This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.

6 Steps to Save Your Semester After an Ugly Start

See also: Self-Motivation

Well, now you’ve done it. That TV show was very interesting; you couldn’t help binge on it. And you’ve been working hard all week attending class; you simply HAD to go all out and enjoy the weekend. It’s not as if you could have missed that concert, even if the whole thing caused you to miss a week’s worth of studying. It’s your life, after all, so you have to enjoy it.

Now you’re nearing the middle or end of the semester, and you realize the workload is multiplying. All your classmates seem to be progressing well with their projects – and you’re sitting there, confused, wondering what in the world is everyone talking about.

Now what? There’s no need to panic as you can easily get back on track. Here are six ways for you to save a semester that did not exactly start on the right foot.

1. Postpone Your Social Life

We can see the frown on your face from right here – but you have to make peace with the fact that if you want to save the semester, you’ve got to prioritise your studies over your social life.

This doesn’t mean that you have to become a hermit and never leave your room until the semester is over – but avoid turning a 15-minute coffee break into drinks with friends until sunrise (and you know how easily that can happen!)

As difficult as it may seem, keep the daily breaks short, and try removing all your social distractions. Log off from Facebook and other social media for a bit and put your phone on silent. Divided attention can creep up on you like an uninvited demon. Try to get rid of impulsively checking your phone once every few minutes, and you’ll see that, soon enough, you’ll be able to dive into your study material. Don’t try and focus on more than one task at a time. Human beings are not designed to switch constantly between tasks. Get through each one by giving your undivided attention to that task. You will feel a sense of achievement as each task is completed and that means that when you do go out with friends you will feel that you really do deserve it.

2. Prep Your Studying Area

It might not seem as important but prepping your study area is also a very significant step in saving your semester. Think about it this way – if you are lying on the bed, your body is programmed to think that it’s going into resting mode.

This is probably why you tend to get very sleepy by the time you reach page three.

To make yourself more productive, simply begin by prepping your study area. Organise it at your desk, so that your body knows it’s supposed to enter “study mode.” And most importantly, remove all distractions. If your PS4 is lying innocently on that table, make sure that you hide it away from sight. Many of my tutees work from the library and this can be an excellent environment to study. However, if you are constantly distracted by people talking or people approaching you to chat then consider working from home.

3. Use Productivity Time Management Techniques

There are a plethora of productivity time management techniques that you can use – the one I always suggest to students is the famous Pomodoro Technique. Simply put, with this technique you break down your study time into increments of work and rest – and for every 30 to 40 minutes of study, you take a five-minute breather. Your brain gets a “reboot,” and you’ll be able to focus better on the next study increment. A top tip is to write down what your first task will be when you return from your break before you take your short break. This means that you will be able to dive straight into work when your return and you will get more done overall.

To-do lists and schedules are also a good way to keep yourself in check with your time. Set the time when you are supposed to study and do your projects – and stick to it in the long run. After a few weeks, your body will enter “auto mode” and will no longer complain of boredom when study time comes – it’s all about creating those healthy habits in life.



4. Get the Help of a Tutor

At this point, you must take all the help that you can get – which might mean getting yourself a qualified tutor. Sure, you might be able to ask your professor about the things that you did not understand – but there are only so many things that you can ask. What if you don’t understand anything and you have to start off from the very beginning? You can’t very well ask the professor to go over the programme once again.

What you can do is invest the money saved from those weekends when you stayed in on hiring a tutor. They won’t complain when they see that you’re having a hard time catching up with the subject. They’ll simply do their best and try to help and guide you through the process. Some universities offer free tutoring – but if it’s not the case for you, you might also want to get a private tutor online.

5. Stop Procrastinating and Start On Time

The earlier you start, the better it will be for you. Pick out the big and important projects from the batch that you have to do and start working on them. Embrace the discomfort and reap the benefits. If you started the semester with a bad grade, the last thing you want is to add another bad grade into the mix.

Tackle the biggest, most important projects, and focus on making them better than your previous ones. This is known as ‘eating the frog’. The frog is that one task that you keep putting off that just needs to be done. If you don’t eat the frog, then the tendency to procrastinate will mean that the task never gets done. We have a tendency to complete ‘easy win’ tasks. These are less complicated tasks that do not take much effort. I would recommend beginning the day with the hardest task for that day. This might be a task that will take a lot of time. This could be a task that is new to you and will involve learning a new skill or using a new technique.

Completing this task will help you in the long term. Go ahead and ‘eat the frog’. You will reap the benefits.

6. Avoid Analysis Paralysis

When we get off to a bad start with anything in life, there is a natural tendency to dwell on the problem. A student can spend hours and hours dwelling on a low grade. On a missed deadline. On some negative feedback they have received during a class. We can feel completely stressed out when we observe students who seem to be flying ahead on the course.

If you constantly analyse what has gone wrong, you will spend all of your time dwelling on the problems, and not focusing on the solutions. It is important to recognise when this is happening. Be conscious of when your mind is dwelling on negative thoughts. Switch your mindset to the positive. Picture yourself completing a piece of work or getting a good grade. Focus on the solution – not the problem. This will help motivate you to success.

Linked to this, make sure you do not judge your success by what others are achieving. Many students are competitive and want to be top of the class. However, this can itself be a destructive behaviour. If you want to get the top grades then give yourself individual targets across the year. Compete with yourself. No-one else. If you miss an individual target then you know you need to increase the amount of work you need to do. If the start of your semester has not gone to plan do not worry. Set your individual goals to the end of the semester. It’s not too late to turn things around!


Final Thoughts

Even if you had an ugly start to the semester, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it anymore. Whether you had issues going on in your life or simply had a lazy patch, you may still be able to salvage it. You just have to be determined enough and start right away with the correct steps. You have the rest of the semester to save your grade – let the games begin!



Further Reading from Skills You Need


The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

Develop the skills you need to make the most of your time as a student.

Our eBooks are ideal for students at all stages of education, school, college and university. They are full of easy-to-follow practical information that will help you to learn more effectively and get better grades.


About the Author


Chris is a law tutor and content writer. He has taught law extensively at the university level and now enjoys teaching and producing content for law students.

TOP