Staying motivated (or finding your motivation to start with!) is more of a challenge than ever right now. It’s been a tough couple of years and life has not been easy. With everything that has been going on we don’t blame you for feeling a little off colour.
You may be feeling fatigued and burned out, struggling to keep up with the general productivity you normally have towards your studies. It is frustrating to feel like you’re in a rut, but know that you aren’t alone. The truth is, everyone goes through periods where they have no motivation to do anything. So with motivation being central to creativity, productivity, and happiness, what can you do to turn things around and get back to where you want to be?
When you are feeling a lack of motivation, it’s time to reconnect to your goal and remind yourself why you do what you do. Why did you choose the course/degree you are working on? Where are you hoping to be 5 years from now? When you started your studies, it may have been because you were passionate about something, maybe there was something you identified with or there was a career that had been a dream of yours for some time. Chances are that after the past 18 months, all of this excitement and purpose has been buried under the day-to-day struggles and demands. The problem with this is that when we aren't connected to our why, it gets harder and harder to do the things we need to do toward our goal. We feel unmotivated and we're not sure why, and we can sometimes misinterpret this as no longer caring or being interested.
What is your current routine for studying? Has your setup at home for study been the same for the past year? Are you studying at the same times of day and in the same way? Sometimes all we need is a little change-up. It may be as simple as rearranging your workspace, or maybe it’s implementing a new study partner to freshen things up. It might even be trialing some new study tactics, challenging yourself with time limits to finish a certain task, and rewarding yourself if you can achieve it. If it’s a change you can implement immediately, try it!
One of the best things you can do to restore your motivation is to take a break. Schedule breaks in, even during exam preparation times, and make sure to turn off and get plenty of rest and movement in your day. There is science behind taking a break, and research has shown that you retain more information when you give your brain a chance to reboot. If you are driving yourself into the ground and not allowing yourself any reprieve, you’re on a fast road to becoming fatigued and burning out, which can lead to a loss of motivation.
Connecting with other students can be really effective, as it helps to have someone who understands what it is that you’re going through and can relate to your situation. You may have a network of students at your institution, however, you also have access to TalkCampus, a global community of students that you can talk to about their similar experiences over the past 18 months and how they have persevered. Being able to connect and relate to others can help us to find our motivation and stay focused on the why and remind us that we aren’t the only ones struggling - it’s a normal response to what we are all experiencing.
When things get overwhelming and you feel like you want to throw in the towel, it’s time to put the focus on what you are trying to achieve. Take some time out to sit with yourself and visualise you achieving your goals (passing your exams with flying colours and graduating maybe). Let yourself feel everything you would feel in that moment - proud, excited, relieved, inspired? Imagine all the challenges that may become before that time and visualise yourself pushing through the adversity to achieve that goal. Then get back to whatever task was overwhelming and see how that change in mindset helps you to push through. Use this as a tool in your toolbox whenever things feel extra challenging.
Motivation needs to be practiced and strengthened through a regular routine. Scheduling your study puts your decision-making on autopilot by giving your goals a time and place to live. It makes it more likely that you will follow through regardless of your motivation levels. It’s important to remember that motivation doesn't always come first. You simply start doing an activity and in turn create good habits. Beginning any task can require a great deal more motivation than continuing the task once you have momentum and focus. So, schedule a set time for the activity you want to do, this will make it more likely that you will follow through regardless of your motivation levels. Challenge yourself to stick to it for 7 days, and see how you feel on the 8th!
In times like these, gratitude does not always come easily, and telling someone to get clear on what they are grateful for can sound like a cliche - we know! But truly, it does work. It is under tough conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralisation, gratitude has the power to energise. It might not come naturally, but finding things to feel grateful for can provide a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by these temporary circumstances.
Yes, the past 18 months have provided a number of overwhelmingly difficult challenges for students, but being given the opportunity to study and work towards something could mean that you open the doors for amazing opportunities in the future. Living and achieving through a global pandemic has helped to build your resilience, and prove how capable you are. And those are both amazing things to be grateful for!