Staying Motivated Enough to Finish That Assignment

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Let’s face it, it’s that time of the semester when temperatures are rising and motivation is…well…not. If you find yourself chronically unmotivated, you might need to ask yourself if you’re depressed, if some other illness is contributing to your lack of motivation, or if habits such as alcohol or drug use might be a factor. Those aren’t the types of motivational issues we’re discussing today, though.  What we’re focusing on are recent changes in motivation or sporadic periods where you’re unmotivated.

Counselors at Brown University say, “Particular points along the path to college graduation make one susceptible to ‘hesitations of motivation‘.” Sometimes students experience this during their first year when they’ve struggled to make it to college and then realize what they thought was their goal (getting admitted to college) is just the beginning of a much longer, often difficult road. Others deal with the college version of “senioritis.” Sometimes this is because students are overly excited about finishing.  Sometimes it’s because they are overly anxious and unsure about what comes next.  Pressure to perform also causes motivation to decrease. Many students who feel like their family is somehow sacrificing so they can be in school may find it difficult to stay motivated in the face of pressure either they or their family members are putting on them.  Students also lose motivation when college or a class requires something different from them than they are used to from previous educational experiences.  These are just a few reasons students experience “hesitations of motivation.”

If you’re currently in the midst of a hesitation, we have some tips this week to help keep you motivated enough to finish those writing assignments you’re still working on and finish the semester strong because, you know, you don’t want to be this guy, amiright?

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  1. Buddy Write We’ve all heard how trying to break a bad habit or establish a new one is easier when we do it with someone else, right?  That’s because having someone else to rely on or to help hold you accountable helps you stay motivated. You can use this same principle with your writing.  Share your goals and progress with a friend, or hey, 467 of your closest friends on Facebook or Twitter.  Several professional writers post their daily goals and progress on their social media accounts as a motivational tool for themselves as well as others.  Some say they feel more accountable to achieve a goal that’s “out there.” Others have informal contests with other writers to see who can reach their goals the fastest or who can surpass the goal they’ve set that day.
  2. Take Five…or Twenty.  Every 45 minutes that you’re working on a project, you should step away from the keyboard and take a break.  This gives your mind a chance to refresh itself so you’re more productive when you sit back down as opposed to what you’d be if you just tried to “power through” the assignment without any breaks.  And while you’re up, try to do something with your time that involves physical exercise. Exercising will produce endorphins which will help you feel more positive about your work and the ability to do it.
  3. Schedule it. Plan a schedule which breaks down your assignment (or the remainder of it) into specific steps with realistic goals (or maybe just one) for each block of time you intend to work on it.  This will help keep you from being overwhelmed with everything you have to do.  Once you have a plan, write it down and post it somewhere visible. As you complete sessions or goals, cross them out (Or, completely obliterate them with that Sharpie!) to add to your feeling of accomplishment and increase your motivation.
  4. Pavlov it.  Pavlov and his dogs are pretty well known in the field of psychology. Pavlov did an experiment in the 1890s which showed how behavior could be modified through rewards.  Many writers use their own version of Pavlovian principles to motivate their writing. They set a series of goals, and for each one the obtain, they reward themselves. Conflicted about whether to type that Ethics paper or catch up on Peaky Blinders? Does it seem like you’re the only person you know who hasn’t binged Flaked, Love, or 13 Reasons Why? Here’s the chance to catch up on some Netflix and have an academically justifiable reason to do so! Just make sure your work/reward ratio isn’t skewed to work against finishing your project in a timely manner–you know, 60 minutes of streaming for every 15 minutes of writing won’t get you very far very fast. Also, eating a pound of M&Ms for every two pages might not be advisable. (Not that I have ever done that!)
  5. Make a connection. Just as having a “connection” keeps us interested in that person we met on Bumble (or on a blind date our friend set us up on 20 years ago), feeling connected to what you’re writing will keep you motivated to stick with it even when things get rough. It’s what keeps you practicing that shot you can’t make over and over again until you can or keeps you playing that game for 62 hours straight until you beat it.  In the best of all worlds, you’ll be writing about something you are passionate about (or at least care deeply about…or are mildly curious about). That’s why you chose that topic, right? And in the real world, we often have to write about topics we are less enthusiastic about.  They are assigned by an instructor.  They are part of our job. Finding something about them that makes you curious, excited, or enthused is key to staying motivated in situations like this.  It may take a little digging or a willingness on your part to be open to learning about something you never thought you’d be interested in, but if it will make the task of completing your assignment easier and make it more enjoyable along the way, why not try to find something you connect with? Find that noodle worth dancing with.

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