Helloooo lovely hoomans!
Motivation always seems like some magical buzzword when it comes to study/work productivity, and if the few psychology modules I’ve had to take over my years at uni are anything to go by, motivation can be an extremely powerful tool and psychological element to getting through the ups and downs of the roller coaster that is (academic) life.
But what about when we aren’t feeling so motivated? It’s not like there’s a magical little potion from Alice in Wonderland that we can pop into our tea/coffee every time our enthusiasm or energy for a task dips and we miraculously have the power to power through again. Or is there?? If you have discovered said potion, please let me know so we can turn it into a billion-dollar business idea!
Back to the point – motivation is not a constant. It is affected by so many different factors for all of us, and as such, sometimes we go through periods where we are really struggling to stay motivated, whether that’s with our school work, university work, work life, or life in general. Sometimes having what feels like a never-ending to do list, or a task that just seems that bit too overwhelming feels like a drag, and like the last thing you want to do. This can be linked with a wave of questions where you’re starting to doubt yourself, your abilities, and all those scary ‘big-picture’ questions that our brain can’t handle answering right now (side note – adults we are all stressed out and anxious about the future please stop asking us if we have a plan because if we did, we would tattoo it across our foreheads to avoid the oh-so-intense questioning all the time).
These questions can decrease our motivation even further and a lack of motivation for too long can lead to a downward spiral of stress and all sorts of not-happy things. Everyone always thinks I’m the queen of productivity and can always stay motivated but it’s really challenging sometimes, and over this last week in particular, things have felt so scary and overwhelming I have had very little motivation. But the key thing is not to stay wallowing in those feelings, and to figure out ways to jumpstart your motivation again – just like that trustworthy car that sometimes needs a jumpstart to get the engine turning once more. So today, I’m sharing some tips and advice you could try if, like me, you’re struggling to feel motivated with your studies and need a little boost.
Acknowledge what you’re feeling
This is something I will preach until my very last breath until everyone finally accepts it. We are human beings, and as such come with what might even be an unhealthy amount of emotions and feelings to process on a daily basis. It is difficult dealing with all these feelings (just watch Inside Out – if you have, you get what I mean right?) and ignoring them or bottling them up can only make the feelings worse. You are a human being and are perfectly entitled to feeling a lack of motivation. As such, it might be helpful to acknowledge these feelings – you could write them down, or speak them to yourself, and then once they’re all out, put them aside or in a box so you can move forward. It might just be that putting words to how you’re feeling is just the thing you need.
Do not run away!
Running away literally has never solved any problem – except of course when you’re running for a very good reason, like away from something scary or a very negative situation. But studying/academic work is not one where the running away excuse works because like a bad fart it will only follow you. Avoiding work can actually make that deflated feeling even worse if you can imagine it. This can be emotionally draining and may make you even more frustrated than if you had just pushed through and done a tiny smidge of work.
Don’t blame yourself for procrastinating
It’s something that happens to the best of us so if you find yourself procrastinating, you are not a bad student and you are not the worst. Procrastination can sometimes even be a self-preservation tactic we subconsciously fallback on where we are trying to avoid what we may think will be a stressful/negative situation (not that this is a good reason to procrastinate, but it can help us understand ourselves a bit better if we know why we’re procrastinating). The trick is becoming aware of the habit, and to try and gently convince yourself to get back to work, or to try do a small amount then you can take another break.
Try figure out your learning preferences
So doing the degree that I do, the idea of learning styles etc is one of those highly contested debates in the field so I’m not going to look under that rock. Instead, I’m going to rather say think about your learning preferences, because we all have those. What makes it easier for you to work? We all have ways that we prefer to work, and we avoid things we consider dry/boring/uncomfortable so the key is to try and make studying more interesting. For instance, my mom likes having a movie on in the background when she has to write articles. I have a friend who likes working in the library because there are other people around. Try and think of a way that will make studying more pleasant, or at least more bearable, even if that starts off with the tactic of treating yourself with a piece of chocolate every time you finish a task (but this probably isn’t a tactic you want to use forever).
