be impossible to reach, as they will only stress you out more. For example, with a big final exam coming up on Saturday morning, it’s not very realistic to think that I’ll get a ton of quality work done on Saturday afternoon. So, I planned ahead, putting in extra hours at the beginning of the week so I can relax at the end. Getting things done early and knowing when you’re most likely to focus are crucial to staying organized and motivated.

My planner from a (very busy) week at Hopkins earlier in the semester.

Take Breaks

This is the most important one! Even during stressful weeks, being on the go 24/7 can be really detrimental to both physical and mental health, so it’s important to give your brain a break every now and then. And a break doesn’t just mean going on your phone for 5 minutes or taking a 20 minute power nap between classes—do something that really allows your mind to relax and unwind for a minute. Sit outside, go for a run, spend an hour in the dining hall with friends. Letting yourself relax during these times will lessen your temptation to do so when you really need to focus.

Taking a study break to sit on the Hopkins Beach!

Best of luck to everyone during finals!

Until next time,