Written by Joelle Ayana Josephine Berg
I got up early, had breakfast, went on a walk and grocery shopping, did a workout, studied for several hours, cleaned my room, met my friends, wrote my own book and received the Nobel prize – all that before lunch. Yeah, this is what it seems like other people get done while I barely rolled out of bed and got my fourth coffee only to sit in front of my computer. One tab open with the lectures of past weeks – who am I kidding – maybe even months. The tab above plays some Netflix series. Are you still watching? Yes, and I will be watching until I give up on actually doing something and go back to bed. I can work tomorrow.
Why does this sudden feeling of motivation come at 3 am and leave after sleep? Is it actually motivation or only the result of a bad conscience? How can others actually do what they planned? Can they or is everyone just pretending?
Well, if you can relate to what I just explained, congratulations to you and to me. We are not alone with this. Everyone is lacking motivation, energy or capacity to be productive 24/7 or at all. No matter the reason, it is a challenge we all faced. Especially as students though, it is something that makes your life a lot harder and a lot more stressful than necessary. It is a constant cycle and it requires constant motivation – All that might sound very negative now, right? But fear not, I will give you some advice on how to find a bit of motivation, energy or even fun in checking your to-do list.
But first, let me explain some psychology basics: The sources of motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. The former describes the motivation that is shaped by your own values and desires while the latter roots from outside influences. Either you do it because it feels right and good or there is a certain reward or payoff you expect if you do it. It doesn’t matter which one you find the easiest to get. You could think about what aspects of your study programme you enjoy or find important. Or you think about the well paying job you can get with the diploma. Either way, it gives you a reason to work for it. In a way, they complete each other. If you don’t like a certain task, extrinsic motivation makes you do it. On the other hand, if you enjoy doing something, you don’t need to gain anything from it. Motivation is nothing but a reason for which it is worth it to invest some of your time or energy.
Okay, but how does that help me right now? The essay is open in front of me and needs to be finished by the end of the week?! I can’t tell you what to do there, but maybe thinking about why you should do it is a great start. Is there a topic you’d like to write about? Find something you’re passionate about and have actual fun diving into it and turning it into a great text. Is there something you want to prove? Take that as a reason to do it in your essay. If this doesn’t work, let’s try thinking about what you could gain out of your work. A good grade, maybe you’re going to get something for yourself as a small reward. Just power through the unpleasant part.
And to be honest, if there are things you really want, let it be learning a language, painting or anything else, then you already have the intrinsic motivation to do it. Now you just need to find a way to not lose that motivation and energy over time. Think of something that works for you. It can be something that reinforces your intrinsic motivation, such as keeping track of achievements or planning achievements in the future – manifesting. One way to do that is by writing in a diary or bullet journal. Or you think of a reward or something you gain because of the effort – An extrinsic motivation that keeps you going.
Of course, it is still an effort to start work and it might take a while to get into the habit of finding motivation. But just like everything, motivation is a skill that improves through practice. Just think about why you need it. It makes your life a lot easier, makes you spend time more productively and tasks more enjoyable.
Now that you know more about this topic and feel like doing something you’ve always wanted to do or if there is something on your to-do list that seems unpleasant, go for it. Think about why you’ll do it and get going.