Motivating Yourself During the Busiest Month in Student Affairs

Student affairs professionals list of responsibilities are vast: from overseeing large groups of people, to managing emotions, and working funky hours, we don’t know how they do it. The month of April is no exception.

The amount of programs planned, events attended, and people they interact with is often amplified aside from the rest of the year, often dedicating more hours to creating a meaningful student experience.

Simply put, they deal with a lot. Sometimes it’s really tough – but it’s also rewarding. Since these positions are so important to a student’s success and experience at colleges and universities, we want to support all SA pro’s while they navigate and persevere through a busy time.

Motivational Tips for a Successful April

If you’re an SA pro and you’re reading this, and you can’t deal with the obstacles, challenges, or busy schedule for one more minute, take a moment to breathe.

Read through this list and pick out some takeaways: something that resonates with you the most. And if you’re a seasoned April warrior, make sure you’re passing this along to someone who may need an extra boost of motivation.

We’re rooting for you.

Use the ‘chameleon effect’ to get inspired

Did you know by mimicking co-workers productivity goals or sitting near them you can boost your own productivity? Ask to hang out near a productive early bird to check off a few to-do list items at the beginning of the day. You don’t have to sit right next to them, but close enough to feel their inspiring vibes.

On the same note, humans have a natural feeling to blend into their social environments. If you surround yourself with positive people, it’s easy to feel happier, become more focused, and adopt a ‘half full’ outlook.

Remind yourself of what you love about student affairs

Post pictures up in your office of friends you’ve made through the field, students you’ve mentored, or something else that provides you with inspiration and grounds you.

Ask yourself “why?” – why am I doing this? Answering this question will encourage you to create deeper meaning in your work or uncover how to motivate yourself more intrinsically or extrinsically in your position.


Write down the top three reasons why you’re a SA pro and keep it somewhere visible to you as a constant reminder.

Set short term goals

Post them in your office where you can see them everyday and make them semi-public. People who commit publicly, whether it’s hanging up their goals, telling a friend, or announcing it via Facebook, will be more likely to accomplish their goals.

More than 70% of people who told a friend or co-worker about a goal were more likely to accomplish it because someone else was holding them accountable.

Set goals for your team too! Collaborate on to-do list apps and tools like Trello to make sure everything is organized and completed on time.

Set the right mood every morning with music

Maybe you dream of yourself checking off a few to-do list items in your favorite coffee shop:

Or maybe 90’s R&B hits the spot:

Change your perspective

Frame pitfalls, shortcomings, unexpected challenges, or negative experiences as an opportunity when they arise. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of negativity.

Think about how you can grow as a person and make changes for next time.

Make extra efforts to stick to your routine

Here are some routines from student affairs professionals in our recent intrapreneur post in the field that may help adjust your routine:




“Wake up around 5am, pray and meditate, then spend about an hour writing. My wife and I talk to my kids in the morning about their day and review schedules for their activities because they are as busy as we are. I read the chronicle & inside higher ed every morning. Once the kids are gone to school I get myself ready, eat a bowl of marshmallow fruit loops, and get to the office by 7:45 a.m.”

Jason Meriwether

“Morning workout, breakfast, coffee, and quiet car rides to and from work.”

Dr. Ed Cabellon

“Some people may call me rigid but I prefer the term ‘consistent!’ I lay out my clothes each night before I go to bed. I wake up every day between 5:00-5:30, go to Starbucks, get to the office by 7:30, workout nearly every day after work and am in bed by 11:00/11:30. When I interviewed female college presidents as a part of my dissertation study, I found that they also had very consistent days. I like to eat the same things nearly every day, too. It makes for quick decision-making and keeps me healthy!”

Dr. Ann Marie Klotz

“I like to think of myself of someone who makes the most of every day – my morning generally starts at 5am with breakfast and a shower (I’m super proud to have perfected getting ready to 30 minutes), a quick walk around the lake near my house, followed by the long trek to work (1.5 hours each way! Yes, I’m crazy!). My work day starts with coffee with work colleagues at 8am (I learn more from these coffee chats than in any other meeting), followed up by checking my emails and chasing up any matters outstanding before the rest of my day features anything and everything from team meetings, to student information sessions, to planning and developing new programs, to research and reporting. If I’m lucky I can depart sometime around 5pm, making the long drive home before heading off to the gym (I may be slightly obsessed with Body Attack and Body Pump at the moment – they’re great stress relievers!), cooking dinner with my fiancé and a spot of TV before bed. Makes me exhausted just writing this!”

