Motivation is essential to why we do certain activities and avoid others. It is a central part of why we are able to achieve our goals and maintain focus on them without being distracted, but it can be difficult to have the energy to always be productive. This is especially the case when college students finish their semester and go off into summer break. While summer breaks can seem aimless, it’s important to set goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) so that you have a concrete sense of what you’re working towards and stay focused. For students, setting their own goals that are not designated by a teacher can be highly motivating because they are out of personal interest and contribute to personal development. It can be important to maintain motivation throughout summer to achieve these goals but also because motivation is a key predictor of resilience, comprehension, work ethic, and overall performance in the classroom or work environment.
Tips to Stay Motivated Throughout the Summer
Take a break for yourself
After spending long hours studying and exhausting mental resources to pass exams, it can be extremely relieving to get a cooldown period without any concrete goal in mind. Alongside the mental health benefits of taking a break, it is known that breaks serve as a way to boost long-term productivity and prepare yourself mentally for the next challenge. Therefore, for students, taking a short pause can be a good way to improve focus on any goals set during summer break and stay motivated despite the overwhelming pressure from school.
Change your environment
During the school semester, students are put into a routine that can be monotonous and exhausting. Constantly being in the same environment can be suffocating, and taking some time to change it can massively affect your focus and motivation. Whether it is changing the setup of your desk that you work at or going out into nature on a camping trip, it helps to bring a refreshing atmosphere during the summer break before going back to a strict schedule.
Learn something new
Putting time into a skill that you enjoy can be extremely fulfilling and thus contribute to your intrinsic motivation. Being a young adult can feel extremely daunting when faced with short-term challenges that don’t seem to have an end goal in sight. Constantly going through college classes and working to further your professional development can lead to burnout if you do not enjoy the process of both. Finding a skill where you enjoy the learning process can make you feel naturally focused instead of committing to a goal for the sake of the end result. When learning something outside of your professional goals like an instrument, a language, or a recipe, it can also be exciting to train your brain in a way that you are not used to.
Visit family and friends
Long periods of work or studying can feel incredibly draining and leave no energy to socialize with peers or loved ones. Taking the summer to visit those you couldn’t during the year can boost your motivation and serve as a break from your stressful routine.
Involve yourself in your local community
Young adults can be extremely focused on developing themselves for their future that they lose sight of the broader community that they live in. Investing time in this community by helping others can motivate you in ways that a standard classroom cannot. Attending to the needs of others can motivate you to attend to your own needs because it can be a method of learning something new and taking advantage of your set of skills through your community.
Take a class or course that you are interested in
For most of the year, young adults put a lot of time and effort into college classes and when summer break comes, the last thing they want to do is undertake more exhausting classes. However, learning does not always have to be “something to deal with” because subjects that you enjoy can be naturally motivating. This does not have to be exclusively classes at campus and can even be local classes in a trade such as carpentry, cooking, programming, and more. Whatever your interests are, there are likely classes offered to hone those interests into practical skills and put your intrinsic motivation to good use.
Take a break from social media
Social media can perpetuate an image of perfection and can make you feel more unproductive than you actually are. When surrounded by media of others succeeding, you can feel that you are being left behind, but the work involved in creating the idolized images on social media isn’t considered. For young adults, seeing someone who is young and successful online makes it hard not to compare themselves. Especially during summer break, it’s easy to see photos of peers on vacation and wonder why you’re not on a vacation just as glamorous. Focusing on small goals along the way rather than idolizing the large goals people show off on social media, like a vacation, can help with your motivation. Even if the small goals achieved during summer break are not flashy, they can be just as fulfilling.
Taking the time to invest in personal growth and your community while avoiding burnout with work and social media can drastically improve your motivation. It’s okay to not be motivated all the time and to put a hold on your goals if it means being more productive in the future. Instead of putting more pressure on themselves, young adults can use the summer break to find what is personally fulfilling and explore options in their environment. Although setting goals is important, enjoying the moment can be just as impactful and promote productivity by preventing overthinking or rumination.
Gaps in motivation can be especially normal in young adulthood but if they interfere with daily functioning, it could be a sign of a greater issue such as depression or anxiety. If you feel that you are struggling with staying motivated and your goals seem unattainable or intimidating, please reach out to Heritage Counseling & Consulting at 214-363-2345. Our clinicians can provide the guidance needed to overcome these issues and construct a plan to get you back on track for whatever your goals may be.