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Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Stay Motivated after a Long Day at School

Imagine the following scenario: you spend eight consecutive hours doing rigorous intellectual work with only one small break for lunch. Then, you spend a few more hours pursuing extracurricular activities like sports, music groups, clubs, jobs, and community service. Finally, after ten or more hours of working yourself both mentally and often physically, you come home to rest…only to find out that you have even more work to do when you get home. 


For many driven, college-oriented high school students, this is their reality. A full day of high school coursework is challenging in itself, but when you add on all of the extracurricular, job, or family responsibilities, it’s simply exhausting. 


Unfortunately, most high school students’ jobs aren’t done when they get home. Home time for many students is also homework time, family responsibility time, and sometimes even more extracurriculars time. After a long day of school and other pursuits, how can a high school student remain productive when they get home? Read on to find out. 


Tips to Stay Motivated After a Long Day at School


1. Get Moving/Exercise


If you’re a student-athlete, feel free to continue scrolling. However, if you’re not usually a physically active student, getting some exercise in moderation could really help to boost your productivity. This may seem unintuitive, as it will add yet another thing you have to do to your list; however, it is known that exercising tends to increase the endorphin levels in your body, which, among other things, contributes to sharper focus and an overall better mood. In fact, exercise has even been shown to decrease feelings of depression, loneliness, and social isolation in young adults. 


So if you’re feeling unmotivated to continue working after you get home from school, try going for a quick jog, a swim, a gym session–whatever works for you and your body. Even a quick workout can help give you the energy boost you need to make it through the rest of the day. 


Worried you don’t have the time to incorporate workouts into your busy schedule? Well, the beauty of exercise is that you can find ways to blend exercise with your other work. For example, you could bring a book to the gym and read while you’re on a stationary bike. You can listen to a lecture or an audiobook while you’re running outdoors. You can even make it a group study opportunity by bringing your friends along and quizzing each other while you exercise! 


2. Limit Distractions


YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tik Tok…these are all very entertaining apps. Unfortunately, they can also be huge distractions, when you should be studying. The easiest way to avoid getting tempted by time-wasting distractions when it’s time to work is to stop using them altogether. Yes, that means putting away your phone, logging off of social media on your laptop, and taking other precautionary measures to make sure you don’t waste too much time. 


If self-discipline is not enough to keep you offline, there are resources to help you limit your use. For example, you can set daily screen time limits in some apps like Instagram and YouTube. This way, you’ll get a reminder notification every time you reach the daily time limit you set for yourself. If that’s not enough, there are even free apps that will block your access to distracting sites altogether when you need to be focused on other things. 


3. Schedule a break


Some highly-successful people actually suggest putting a break into your daily schedule, such as an hour to take a nap or to indulge in your distractions, like scroll on instagram. This might help you feel less guilty about taking time off, and also help you stay focused during the rest of your day. The break can be something to look forward to, and you can save typical distractions, like social media, for then.


4. Plan Out Your Evenings


It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all of the things that you have to do once you get home. Oftentimes, students end up using their work time at home inefficiently by spending too much time on one task, or not prioritizing the things that are the most urgent. 


There is a very simple fix to this, and it involves taking a few minutes out of your day to write out an evening plan. You can start by creating a simple list of everything you need to do when you get home. Then, you can arrange your list by what time you plan to tackle everything. How you arrange your list is up to you. You can put the hardest tasks first so you tackle them earlier in the evening, you can do the most urgent tasks first, and you can always schedule in some short breaks to give yourself a breather.


Hopefully, by taking those few minutes to outline how you’re going to spend your time, you’ll be able to be more organized as you tackle each night’s work. You’ll also be removing a lot of the stress from the evening by taking the guesswork out of choosing which tasks to tackle first. At the very least, you will have a clear picture of what all you need to get done so that you have less chance of something slipping through the cracks. 


5. Leave Your House


Your home is where your parents are, where the food is, and where all of your desk and supplies are. It makes sense to think you should study at home. Unfortunately, your home is often where the TV, couch, video games, and other distractions are. If you find yourself getting too sidetracked by the relaxing aspects of your home, try studying somewhere else in the evenings. This could be a library, a coffee shop, or even a friend’s house. Go somewhere where you are less likely to get distracted and will be able to focus on your work at hand. 


If you’re considering going elsewhere to study, we at CollegeVine recommend that you choose a quiet place to study that isn’t too crowded. You also may want to find a place to study that has a free wifi, in case you need to do any work on your computer. Lastly, make sure you’re going somewhere that’s safe and close to home so that you can be sure you’ll be able to get back home at night. 


6. Join a Study Group


Forming a study group is a great way to collaborate with your peers on tough course concepts, hold each other accountable for finishing your coursework in a timely manner, and hang out with your friends…all in one! When you’re studying alone, it’s easy to push off certain tasks until right before the deadline. You might also miss a key concept that one of your peers took note of. By working together, you are all being held accountable for your work because you all need to contribute meaningfully to the study group discussion. Plus, you can all benefit from each other’s knowledge and ensure that each of you has a comprehensive understanding of course material. 


That being said, study groups are definitely not for everyone. Everyone has that group of friends with whom they have a great time, but with whom they’d never get anything done, if they tried to study together. In those situations, it is perfectly okay to kindly reject the offer to form a study group. You’ll both be better off in the long run by not being a distraction to each other. You can always offer to hang out with them as friends instead of study partners another time, and you can also work with them on ad hoc things like answering questions and doing quick homework checks. 


7. Get Enough Sleep


You won’t be able to be productive after school if you can’t even keep your eyes open. No matter how busy you are after school or how much you think you need to stay up, you should definitely try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Without this sleep, you might not be able to function at your very best the next day, which will make you less productive, and may even make you sleep later the next night because you won’t have the energy to get everything done! And so the cycle could continue…


Set a goal time for yourself for when you should be in bed. If you need to, set an alarm that tells you when you’ve reached that bedtime. If, on any given night, you find that you’ve reached that bedtime and still have more to do, take a second to do a serious evaluation of whether you really need to stay up to get all of your work done. Is anything due tomorrow? Will you still have time to complete the task if you don’t do it tonight? Is this worth staying up for? If the answer to these questions are no, go to sleep. 


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!