Laura Burge

“I do all of these things almost every single weekday. – Wake up, read some news articles while I eat a bagel and drink orange juice. – Make lunches for me and my partner. – Get dressed, pack my gym bag, say goodbye to my cats. – Drive to the train, take the train to work, get to work. – Emails, meetings, chatting with students, go to the gym for my “lunch break” – Eat an apple, banana, Pop Tart, and Clif bar before going to the gym. – While at the gym, I run at least 3 miles, some days 4, and a few other exercises. – After the gym, I work on more emails or meetings, depending on the day, and eat a PB&J sandwich, some chips, and some yogurt. – The end of my day is wide open for hanging out with students and discussing their needs. – Go home, put on a record to unwind from the day, make some dinner, hang out with Katy and our cats, paint a little bit, play some guitar, watch Netflix. – Depending the evening, we’ll go to a movie, or a concert, or an event on Katy’s campus.”

Craig Bidiman

“I’m a big fan of starting my day with breakfast of some sort and typically an iced coffee as well. It gets my day off to a positive and energetic start. I like to check email first thing to see if there is anything that needs my immediate attention, and then I get to my tasks for the day which can include anything from writing a new blog post, editing a podcast, going to some meetings, or just managing my building.”

Dustin Ramsdell

“I wake up at 4:45am Monday – Friday; go to CrossFit; have breakfast around 7/7:30am; work on several projects / attend meetings / meet with students / have lunch at 11:00am and then dinner at 5:00pm; and then conclude my day around 6:00pm.”

Wayne Glass

“Wake up. 20 minutes on social media. 5 minutes of meditation. Decide whether I’m walking to work or taking the bus. Talk a little trash with my coworkers. Then off to Outlook! Breakfast optional.”

Jeffrey Dessources

Watch your favorite motivational video

Share it with a student or co-worker.

In J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Commencement Speech, the author outlines failure and imagination – two things that are imperative to success in life.

“We do not need magic in the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

Channel your inner Rowling this month and imagine yourself succeeding in all you do.

Eat your frog

Eat your what… ? The phrase “eating the frog” means to tackle the most difficult task at the beginning of the day. This is a phrase made famous by Mark Twain. Twain explained that if you eat a live frog at the start of the day, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.

Ask yourself which task is the most urgent and the highest priority, check it off early, and feel relieved.

Send your favorite funny meme or picture

Laughing at the beginning of each day reminds us not to take life too seriously.


Yes, there may be an angry student or a huge event filling up your weekend, but it serves as a reminder to your team that you’re in this busy month together and need to take a moment come up for air and enjoy the smaller things in life.

Eat lunch away from your desk and take small breaks during projects

Are you planning on taking a lunch break today?

Your focus and creativity can take a major hit if you choose to stay at your desk while you’re eating those delicious noms! And the good news is that if you’re not hungry,

“You don’t actually need to go eat. You just need to get out. And it doesn’t have to be between the hours of 12pm and 1pm to have a positive impact. It can just be going outside and taking a walk around the block. That in itself is really restorative.”

– Kimberly Elsbach, professor at UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Read more about getting out of the office here.

What if these suggestions don’t work?

It’s okay to back away from your job every once in awhile and evaluate your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Taking some time away won’t be the end of the world and will most likely increase your motivation level when you get back to work. If you’re feeling symptoms of burnout, it’s a definite indicator of taking some time away or re-defining the expectations of your job.

Communicate Your Needs

If you really have no choice (although you always have a choice) and must work all of April – make sure you’re taking necessary time off. Everyone’s motivation and energy levels are different. Help yourself and make sure you’re communicating your needs appropriately.

How do you get motivated during the month of April?

Tweet us your thoughts at @CheckImHere! Thanks for reading.

Kayley Robsham

About the author: Kayley Robsham is the former Community Engagement Manager at Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

Check I'm Here is now Presence. Learn more about this change in our blog post here.