How to stay motivated during stressful study periods

Published: 2 August, 2018

Categories: General

How to stay motivated during stressful study periods

Often, we are faced with the harsh reality of running-out-of-time especially when under pressure. For some strange reason we always manage to finish, be it minutes before an exam or hand-in. The downfall; we end up crashing for 3 days after.

For years I was convinced that my ‘method’ of coping during assessments is the solution. I’m saying ‘was’, because as much as it was successful, it wasn’t efficient. Honestly, we are all convinced our ‘method’ of coping is the answer. We end up training our bodies and minds to adjust to it. But then again, if your ‘method’ is working for you, why change it?

The important questions to answer are, ‘is your method effective and do you remain motivated and productive?’. Below are a few key tips which I feel can assist you to achieve the maximum outcome and reach the end. 


Having enough sleep

The entire notion of ‘I do my best work during an all-nighter’ is a complete lie. Studies have proved that only a certain percent of our brain is actually functioning at 2am. The body requires a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day. It is important that you train your body and mind to achieve this. Having enough sleep equals being more productive during crunch time.

Create a ‘spider diagram’

Map a diagram of your tasks on a large white board or sheet of paper. Do this a few weeks before your hand-in, in this way you can keep track of all the deliverables. Colour code your tasks form either - largest to smallest, easiest to most difficult or most to least important.

Eat well, keep active

Avoid fast foods, sugary drinks or stress eating. Try binging on healthier snacks such as baby carrots, nuts, water etc. Research can assist to finding which foods help with brain stimulating and productivity. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes to an hour for a brisk walk, run or a quick visit to the gym. Exercise acts as a stress reliever.

Choose a comfortable environment

We established that we all have a certain ‘method’ of working. Part of this is where we choose to set up, our comfortable place. It is important that we choose wisely are we fine to work alone or do we prefer to be part of a group? I personally prefer groups, it’s great to be motivated by others who are in the same situation. Let’s say you hit a creative block, it’s always helpful having a friend assist you in breaking through that barrier.

Take breaks

Taking breaks during the day are extremely important. Have a coffee, take a walk, a quick chat or my favourite; have a cigarette. Allow these breaks to come as a reward. Set small goals for yourself while working and when you reach these goals, claim your reward and take a break. Its imperative that you avoid trying to cram large volumes of work in at a time, this leads to unproductivity and procrastination.

Procrastinate, its good…

I see procrastination in two forms, the good and the productive. Let’s admit, procrastination is amazing; Facebook, Instagram and 9GAG amongst others.  The key to productive procrastination is to find something to procrastinate on, but at the same time let it be beneficial. Choose a website, a book or an Instagram page relative to your studies, maybe even a chore. As ridiculous as this sounds procrastinate on inspiration or maybe finally get through the pile of dishes, it’s still regarded as being productive.

Keep the end goal in mind

Lastly, dealing with deadlines are tough, we all struggle to keep afloat during stressful times. The most important thing to remember is your ‘end goal’. Adapt a mindset, be sure to focus on what is important in your life; what do you want to achieve? Hard work without a doubt always pays off.

Good luck.


Written By 

Imraan Begg (Cape town Lecturer)