Congratulations to Anthony, the winner of our 2020 SDL365 Achievers Scholarship! His incredible essay has drawn our attention from the very beginning. We know how important it is to keep motivation throughout difficult periods, especially when learning new things or studying in a college. Anthony Meyer has provided his own tips on staying motivated even if it seems like you’ve lost interest and become bored. We are proud to award the $500 prize to him. Congrats, Anthony!
Motivation has to be whatever works for you, but no matter what you do, it’s all about repetition. I call it self-conditioning (think full-on Pavlov-ing yourself into actually liking doing work).
It’s about forming good habits and sticking to them, just like going to the gym. Nobody gets fit by working out or running once-in-awhile. Nobody builds a healthy lifestyle by buying a bag of apples once a month instead of Nacho cheese Doritos.
Last year was one of the most stressful and busy years of my entire academic career. I was full-on busy with dual enrollment courses, AP tests, regular high school courses, sports, college, and scholarship applications. Honestly, there were more than a few times I wanted to crawl into bed and ignore all of my responsibilities.
Right then, I learned some ways to keep myself motivated when I was staring at Sisyphus-style at a boulder of work, and I didn’t know how I would be going to keep pushing.
I’ll distinguish one significant distinction between the two types of advice: on-task advice and off-task advice. On-task refers to good habits when you’re actively working on something to stay motivated, and off-task refers to those for your life all around to lift your spirits.
I know this one sounds derivative, but it’s honestly one of the most important ways to make the most of the time you spend on-task. The truth is that one hour of working on a paper without distractions is far better than four hours of working with mini-breaks every 15 minutes. So you can answer Snapchat-s or scroll through Instagram. You won’t be able to focus.
Getting rid of your distractions means to turn your phone on silent (not even vibrate- I know the temptation), go somewhere away from the TV, and put yourself in a mindset that you can actually accomplish something. The music you listen to makes a big difference too.
If you want to listen to something while you work, the trick is to find a playlist of music that you like, but not one full of your favorite songs that you’ll want to sing along to the entire time you should be doing something more productive.
When I do work like this, I find that I get things done quicker, but my quality of work is ten times better. When you actually feel like you’re accomplishing what you set out to do, it makes you all the more motivated when working on something else.
The Best $5 investment I ever made was buying a monthly/weekly planner from Walmart. And don’t just write things in it and then not use it. Use the planner, live the planner. I had a friend who wanted to scream at me by the end of this year. Why? Because every time I would finish an assignment, I would pull out that little book and start scribbling in it. Write down all of your due dates, all of your commitments.
If every Thursday night you know you’re going to end up watching the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, write it there. In doing this, you’ll not only remember to do things well before the night they’re due. It will also give you a sure-fire list of what order you need to do something in. Prioritize the earliest due dates first, except for projects that will take a long time, in which case you might want to start them first.
While it’s important to focus, the point is that you also need to know where your limit is. Everybody needs to take breaks. If your thoughts are getting jumbled and you can feel your quality of work heading downhill, stop for a while. Make a cup of tea. Listen to some music, and just breathe.
Don’t lose your train of thought too much, and definitely don’t instinctively pick up the phone, but taking intermittent breaks can give your mind a chance to calm down. Sitting at one task for too long will only stress you out- and don’t get me started on how this wreaks havoc on your body and mind.
With this one, I don’t mean your generic long-term life-changing career goals. I mean, set realistic day to day goals of what you want to get done. The thing is to sit down and take the time to think about when you want to do something and how you’re going to do them.
Every day I make a list on a post-it note of things I want to do and in what order I want to get them done. As I get things finished, I cross them off the list and move on to the next thing. Space out your big assignments to get done over a period by using your planner. And don’t plan on getting something big done in one sitting.
This is a big one. When it comes to planning ahead, unexpected things always come up. Something might take longer than you wanted it to. You’ll be working on a paper that you wanted to finish tonight, and sometimes it just won’t happen. But that’s the beauty of not waiting until the last minute.
So if you don’t exactly cross everything off of your list one day, don’t sweat it. Don’t start doubting yourself. Just accept it and add your unfinished tasks to the list to do tomorrow. As soon as you start doubting yourself and doubting your system, you will fail. Negativity is the poison of your motivation.
By far one of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from this super high-stress environment in 21st-century education is that, no matter how busy you think you are, you always need to make time for yourself. You have to care for your mental health. That means finding time just to relax and do the things you love doing.
For me, I crave drawing and playing guitar. So, when I find myself overwhelmed, I grab my guitar and play it. I play until my fingers feel about to bleed.
So whatever it is that you do, make sure you keep doing it. Go outside. Read a book for pleasure. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, but even half an hour here or there can make a world of difference. Remember that good mental health is the key to motivation.
Arguably the most significant influence on your quality of work is your mind while you do it. Realize that if a professor wants you to do something, more than likely, there is a reason for it. So if you find that reason, you now have a real purpose for your work, rather than just a “get it done” mentality.
If you read a textbook to learn rather than read it just to read it, you’ll not actually learn the information (how surprising), but you’ll also feel more of satisfaction by just doing it.
It’s no secret that how we spend our time when we’re not doing work has a tremendous impact on our general outlook on life and our mentality in general. And to be honest, one of the biggest impacts on us might be that piece of metal in our pockets. No matter who you are, where you are.
We all spend way too much time scrolling. It becomes mindless: open app, scroll, switch apps, scroll, answer a text, repeat. And it would be insane of me to propose that we stop using it altogether. So, what we can do instead is to filter it. Do a social media cleanse in a non-conventional way.
Fill your social media experience with positive influences on your attitude. Fill it with inspiration and humor and the posts of people you care about. Don’t be afraid to mute or even block people who aren’t enriching your experience online. My Instagram is literally full of artists, music, and inspiration. It has made my outlook on life immensely better. Our online experience is all that we make them.
Use social media as the tool it was meant to be and enrich yourself with positive vibes. It will make your life so much better – trust me.
Another facet of filtering your influences is to be selective about who you spend your time with. Cut out toxic friendships. We adopt the mannerisms and attitudes of the people around us. Thus, if you don’t want to be like someone, don’t spend time with them.
Now, I do understand that motivation is undoubtedly subjective. Everyone is motivated a little differently- what works for me isn’t going to work for everyone. But if you’re having trouble keeping yourself motivated, hopefully, my experiences can at least give you somewhere to start.