Don’t question your abilities
Lack of motivation does not equal a lack in abilities! Make that a golden rule, write it on a piece of card and stick it up where you can see it forever and always! Your abilities have nothing to do with how motivated you’re feeling about a task, so don’t let this little blip make you feel like you should be questioning your abilities. Don’t put yourself down by comparing yourself to others – you are still amazing and you’ve got this!
Positive visualisation can be the magic arrow in loads of different quivers and dealing with a lack of motivation is no different. Try visualise yourself starting your task, and make yourself sit and work even if it’s just for a short while. Then you can visualise yourself in the process, and finally, finishing. You may start slow, but you will still take off so long as you start.
Focus on one thing at a time and prioritise
Despite what the many legends of the world might say, multitasking can sometimes be the death of productivity and when it comes to boosting motivation, multitasking can do more harm than good. Rather focus on just getting one task done at a time, that way you can tick it off your list and it won’t hang around bugging you anymore, and you can move onto the next one. When you’re choosing your tasks, remember to prioritise the important ones and then move onto the least important ones. That way, you don’t get distracted doing only half of several things, and instead can say you’ve at least completely ticked off all the important things.
Talk to someone about how you’re feeling
This can be interpreted in a few different ways. It may just be that chatting with someone about how you’re feeling with your motivation can release some pressure and help you feel better so you can start working. Another way to look at it is if you tell a close friend/study buddy that you’re struggling with motivation, that can help you commit to completing certain tasks. For instance, why do you think it’s so popular for people to have gym or exercise buddies? Because there’s another person there to give you a friendly kick forward if you’re struggling, and that way it’s not just about you, it’s about your friend too. If I’m really struggling with motivation, sometimes I’ll plan a study day with a friend, and we set ourselves tasks we want to achieve and we only give ourselves a break to chat/have snacks etc if we’ve completed a task. Incentives work!
Get the schedule out and time-block
Have you ever set yourself a list of things to do in a day when you’re feeling really optimistic, and then you only get half of them done and end up feeling really deflated? Well sometimes overscheduling ourselves can kill our motivation, so it might be time to actively be more realistic with how much you can get done. Block out bits of time in your day when you say you want to be working (that way you don’t spend half the day in bed), and ask how much you can get it done in that time, rather than if you can complete all your tasks. That way, you don’t get easily overwhelmed, and you set yourself realistic goals you can achieve, which will also boost your motivation.
Remember that what you’re doing is a challenge
It’s always important to keep things in perspective. Think about hiking a massive mountain. It’s not an easy task, and can often be uncomfortable, stressful and challenging, but the pleasure of finishing and knowing you did it makes it all worth it. Remember that university is a challenge – it’s not this super easy task. Instead of focusing on how challenging it is though, focus on the outcome and all you’ll get/what you’ll feel when you get to the end, instead of the struggle getting there.
And there we have it! Wow I was not expecting this post to be quite so long so thank you to everyone who read all the way to the end. I really hope that this post has been helpful to everyone who needed it – motivation is a challenging beastie to deal with and we all need some advice every now and then so I hope this can help anyone who may be battling the beast right now. If you have any of your own tips for motivation, please feel free to share them in the comments!
Otherwise, thank you all so much for reading! I’m now putting my laptop into my bag and forgetting about it for a few hours, as I’m going to spend some time with my mom in London (this is not procrastination!! I have time-blocked working time for the train there and back, and made sure to get ahead on my work for next week). I hope all of you have an amazing weekend – I’ll see you all next week for another post but until then, stay sparkly!
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx
Good advice… thanks for that. I’ve been unmotivated in a lot of areas of life lately, and I’m not sure what to do about it… what’s the point of trying hard to do things if I’m just going to end up miserable either way?
This is a great post. I would have shared it with all my students when I was in Higher Eduction (now retired lecturer).
Well done and good luck.