Chapter 2: Staying Motivated, Organized, and On Track


Figure 2.1
CollegeDegrees360 – Learning – CC BY-SA 2.0.



Where Are You Now?

Assess your present knowledge and attitudes.

Yes Unsure No
1. I have clear, realistic, attainable goals for the short and long term, including for my educational success.
2. I have a good sense of priorities that helps ensure I always get the important things done, including my studies, while balancing my time among school, work, and social life.
3. I have a positive attitude toward being successful in university.
4. I know how to stay focused and motivated so I can reach my goals.
5. When setbacks occur, I work to solve the problems effectively and then move on.
6. I have a good space for studying and use my space to avoid distractions.
7. I do not attempt to multitask when studying.
8. I schedule my study periods at times when I am at my best.
9. I use a weekly or daily planner to schedule study periods and other tasks in advance and to manage my time effectively.
10. I am successful at not putting off my studying and other important activities or being distracted by other things.

Where Do You Want to Go?

Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate how well you stay focused on your goals and use your time?

Need to improve Very successful
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In the following list, circle the three most important areas in which you think you need to improve:

  • Setting goals
  • Staying focused on goals
  • Keeping strong priorities
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Staying motivated for academic work
  • Solving and preventing problems
  • Having an organized space for studies
  • Avoiding the distractions of technology
  • Preventing distractions caused by other people
  • Managing time well when studying
  • Overcoming a tendency to put things off
  • Using a planner to schedule study periods
  • Using a to-do list to ensure all tasks are done
  • Finding enough time to do everything

Are there other areas in which you can improve your time management skills so that you can study effectively in the time you have, while still managing other aspects of your life? Write down other things you feel you need to work on.





How to Get There

Here’s what we’ll work on in this chapter:

  • Setting and focusing on goals that are specific, realistic, and attainable
  • Setting priorities for managing your time
  • Adapting a positive attitude for university success and overcoming the fear of failure
  • Developing and practicing strategies for staying focused
  • Preventing or solving problems that might threaten your success in university
  • Choosing a study space and using it to your advantage for efficient studying and avoiding distractions
  • Understanding why multitasking, such as using your computer or cell phone while studying, is an inefficient use of time
  • Using your “time personality” to perform at your best and to plan ahead
  • Using an academic planner to schedule study periods, get started on projects well in advance, and manage your time well
  • Developing and practicing strategies for overcoming any tendency to procrastinate

Goals and Time Management

Since you’re reading this now, chances are very good you’re already in university or about to start. That means you’ve already set at least one goal for yourself—to get a university education—and that you’ve been motivated to come this far. You should feel good about that, because lots of people don’t make it this far. You’re off to a great first step!

But did you know that in many universities in Canada, approximately 12% of first-year university students will not make it to graduation[1]? Ask your instructor if he or she knows the graduation rate at your university, or you research this topic on your own. Knowing this can be important, because peer pressure (whether to succeed or to be lax and possibly drop out later) can be an important factor in your success.

If you want to be among the students who do succeed, it’s important to accept that university is not easy for most students. But we’re not trying to scare or depress you. A huge majority of those who really want to finish university can do so successfully, if they stay motivated and learn how to succeed. That’s what this book is all about. But it may take some effort. Succeeding in university involves paying attention to your studies in ways you may not have had to in your former life.

One of the many reasons why students drop out of university are financial difficulties[2]. While no one is guaranteed to easily find the money needed for university, there are many ways you can cut costs and make it easier to get through. Chapter 11 “Taking Control of Your Finances” has lots of tips for how to manage your finances.

This chapter looks at another big issue: how to make sure that you succeed in your courses. The first step is to be committed to your education. You’ve been motivated to start university—now you need to keep that motivation going as you target specific goals for success in your classes. Much of this has to do with attitude and managing your time effectively.

In fact, time management skills can make the difference between those who graduate from university and those who drop out. Time management is actually all about managing yourself: knowing what you want, deciding how to get what you want, and then efficiently and effectively getting it. That applies to fun things, too. In fact, you may want to think of the goal of this chapter as not just managing your time for studying but ensuring that even as you do well in your studies, you’re still enjoying your life while in university.

  1. Shaienks, D., Eisl-Culkin, J., & Bussière, P. (2006). Follow-up on Education and Labour Market Pathways of Young Canadians Aged 18 to 20 – Results from YITS Cycle 3. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Retrieved from
  2. Ma, X. & Frempong, G. (2008). Reasons for Non-Completion of Postsecondary Education and Profile of Postsecondary Dropouts. Retrieved from:


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