Staying motivated all the time is tough, especially if you’re a student who has no idea what to do after graduation. And it’s even less apparent when the weather is perfect outside.
There are several types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic or long-term and short-term. Long-term motivation is fueled by our long-term goals and values. It comes as a result of hard work and continuous self-development.
But before I proceed any further, let’s just talk a little bit about the etymology of the word “motivation.” It comes from the verb “motivate” and is a derivative of the noun “motif.” In simple terms, it means that your goal should be to find a reason for taking a certain action.
The goal here is to find reasons that will make you want to move forward. By the way, the same concept (i.e., “seek pleasure, avoid pain”) is used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).
Just grab a sheet of paper, divide it in half vertically and label one side “Action” (Carrot) and the other “Consequences” (Stick). Then, list all actions you can take in the left column and their repercussions in the right one. Some will be more motivated by the reward (it’s up to you to define what you want), while others will be more motivated by avoiding punishment. So you’ll be between hope and fear — the two forces that will make you move forward.
How can you motivate yourself when there are so many temptations around? The first thing you should do is remove all possible distractions (smartphones, tablets, game consoles, etc.).
The main principle remains unchanged: find sources of motivation and reduce sources of distraction.
This one is old but gold. When you have a heavy workload, your RAM is unable to process all the information, and you end up feeling overwhelmed by a tsunami of things you must do.
To free up your memory, you should write down the tasks you need to do on a sheet of paper, starting with the most important ones. That way, you will be able to think more clearly and perform your assignments much more efficiently.
You can also start with those tasks that are the easiest to perform. By dealing with them first, you will gain more motivation for the harder ones.
Make a habit of dividing and subdividing chores. A massive task can be demotivating, so breaking it down into smaller “chunks” will make it look more manageable.
Example: Write a 5-page essay.
Task 1: Analyze the topic.
Task 2: Brainstorm main ideas to include.
Task 3: Compose a detailed outline.
Task 4: Write the body section.
Task 5: Write the introduction.
Task 6: Write a conclusion.
Task 7: Proofread.
Task 8: Check the formatting.
Note: Even these smaller tasks can be further subdivided.
Give yourself a small reward at the end of each session. According to the theory of classical conditioning, this will create a conditioned reflex (like in Pavlov’s dogs) and make a connection between the work session and the reward. Once this connection is made, it will be easier for you to start doing the next task. Before undertaking a new task, plan what you’ll reward yourself with at the end (e.g., a 30-minute nap, a few hours of gaming, a few episodes on Netflix, etc.).
This approach will stimulate and activate your “reward circuit,” a system that motivates and guarantees the survival of students under pressure.
Organize your workplace in such a way as to conduce learning. This way, you’ll create a conditioned reflex, too. It’s like saying to yourself, “This is my desk, and it really motivates me to study.”
Remember the point about distractions? This is where it’s especially important. Make sure anything that can distract you is nowhere near your working area.
Not being able to start a task is the first sign of procrastination. If you’re plagued with this curse, then you’re in a lot of trouble.
Professor Timothy A. Pychyl provides one of the best tips. It’s very short and yet extremely motivating: “Just get started!”. When we begin a task that discourages us psychologically, we often realize that it was not really that bad.
After a few seconds, all our doubts are gone, and we’re ready to dedicate ourselves fully to it.
So, when you don’t want to do a task, just say to yourself, “OK, just start doing it. It’ll only take you two minutes.” Once you’ve started, you can work much longer than that.
If you are not in great shape, you should recharge your energy regularly. How do you do that? Just install a fitness app on your smartphone and set it to alert you to do a 7-minute workout at regular intervals.
Sport has a vital role to play in our lives. It promotes the secretion of dopamine, the pleasure hormone that helps us maintain our motivation. If you don’t do sports, you should definitely take up one!
Listening to music can motivate you to take action. However, it does not work the same way for everyone. For some, music inspires, while for others, it’s a huge distraction. Just pick a music style you like and adjust the right volume.
The last tip I’ve got for you is to have a friendly competition. Just challenge one of your friends to finish a task first within a given time. This is a super-efficient tip that can turn a “tedious job” into a fun challenge.
For me, the tips 4, 5, and 7 work miracles when I’m stressed or under pressure. My advice is to experiment and combine them to see what works best for you.