“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” – Sam Levenson
Easier said than done am I right? Well hopefully by the end of this article you will have enough tools at your disposal to keep on ticking!
Be honest, you are here because it’s so easy to watch “just one more” episode or to scroll through your social media feed “one more time”. All the while those deadlines are creeping up on you and you think to yourself “I have so much time to study, especially if I start tomorrow.”
Thinking like that is what got you into this mess and that’s why you’re here – because you have a test tomorrow that needs Rocky levels of motivation to study for.
This is my advice for helping you find your motivation, unfortunately there is no easy fix for it. However, there are things you can do to make the process just a little bit easier. If something from this article doesn’t work or you feel like it won’t work, remember that people can be different. What works for others might not work for you but try them anyway, you might just be pleasantly surprised.
Now this one is pretty simple but it can make your life a whole lot easier. Breaking a large task into smaller ones is really important for staying motivated. If you try to study the entire textbook in one sitting, you are probably going to get bored and lose focus. Set aside clear goals for long-term and short-term, make your long-term goal to study all 10 chapters for the exam but a short-term goal is to finish 3 chapters a day. Then on the fourth day you finish the last chapter and revise your notes.
While reading the first tip you probably thought, “How does this motivate me?” well adding rewards to your short-term and long-term goals will entice you to actually fulfill them (as long as you make them something you really want). Being rewarded (no matter the reason) will make you enjoy doing something (even if only a little) more. You need to be realistic for this to work, make the rewards scale with the goal, maybe every chapter finished is a snack from the kitchen but finishing the entire syllabus gets you a movie night with friends. Be creative, the reward has to be something you want!
You need to understand why you are procrastinating. Do you lose motivation because the work is too hard or do you find the work boring? You will have to find the reason for your lack of motivation and when you do, think to yourself, “What can I do to change it?” in my case, I always found the work to be rather bland. The way I overcame that was by making it interesting (or at least less boring). Find practical applications and real-life examples of the topic, see how it might affect your life without you even noticing and draw inspiration from that. Math is pretty cool when you see how often it occurs in nature.
If you want to achieve your goals because your family wants you to then I am afraid you probably won’t work very hard. No one wants to push themselves to do something they don’t want to do, it’s in the meaning of “not wanting to do it”. Look for a reason that you can agree with to define why you want to do well. It could be something as simple as “I want to know that I tried my best”. You could even think as far as “I want to be able to provide for my family in the future”. Whatever your reason, it has to be something you want or else you will struggle to work towards it.
A professor once told me that I was no longer in high school and I needed to “study, not learn”. That stuck with me because he actually swapped them around, no matter what stage of education you are currently at (probably matric), you have to understand the work. It doesn’t help that you remember a formula for math or physics and then you have no idea how to apply it when the variables change. It doesn’t help that you study the answers to Macbeth but don’t understand why they mean what they do. When you have to write that literature essay about “The rise and fall of Macbeth and all those who played a part in it” or something like that, those answers you studied probably won’t help you write a fluent 800+ words essay. This is my #1 reason for people losing motivation, you can’t expect to stay motivated when you spend your time studying that textbook word for word but still can’t seem to explain it in your own words (which is scientifically proven to deepen understanding).
If you are going to take anything away from this (well it’s an essay at this point but it just shows you how much is involved when it comes to motivation), it should be that you are the only one who can motivate you to achieve your goals. I called this article “Building your path…” because you have to do it one step at a time. Now to end on a quote that I made up and live by (I’m cool like that).
“Live each day for self-improvement” – Me.