Study is a marathon, not a sprint
As you may have noticed, the 2016 Rio Olympics have got underway. Among those athletes going for gold, I would recommend keeping your eyes on the long distance runners – imitating some of their strategies will maximise your chances of successfully completing your studies.
You are at the start line – you’ve enrolled on a new course and you are excited to get going! You have done some preliminary research, may be you have connected with fellow coursemates and got essential questions answered. You feel nervous but ready to manage the anticipated workload.
It sounds odd, but at this point you need to make sure you have a clear end goal. Create a specific vision of what you want your goal to look like and keep it firmly in mind. It is a long journey, so whether you want to earn a degree or simply learn something new, when things get challenging remember that goal and remind yourself why you are doing the course.
When the starting gun goes off and you complete the first few ‘miles’ of your course, you will probably be feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed but also energised, enthused and positive. Hopefully, you are discovering that your course is fun!
Some students will race ahead but we all work at different speeds. If you feel as though you are not going as quickly as someone else this does not mean that you are behind – do not judge yourself on the speed of others.
In a marathon you will notice different running styles. When applied to your course this means knowing the style of learning that works for you. Remember your ABC – Always Be Consistent in your method of studying.
Around the halfway mark reality starts to set in, and it can take a lot of determination to keep going. On top of coursework there could be a full or part-time job and family commitments to juggle, making it hard to remain motivated and focused. There will definitely be some metaphorical aches and pains as you push yourself, and sometimes the workload ahead will make you feel like you want to just give up and sit down on the side-lines, but remind yourself how far you’ve come, what you have learned and what you have achieved so far.
Now is the time you really need to pace yourself and take things one step at a time. Don’t think about how long it might take you to complete the course or your degree. Instead, concentrate on your current assignment and work towards specific targets as you go. Try to stay disciplined and stick to your routine so that it is easier to maintain your momentum.
Don’t forget that your tutor and their formative feedback can act as a valuable ‘mile-marker’. Marathon runners will plan how many miles they want to run in a certain number of minutes, but if they ignore the repeated mile-markers on the route and, for example, go too fast, they will struggle in the latter stages of a race. Likewise, if you don’t take on board your tutor’s advice and use it as a mile-maker to help you gauge where you are, you won’t make the adjustments needed to get you to the course finishing line having achieved your best.
So, you are nearly there – you can almost see the finishing line! Although you may still have a few months until you complete your course, and you know there are many more projects, critical reviews or essays to do, you can now look forward to accomplishing your goal with a sense of confidence that tells you that you can really do it. If you can (and you are feeling inspired!), give one last push beyond your comfort zone, learning from your mistakes to improve.
Reaching the finish line is the moment to celebrate! You can stop and remember how you got there – the hours of studying, writing, and working should all now seem worth it! Hopefully, you have exceeded what you thought you were capable of doing, so enjoy your successes and the fact that you have completed your course.
Study is a marathon, not a sprint – it requires passion, effort, commitment and stamina, but if you are prepared to make mistakes and keep moving forward at your own pace, you can go the distance.
Pablo Picasso, Two Women Running on the Beach, 1922
Panathenaic Amphora (detail), 333-332 BC © The British Museum