How to Motivate the Unmotivated

Monday, September 8, 2014

Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself lacking the drive to do very little besides binge watch television series on Netflix and eat an entire bag of Dove chocolate squares without feeling sorry about it. *raises hand shamelessly* *okay, maybe there's a bit of shame there*

A lack of motivation could just be caused by the fact that it's a Monday and everybody seems conditioned to hate Mondays. Or maybe it's an on-going period that you can't seem to pick yourself up out of. Or maybe it's recent because you have so much to do and can't figure out how to tackle it. For whatever reason you're here, hi, welcome. I'm sorry that you're feeling a bit unmotivated. Hopefully this helps you get back into the swing of things. Now let's get into this.

1. Figure out why you're unmotivated. The general answer is "I don't know, I just am", but in the off chance that there's a legitimate reason as to why you're in a rut, tackle it early. Some other general motivation drainers: lack of sleep, the seeming lack of time (see: those days that need at least three hours tacked onto them), the fear of not thoroughly completing the tasks, too busy with other life aspects (sports, family, friends, etc.), disinterest in your classes or course of study, and being in tough classes that require massive amounts of work in limited time.

I always found myself, in high school more than any other time, not being able to do or wanting to do assignments until the last minute because, as I now realize, I was sort of a perfectionist. I would envision a project and its completion in my head before I even started it. Then I would delve more into the idea, realize how impossible it was to do it that well, and would shut down and not want to do it. If I couldn't do it to the best of my ability, I didn't want to do it at all. Then something would kick in last minute that told me I had to at least complete it for a grade and then I'd be rushing, which wasn't good at all for my mental health or grade.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that perfectionism and the art of procrastination go hand in hand. You want everything to come out perfectly because you expect it to be done well and assume that everybody else—teachers, classmates, family, friends—expects the same. You don't want to fail them and the pressure is coming down on you and you just shut down. You don't want to do it at all if it can't be the every bit of perfection that you envision. Perfectionism can definitely be a motivator killer.

2. Write down everything you need to get done and when it needs to be done. Seeing all of the pending tasks might seem like it'd be overwhelming, because it sort of is at first, until you get to cross off each task as you complete it. I always get a weird sort of satisfying feeling when I cross out a homework assignment from my agenda.

Due dates are also very important, as you want everything done and turned in on time. It should be common sense to do this, but complete the projects with the closest due date and filter out as the due dates become further and further away.

When it comes to large assignments versus small assignments, map out what exactly needs to be done for a large assignment before doing anything else. Estimate how much time it could take, minimum and maximum, and evaluate whether you want to start that before your smaller (and less time consuming) assignments before or afterwards.

2b. Make an end goal. This could easily be linked with writing down every assignment, but if you have one condensed goal that you can work toward, it can amp up your drive.

For example, say you have 2 chapters to read for one class, a 1-2 page composition to write for another, an online discussion that you have to become part of, and a study guide to fill out. Separate them into mini victories. Lump the composition and discussion guide into one main "writing goal" and the discussion board and reading in one main "studying goal". Creating a hearty goal over a single assignment may seem daunting if you've got an endless list of projects, but for those lighter workload weeks, goals may be more useful.

3. Start small. This may seem contrary to the above tip, but if you've been really stressed out and have not wanted to do your work, throwing yourself into your ten page paper or thorough presentation isn't going to do you any good. Choose something small, like an online quiz or a chapter of reading or short composition. It's like climbing down the ladder into a pool. It's going to be a bit chilly at first, but it becomes more comfortable with each rung you step onto. Eventually, you'll be able to comfortably float along.

4. Don't beat yourself up over anything. Getting angry at yourself over a mistake isn't going to make yourself motivated to do anything but mope. Accept your mistakes, correct them, and move on. Don't dwell on them. Dwelling generally wastes time and isn't very productive at all.

The key to motivation kicking in is to keep working until you get to an end result (see: your goals). Obviously, don't work yourself to the point of mental exhaustion. You've got to know your limits in that sense, but you can't stop for every mistake to scold yourself. In the words of Taylor Swift, shake it off.

5. Ask for help. If one reason why you're lacking motivation is because you don't know how to do the assignment or a specific problem within the assignment itself, don't wait until you miraculously learn it at the last minute, ask somebody for help. It could be the professor, a classmate, or even Google or a forum. There's no weakness in asking for help, and generally if you have a clear idea, the task seems easier to tackle and you will be more likely to complete it. In the off chance that you are not more likely to complete it, repeat tips 1-4.

6. Remember that "this too shall pass". Your lack of motivation isn't lifelong, nor is your insane amount of motivation. It's normal to fall into ruts, to fall in and out of motivation. Nobody can be a type-A personality 24/7, 365 days a year. That's just impossible. So remember that if you're feeling unmotivated for a day, or even a week or two, eventually you're going to hit a patch of motivation again and that all will be well in the world again.

What's your favorite way to beat your lull in motivation?

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