Self-Motivation — Aimhigher West Midlands

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Feeling demotivated? Simple steps to start self-motivating 

Whether you’re in a COVID-19 pandemic lock down or it’s a normal Sunday afternoon full of homework and deadlines, self-motivation can be the biggest barrier to being productive.

We often start the day with the best intentions, we tell ourselves that we will get our act together and complete our work by the end of the day. But 5pm rolls around and we’ve spent most of the morning on our PlayStation, binged watched a season of our favourite Netflix programme, and watched so many TikTok videos that we have now learnt 3 trending dances (with mixed success). Additionally, every time we think about opening a text book, we manage to find something else to do. “I’ll have lunch first”, “I’ll just check snapchat”, “I’ll just watch one more video”.

Everyone I know working from home is struggling to find the motivation to be more productive during the day. There are countless temptations at home to distract you from your work and often we can feel stressed about the fact that we are not working as much as we should. Nevertheless there are many small things we can do, in order to revive our motivation and stay on top of our work (and ultimately feel less stressed in the long run)! Try these 5 simple steps to start self-motivating and feel better!

1. 20 minutes doing an exercise you love!

Okay, not everyone loves exercise, but any exercise (low or high impact) is good for your brain and your general health. Exercising produces endorphins in your brain, to help you feel more positive and energised. If you can get outside, this is even better, as vitamin D from the sun (even if it is a little cloudy) can help boost your energy and increase your motivation. Exercising also helps you feel accomplished, which produces dopamine in the reward centres of your brain and spurs you on to complete more tasks.

Ideas include: Walking (take the dog if you have one!), a free online yoga class (e.g. Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube) , Joe Wicks PE classes, a dance class (see our Keep Positive, Keep Dancing blog post), or kick a ball around in the garden.

2. Write a list

When we have lots of tasks to complete it can feel overwhelming. Try writing a list of all the things you want to achieve and number then in order of importance. Then decide if any of your tasks are too big and break them down if they are.

For example, “Revise Biology”, can be split into “make flashcards for Biology topics 1 and 2” and “make flashcards for 3 and 4” and “get a sibling to test you on them”.

Once you have broken down all your work into manageable tasks, decide which one you want to complete in the next hour, which ones you want to complete at some point today and which ones you can leave until tomorrow.

(Tip- prioritise based on importance or urgency, not on how much or how little you want to do the tasks- as tempting as that is!)

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals have more detail to ensure that you are more likely to actually complete them! All tasks should ideally be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and have a time limit/deadline.

What does SMART stand for? Biology revision example:
S- specific Topics 1 and 2
M- measurable Make flashcards
A-achievable Yes this is an achievable task
R- relevant This is relevant to the test I have next week!
T- time Make them in an hour

3. Make a good work space

Our brains make associations. That is what they are designed to do. I personally associate a school canteen with a dodgy smell, soggy toast and lumpy custard, whereas I associate my living room with cosy nights in watching TV. If you can create a working space at home which is neutral, quiet, tidy, comfortable and has everything you need to work, your brain will associate this area with work and you will be more likely to be motivated to do work when you are in that space.

(For the opposite effect, try working in bed and see how long it takes for you to fall asleep!!)

See our Aimhigher blog on Top Tips for a Tidy Study Space for more advice on how to create a good work space!

4. Set a timer for 5 minutes

Often, it is not the work itself that is the problem. The problem is our psyche. We get it in our heads that we do not want to do that particular task (and often we don’t even know why!). To overcome this, set a timer for 5 minutes and just start the task, you only have to work for 5 minutes on that task, until the timer goes off.

Once the timer goes off, you can stop working and do something else. HOWEVER, chances are, that once you’ve started the task, it isn’t that bad and you’ll be quite likely to carry on with the task. This is a great tool to trick your brain into getting on with work!

5. Ask “why”

Often we are told to complete tasks and we never think about why we would want to complete these tasks (e.g. why would I want to wash the dishes??).

Reflecting on why you want to do each task, can be really beneficial in helping you feel more motivated, especially if this task if something you have been told to do.

Example 1: “Revise Biology”. Why do I want to do this?

Short term impact=  I won’t have a million bits of work to catch up on when I do go back to school and I will be less stressed.

Long term impact= Well I don’t really like Biology as a subject, but if I do well in this test then I will be able to stay in top set and then take triple science at GCSE, which will then help me get into a good college, which is something I want to do as it will mean I can study the subject I want for A levels!

Example 2: Washing the dishes. If I do the dishes then my parents will stop nagging me and it will be less likely to cause an argument and everyone will be happier.

Reflecting on why you need to do a task, can often help us realise the benefits of the doing the task, which will make the task more appealing to complete.

Remember not to be too hard on yourself, everyone will have days where they feel more motivated, and others when they really do not feel like doing anything at all, and that is totally okay. By getting our work done we can reduce our stress levels later on, which is really important for your mental and physical health. If you need any help, you can talk to one of our APAs at aimhigherwm.ac.uk/ask, email a teacher or talk to a friend. Try out these new tips, try your best, and over time you will get used to being more self-motivated and working from home!