Carnegie Mellon University

Student Academic Success Center

Office of the Vice Provost for Education

Be ready to bounce back when you…

We know every student at Carnegie Mellon can be successful. And we know that at one point or another, almost every student at Carnegie Mellon will struggle with motivation, focus, or structure. When you feel yourself getting stuck, take a few minutes to think about what’s standing in your way. Are you distracted? Unmotivated? Feeling isolated? Use the tips and strategies below to get back on track. If these don’t work, consider scheduling an appointment with an academic coach to dig deeper and work on developing an organizational system that will help get you to where you want to be.

It’s normal to lose motivation, or to have trouble focusing on your coursework when we are in the middle of a global pandemic. If you’re losing motivation for a particular task, take a 20 minute break and come back to it with fresh eyes. If you find yourself struggling with motivation more broadly, it can be helpful to connect your current work to a larger context. Ask yourself:

  • Where do I want to be in 5 years? And how does my education impact that?
  • What is one thing I am looking forward to this semester?

Reach out to your success partner, your academic advisor, or a friend and ask them to help reframe your thinking.

Go back to you the daily schedule you created for yourself, and try to commit to whatever is next on your schedule. If you’re struggling with what to do within those chunks of time you’ve set aside for studying, consider making a to-do list and breaking each down into actionable components. Consider changing locations if you can, even if you’re only able to change the direction you’re facing at a table. Sometimes a change of scenery can help you refocus and re-engage with your work.

As we mentioned in the “Stay in touch” section of this guide, everyone is living through a global pandemic and we can all use a little more connection. Don’t be afraid to reach out and check in with your friends and family. If you’re feeling disconnected from the CMU community, . Many offices across campus have virtual office hours for you to connect with a staff member, including the Student Academic Success Center, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, SLICE, and the Career and Professional Development Center. CMU’s Counseling and Psychological Services is available for all students, and if you’re not living in Pennsylvania their team can help connect you with services in your local area.

If you find yourself spending too much time on your phone, consider turning off notifications, keeping your phone in a different room, or use an app or feature of your phone to limit use of certain applications. Use your phone as a reward during one of your scheduled breaks.

If your computer is the main source of technological distraction, consider downloading a browser extension that limits your access to sites you know you spend too much time on. Try writing in a word processing or note taking program that doesn’t require an internet connection.