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When I started university, I was really excited about learning new things. My first 2 years were harsh but with a lot of effort and discipline I managed to get good grades and got into all the specializations I wanted. Right after the end of 2nd year I started an 8-month internship. Unfortunately, business was very slow and there were many weeks where out of 5 days I worked intensively only 1 or 2.

Since I had so much free time in my hands, I started going to the gym, getting into video games, taking singing lessons and doing many things I liked. Unfortunately, once my internship ended, I found my study habits obliterated: out of the 6 courses I took in the first term of 3rd year I failed 3, almost got in probation, and after much struggle I managed to finish 3rd year in 12 months but with my GPA taking a big hit.

Once again I’m taking another 8-month internship and sadly I’m finding myself in a similar situation as last time: the first months of work were very productive but it’s been 2 months and I haven’t had anything to do. I really don’t want to suffer the same problems in 4th year and I need to get my grades up if I want to go to grad school. Are there any exercises to train myself mentally in order to avoid losing my discipline and motivation? Both at work and eventually at school? Any suggestions?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I am in the same situation! Here is how I cope with it:

  • During the break (be it an internship or holidays) start your own project (if you are studying e.g. maths,computer science, architecture, linguistics) or conduct a small survey (any other field of studies,especially economics). Set yourself a goal and even deadlines, but regard the whole process as an interesting game. Be creative! Think up something amazing and challenging, and don't bother if it has already been invented/written, what matters is that you will be able to say : I tried the same thing! Not to mention that this will be a great attachment to your CV.

  • Join Coursera! This is an online study platform that hosts courses held by a worldwide range of universities. There are a lot of great subjects and you receive a certificate at the end of the semester. It is completely free and there are also assignments and deadlines to keep yourself organized.

  • The simplest way is to create yourself sort of a "management plan". Think carefully in which field of studies you would like to improve. Then set a small goal for every day (e.g. "write one Bash script in order to simplify myself work with terminal","solve one problem from past year coding competitions","learn one poem by heart","complete a report on recent political changes","get to know how some device works","read at least 10 pages in French","write a composition/review/blog entry" etc.). Do it for the whole period of study inactivity,don't spare a single day without completing this task! Keep record of what you have done during each day.

  • Try to combine work and your favorite activities. For instance, if you are a programmer and enjoy singing, you can write some karaoke/playing_musical_instrument/band_and_concert_search application. If you are not, then try something else.

  • Lern a foreign or programming language : it's a perfect way to improve self-discipline, because both require great effort.

Edit: @Oniros, as you are studying electrical engineering, I would advise you to save money for an FPGA and then begin experimenting at home. Another "EE" tip is creating you own robot.

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Oh yeah, electrical engeneering. Same as me! Then, every tip I added will be real for you =) – petajamaja Jun 3 '13 at 16:11
This is a great answer. Thanks for your tips! – Oniros Jun 9 '13 at 18:20
@Oniros, always happy to help =) – petajamaja Jun 9 '13 at 19:59

Perhaps during your times of inactivity, read papers about the subjects that you are studying, perhaps even look at writing academic papers for publications.

To be honest, the other activities that you did, specifically singing lessons and going to the gym sound very constructive, and could be somehing for you to continue, just add in reading academically relevant papers.

I hope this helps

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You can find more ways to become productive.

  1. Create your own 7 day personal projects. These are activities related to your future plants that you can start working on now. I believe seven days is something that you can sustain.

  2. Find places where you can volunteer. Finding significant things to do will help you become more creative and see opportunities you have not seen before.

  3. Join organisations not necessarily related to your work but may bring you to more people and more activities. I recommend joining Toastmasters or Rotary Club.

  4. Write a blog on productivity or motivation. Since your problem is lack of motivation, fill in your world with ideas on motivation. Be the creator.

  5. And most importantly, keep your study habits with you. Schedule in your day a time for you to review your previous courses (you will see them in new ways, I promise) and study in advance your future courses. You may also enrol in to keep your study habits solid and sustained.

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