For many of us working in academia the end of the term or semester is coming and whilst we may be starting to look ahead towards some well earned and needed rest and relaxation, the pace hasn't necessarily let up yet. In this blog I talk about how we can keep ourselves motivated and survive the end of term rush.
Motivation / məʊ.tɪˈveɪ.ʃən / noun
having the enthusiasm to do something
The end of term brings with it a whole heap of feelings. In some ways the end of term particularly at this time of year, can be a time of parties and coming together, craft fayres and celebration.
However, despite all of these things to look forward to, the workload can still be pretty relentless at this time of year too. Calendars get even more booked up trying to 'fit things in' before the end of term, assessments, marking and checking in with students before they head off for a break, plus there can be a realisation that some things may not get done until after the winter break. This can all lead to a rather heavy feeling of overwhelm for many academics at this time of year.
For me, I know sometimes it is at this point that my productivity also falls, firstly because I am tired, second I start losing some motivation to start new or big projects until the new year and thirdly, I have so much on my to do list I'm not even sure where to start! I think perhaps there are other academics that feel the same right now, so what is it that we can do to 'survive' and keep ourselves motivated for these last few weeks?
The first thing to do, although it always feels a bit counter-intuitive when you are really busy, is to stop and take stock. You have a limited time and probably a big to do list, so you will have to make a priorities list, but to do that your need to free up some brain space. Go for a walk, make a cup of tea or listen to a favourite piece of music just to allow yourself to breathe and then you can set upon the next task.
Get yourself a diary, whether electronic or good old-fashion pen and paper and write everything down, then critically review which tasks need to be kept for now and which can wait. It can be hard to see this at first, but if we just take a moment to allow ourselves the headspace to reflect, we can start to see what can wait a few weeks for completion. This tasks also helps us to be critical and realistic about what is possible and ask for help if the number of deadlines exceeds your capacity.
This is not the time of year to take on new projects - you have enough already! There will always be new and exciting projects arriving in the inbox, so if it really is a new opportunity not to be missed send a holding email, but don't get sucked into starting until you have capacity, and we already determined that right now, you don't. Look after yourself and focus on what needs to be done right now. Make a note in your newly prioritised diary in the new year to chase up the lead and then file the email.
Everyone is busy, and that can mean that we stop asking each other for support because we don't want to burden anyone. The secret is - everyone is probably feeling the same, and so we can end up working alone, feeling burnout and isolated. So, start conversations with others about what needs to be done and see if working together can help everyone to progress the priorities more efficiently and effectively. Your might just set up some working patterns and relationships that will last longer than just the end of term rush, leading to new and exciting collaborations in the future, and making your work feel less pressured, more collegiate and more fun.
It is really easy to drop the nice events, the celebrations, the work lunch or coffee, and the professional development opportunities when you are on a deadline or feel under pressure, but it's likely to be the time you need to ensure you incorporate self-care the most. So even when busy, don't cancel the coffee with the colleague you have been meaning to chat with for ages, go to the work lunch and do the activities that help you to retain balance and reduce your stress. Hopefully, your re-prioritisation task helps you to make this feel more possible, but if not again talk to others about how to get support to allow you to continue to give your best.
Book some leave over the winter break and stick to it! Academics have a habit of taking leave and then still checking emails, just doing that one short tasks, or working right the way through the break and start the new year exhausted. Take the break, it will help you to physically and mentally refresh for the next term. Rest can also help us to be more creative, by allowing our brains time to make connections subconsciously. So, have a notepad around or your trusty new diary to jot down your ideas so you can pick them up when you return.
Top Tips for motivation at the end of term:
Wishing all academics a restful and happy winter break. See you all in 2024!