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If you are like most students, you are probably struggling with end of the semester motivational problems at the moment. With a couple of months of solid work under your belt, and the holiday season firmly in sight, you are probably finding it hard to maintain focus. In this article I want to suggest a simple mindset to help you get through these last few weeks of classes. It’s called, the just make progress mindset.

The basic idea is to lower the demands on what you must get done during a study session. It doesn’t matter how quickly or efficiently you are working just as long as you are making progress. In my experience it is extremely hard to start working when you are in a slump and feeling unmotivated. In these situations it’s important to lower your expectations, and to just set yourself the goal of doing something.

Here is some advice for implementing this mindset:

Work slowly. Sit down with a cup of tea, a latte or a few snacks. Try to enjoy the studying experience and just work slowly. You may want to lead in with a couple of songs from your Ipod. Sit quietly, spread your work out in front of you, and just wait until you feel the desire to start working. Be gentle on yourself and remember that just making some progress is the only thing that matters.

Aim to just get started. Have some important reading that you need to do? Commit to the first page and that’s all. Need to complete a problem set? Just work on setting up the first problem. The hardest part of studying is always getting started, so lower the demands that you put on yourself, and make it easy for you to get working.

Hang out in office hours. The benefit of office hours is that it is extremely hard not to work when you are surrounded by people who are there to help you get your homework done. If you feel like you have no energy or motivation, just go to office hours. You don’t even need a particular goal, just being there is usually enough to help you get started and making progress.

At this stage of semester the important thing is to just be putting the hours into your work. Set yourself the minimum goal, try to make studying an enjoyable process, and adopt the mindset of just making progress.

John Paton is a psychology and operations research student at Cornell University. He is interested in reverse engineering the brain and applying scientific principles to personal development. He writes at optimizethyself.com.

Image credit: KendraKaptures