Jun 21

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How do I get motivated to do my work?

Revision, ‘to do’ lists or assignments, combined with low levels of motivation can leave us feeling deadlocked.

But when we begin to see that levels of motivation are entirely irrelevant to how we might complete (or even start) the task at hand, it seems easier.

The trick is to notice that there are two separate things going on here: how we’re feeling (unmotivated, overwhelmed, stressed or indifferent), and the real world situation (imminent deadline or looming exams). And there is no link between them.

Imagine walking on a beach, and noticing the tide is coming in. Whatever we might be feeling about climbing back up the cliff makes no difference to the fact that if we stay on the sand, our feet will get wet. That’s just the real world situation (and the waves don’t care whether we’re motivated to climb or not).

Looming deadlines seem less visceral than encroaching waves, and very much more complicated. ‘What if I work hard and nothing comes of it?’ ‘What if I let everyone down?’ ‘What happens if I fail?’ ‘What happens if I can’t get a job, and I end up penniless not to mention friendless?’ ‘What if I mess up my nice new notepad?’.

Revision motivation and focus on coursework

Sometimes it feels like our brains aren’t interested

We have a lot of thinking going on. Our minds feel fogged up with all this complication. This fog blocks out the clear fact that – however we are feeling – we are going to do better if we just get stuck in.

It’s true we might not do our best work if we’re in a fug. But we will be moving away from the rising tide. And – any moment now – our mental weather will shift and we’ll feel motivated once more.

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