It’s bound to happen eventually, at some point in your college career: In your efforts to reach that far-off milestone of graduating and receiving your degree, a series of hurdles are placed in front of you. These hurdles take many forms, but the one we’re focusing on today is classes. That is, frankly, classes that really suck. Gen-eds, throwaway courses you only need for prerequisite credit, electives that sounded fun when you signed up; the horror of these classes is that whenever you even think about them, you just groan. Ugh.
Luckily, there are ways to make it through the slog of Ugh-classes. To make it through with your sanity intact, you need to find motivation, change your attitude, and get organized. These are all quite easier said than done, but nobody said college would be easy, right?
How to Find Motivation
There’s nothing quite like the frustration of having, for an entire semester, to endure a course that just reeks of uselessness. It isn’t always easy to see the utility of your courses, and it can be even harder to motivate yourself to make it through the slog. Harder, though, doesn’t mean impossible!
Try not to focus on the here-and-now when you get anxious about Ugh-classes. Don’t trick yourself into believing that this semester is going to take forever, and man does your life suck right now. Instead, focus on your long-term goals and how enduring “useless” courses will help you achieve them. You’re at college, first and foremost, for a degree, after all (I mean, right?). Keep your eye on the ball and look at each challenge, each semester’s worth of groans, as another step toward the glory you’ll feel receiving that degree. Just think of how great it’ll feel when you can look back and say, “Look what I went through for this!”
Sometimes this may not work, despite your best efforts. The day-to-day slog just gets too unbearable, and you find yourself staring at the clock and dreading each new assignment. In these cases, it’s best to find short-term motivation. Think of plans you have for that day, and how awesome they’ll be. Think of how this is just a few minutes of Ugh in an entire day of possibilities and choices. Think of how easy today’s assignments will be, because you’re a smart and capable college student. Don’t distract yourself or daydream during class, though. Pay attention, do your work, eat your vegetables, and all that. The point is that you need to put your mind in another place, any place, that stops you from stressing about something you can’t change.
If all else fails, the solution may end up being a simple attitude shift.
How to Change Your Attitude
It’s not always effective to find motivation when the framework you’re coming from is the belief that your course is useless. If you could just change that, make that simple alteration, things would be so much easier. Thankfully, it can be done.
Is your Ugh-class really useless? Are you sure? Think about the content in a different way than you’re used to. Surely something your professor is spouting has some kind of utility outside the classroom. Can you take what he or she is saying and apply it to any other aspect of your life? Are you gaining any skills that will help you in future courses? At the very least, maybe you’re improving your critical thinking skills, your reading ability, or your endurance. Maybe you’re just sharpening your work ethic. The key is to find something, anything, that makes this course worthwhile. When it starts to seem not completely useless, you’ll find that it becomes much easier to endure.
By the same token, reframe your attitude regarding the Ugh-class’s assignments. It’s not just mindless busywork. Not really. Instead, it’s all a valuable series of experiences that give you a glimpse into the corporate world! Bureaucracy abounds in the real world, chances are that you’ll have to deal with some pretty useless-seeming stuff. So while the assignments may be worthless taken alone, think of them as helping you build an internal résumé of bureaucratic work experience. Just imagine how much easier your future desk job will be since you’re taking the time to build your patience and work ethic early!
Not convinced, though? Certain this work isn’t preparing you for the real world? Not to worry; there are strategies for that, too.
How to Endure Busy Work
If you can’t get past the hurdle of seeing assignments as busywork, work for its own sake, you need some more concrete tactics. Organization, as it turns out, is everything.
Let’s start small. In my own experience, I’ve had assignments that shouldn’t take so long to complete, but man did I just not care one bit about them. The motivation to actually start working often eclipses the challenge of the work itself. To remedy this, put yourself in an environment more conducive to productivity. Get out of the dorm room and into the library. If you don’t work well with friends around, give yourself a few minutes alone to get your work done. Give your roommate your game system and iPod and tell him or her to take a half-hour walk. Do anything you can to improve your surroundings, because you need all the help you can get.
Large assignments are a bit more tricky. In addition to the anxiety that comes before you even begin, the sheer size of the assignment makes it difficult to complete. How will you ever get it all done? Put this thought to rest and replace it with another: This isn’t so bad. Split a big project into multiple smaller parts and dedicate a day to each of them. That way, you don’t have a hulking beast to deal with; you have a few small, adorable mini-beasts! If that doesn’t work, you may have to just gather the willpower and get the whole thing done in one or two sittings. Head to the library and stay there for six hours. Heck, I’ve had upperclassmen friends spend more hours within the library some days than outside. To some, this may sound like torture, but others work well like this. Sometimes you may be filled with a bubble of inspiration and work ethic, and you need to take advantage of it. Use its inertia to power you through as much of the project as you can get done.
With these tips, and maybe some ingenious ideas of your own, you can conquer Ugh-classes and make your way ever-closer to graduation. Won’t that be fun?