As a student, the phrase ‘I just can’t work’ was one I uttered frequently. I would convince myself of all number of reasons why I couldn’t work. I was tired, I was ill, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind– anything to avoid getting started. What I realised, however, is the underlying reason for me not wanting to work was a lack of motivation. In my mind I knew I had to get stuff done, but I just couldn’t find the motivation to actually get started. This led to a few last minute, frantically completed bits of homework. Not ideal.
Obviously you need to have motivation as a student. But, where do you find it?
Firstly, it’s important to realise why you are currently unmotivated.
Why can’t I work
I used to really struggle to work was because I was scared of judgement. This sounds very intense, but really it equates to being worried about what someone else is going to think of you. If you are really struggling with a subject, for example, then sometimes not working is the easiest option. At least then you know the teacher will be critical no matter what. The thought of putting effort in, and getting judged for that effort is a scary one– especially if that ‘judgement’ might not as positive as you would like…
Sometimes, it can also be difficult to start if you are a perfectionist. I used to find this particularly difficult at times. I was someone who took pride in my work, and I always wanted something to be perfect. In a way, I often attached my worth as a person, to the quality and worth of my work. While taking pride in your work is important, I think intrinsically attaching your worth as a person to it can be debilitating. Being too much of a perfectionist can mean that you never start work because you are afraid it won’t live up to the high standards you set yourself.
Finally, and in my personal experience the most common reason for not working, is the idea that you are waiting to be in ‘the right frame of mind’ to work. I call this ‘the fairy godmother of motivation’. We all know the feeling: when you just delay working until you feel motivated- most commonly because of impending deadlines. Not the most effective method of working by any means.
How can I get motivated?
One method I found really powerful in getting me motivated was re-training my ‘inner critic’. I know this sounds very airy-fairy, but being overly harsh on yourself can be really demotivating. One exercise I used to like to do, is imagine what I would say if a friend told me they were struggling with a subject. Normally, you would be pretty kind right? You’d say: ‘you are working hard, and you will achieve what you want, even if that takes a while’. Sometimes, you need to think of what you would say to your friend, and also say it to yourself!
Another thing to get you working, especially when you are just ‘waiting’ for motivation, is to break things down. Setting yourself even the smallest goals can help you work. Victor Hugo- the guy who wrote the Les Miserables book– had his servant refuse to give him his clothes until he had written 1000 words. That seems to have worked pretty well for him, considering Les Miserables is 655,478 words long.
One final thing to do is start studying with something that scares you. This sounds a bit backwards, but often in our heads tasks seems much more scary than they actually are. I remember being literally terrified of my French homework, and then realising when I finally got down to starting it, that I could do at least some of the questions.
These are just a few tips on getting motivated. Check out more of our blogs post here for more invaluable advice