Being an Open University student I get asked this one question a lot “how do you stay motivated?”
Staying motivated is the biggest struggle you will ever have with the Open University. A time will come were you will have two essays due, quarter end at work, social events with friends and a mother constantly calling you complaining she hasn’t seen you in forever even though you saw her two weeks ago.
If you read my blog regularly then you’ll know that I am re-entering OU into my second year of my first year from the University of York (that is a mouthful and half). As I’ve experienced both brick university and OU I’ve compiled many different solutions to staying motivated and how to handle the pressure.
Fall in Love with your subject
As OU is a long distance learning university you have to motivate yourself, so you have to be interested in what you want to study. I like to think of it this way – you wouldn’t get into a long distance relationship with someone if you weren’t madly in love or ready to put in the effort. So why get into a 6 year (part time study) relationship with a subject you don’t have a passion for? You’re going to get bored and quite frankly you’ll end up cheating with nights out with friends/late nights at the office/endless scrolling on Instagram. OU is brilliant at helping you find out what you want to study because we pick our modules as we go. For example I hate accounting (last year I had the flu whilst doing the accounting TMA for my compulsory module – scarred me for LIFE). Doing a business degree you’d think I’d have to face it again but no, no I don’t. I’ve completely maneuvered my way around to avoid it and chose modules that I enjoy and have a genuine interest in. Alternatively you can always do an open degree which allows you to choose from every module in any subject!
Schedule/Build a routine
My biggest mistake in my first year was thinking I could carry on doing everything I would normally do and that OU would fit nicely into my life – was I wrong? YES. I’ve found that scheduling was my biggest friend during the study period, especially around TMA and EMA deadlines. The best advice I can give is not to pressure yourself into thinking everything will be perfect and that you have to study 35+ hour every week because let’s be honest it won’t happen all of the time. If you fall behind its fine, OU are great at helping with any situation. I found what worked for me was if I said to myself I’d have a week off every time I’d finish a TMA to clear my mind and have fun than the 3 weeks that I’d study hard and go into hibernation was fine. So now I study at least 2 hours every week day, 20 hours over the weekend and I leave work every day, 5pm on the dot! Of course this doesn’t happen every week, sometimes I find myself staying later at the office but that’s ok because I add any missed study time onto my weekend – goodbye social life!
Leave the house
I’d happily bet that whilst studying with OU you will have on average 10 mental blocks a week which will completely ruin your self-esteem and motivation. My top tip for this – Get out of your normal study space. I like to think of my bedroom as my safe place, so I try to avoid studying in it. After avoiding my bedroom I have the living room and the kitchen, which for anyone who lives in a house were the two are connected you’ll know that you don’t have anywhere to run away too. I’d highly recommend when you get into the mental blocks leave the house! Go to a library or a café, it’ll give you a new atmosphere and a clean space in your mind. In the summer I highly recommend the park, why? The sun, Duh?
Give it time
I think a lot of people with work experience who are “bossing it” at their jobs expect to get 70%+ straight away. For a limited amount of people this does happen but for most it doesn’t. You have to remember that you’ve been out of education for a while and it takes time to get used to academic writing again. It took me 4 tutor marked assignments until I got my first 70%+, the first 4 fluctuated between 45% – 65% and now looking back on it, I spent way too long stressing and comparing my marks with others. Remember, you have to score higher marks to achieve a first or 2:1 with OU compared to brick university but don’t let low marks demotivate you – no one can be perfect at everything! It takes time to become a first grade student.
My last and most important bit of advice for staying motivated is to remember to have fun! Yes, you have to study but a quick run to the pub for one after work on a Friday is not going to make you fail the year. A Sunday brunch catch up with the girls isn’t going to set you back days. You’re there to better yourself and learn new things so join the Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups, go for a cheeky pint on a Wednesday. Don’t turn down a family/friend event just because you “have” to study, at the end of the day the books will still be there and the TMA will still need to be written – off course don’t leave the EMA till the last minute like me and be up at 5am referencing!
Motivation is the key part to succeeding at Open University. Having someone telling you it’s not a real university should not demotivate you! Just think whilst someone’s saying/thinking that, you’re up all night studying proving them wrong. I hope this helps anyone who’s thinking about studying with the OU, it will honestly be the best decision you’ll make.