On Studying: How to be Self Motivated and Crush Procrastination

I really didn’t used to be motivated at all.  There were points through school, sixth-form, and university where I just felt completely uninspired and saw no point in anything I was doing.  I didn’t plan, I didn’t really push myself, and I didn’t see an end goal. I lacked motivation and vision.  I think it got to a point when I knew something had to change if I was going to get anything out of my degree, and my life.   You could also say that I was the absolute QUEEN of procrastination.  Essay due in a few days?  Sounds like it’s time to dye my hair and completely re-organise my bedroom! 😊 Essay writing and revision is tedious, and simply getting started can be a chore in itself.   The following are a few ways that I found help get me motivated and get on with those things that need doing! 
      The first thing I do when I am trying to get myself motivated is to identify my MAIN GOAL.  Now I use this thought process for pretty much everything in my life, but it started out with essay writing.  Once I’ve worked out my goal I split this into bitesize goals that seem much more easily attainable.  This makes the Main Goal feel easier to reach and thus diminishes the likelihood of feeling disheartened, which would only create the feeling of being uninspired again.   Anyway, trying to straight up achieve that ultimate goal can just be really intimidating!   By just telling yourself to ‘get your dream job’ you force yourself to feel stressed and lost, as the goal is just too big to tackle upfront.   This is why it is important to set manageable goals.   In terms of essay writing, my smaller goals looked something like:

19th April:
€ Plan + Start Introduction of American Short Story Essay
€ Email AS Lecturer Checking Ideas
€ Read Reps of Work Play

     This splits up the big tasks into manageable segments which look far less daunting and therefore are far more likely to be started.  I also created checklists for a week at a time which helped me keep track of where I was in the process. 

April 23-29 Essay Checklist
Representations of Work        2nd Gen Romantics       American Short Story
-Send Draft                                          -Send Draft                        -Send Draft
-Half Way Point                                – 700 Words                       – Half Way Point
– Meet Lecturer                               – Meet Lecturer               – Meet Lecturer

I am a visual learner and this is the way I found best worked for my brain.  I love lists, and once something’s in a list it’s stuck right in my head and I want nothing more than to be able to tick it off.   Giving yourself goals produces motivation and in turn reduces the likelihood of procrastination as you have far more personal drive.  I know I bang on about my bullet journal a lot but starting it up last January really propelled me into a more organised and motivated life.  It was a real starting point for me, and I think the fact that I’ve been invested in this organisational method for over a year demonstrates how effective it has been for me.  I found it so useful over essay season as a way of keeping track of my essays and setting goals in order to get them finished in time.   In addition to my essay checklists and daily goals, I had (and continue to have) ‘goals’ and ‘achievements’ sections in my journal for each month.  This forces me to consider my short and long term goals in everything across my life and organise my time accordingly.  Writing the goal down isn’t what makes you motivated, but rather being constantly aware that you’ve given yourself something to achieve.   The satisfaction of achievement is what keeps us motivated to achieve more.  Even things that seem tiny!

Limiting distraction
     Motivation really begins with focus, and I will put my hands up and say that I really struggle to get myself in a motivated mindset.  I get completely distracted by social media.  I dread to think how much better I would have done in life if it weren’t for my phone.  It’s probably not a good sign that I actually feel a sense of relief when my phone dies when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  To help combat this I use the Do-Not-Disturb function A LOT.  I don’t know why but putting yourself in the mindset of not wanting to be distracted, and actually doing something about, it is far more effective for me than simple will power.   In this day and age, it is really difficult to switch off from the world and focus on yourself.   Limiting how easily contactable you are putting some power into your hands.   The mute button is a bloody blessing during exam season, and for life in general actually.   Stick all your irritating group chats on mute and give yourself a distraction free moment of silence!  I also find timers to be the most useful tool ever.  I find it more useful to give myself an hour timer in which to do nothing but write than it is to give myself free reign of the entire day.  This helps me to get far more done, and in doing so I am more motivated to continue.  This step does require a little self-discipline but once you get into the swing of just setting your social media life aside, for what is a very brief moment in the grand scheme of things, it is actually quite refreshing.   Being able to focus on yourself and your work without any distraction ultimately transforms into producing higher quality work that you can be proud of. 

Your Work Space
This links quite closely with the last point in that the wrong work space = distractions.   It is important though and therefore deserves it’s own space.   People are able to work in different environments.  Some people can work in loud environments and need the background noise to help them focus.  Others, like myself, need complete silence, or a decent lyric-less movie soundtrack at most.  It’s important to give yourself the best possible working environment to reduce the likelihood of procrastination and increase drive and motivation.  Working in your bedroom is not a good idea.  You associate your bedroom with relaxation and winding down which is not really something you want to be doing while revising or writing essays. If you know you’re someone who struggles with procrastination and getting in a good working mindset then working in an unsuitable environment is absolute self-sabotage.   I always worked best when I headed to the library.  It was vital to get an early morning start if you were going to the library in order to get those seats with plug sockets in the quietest spots!   This was actually perfect for me as I got an entire day which meant half the stress.  Having more time in the day means that you feel less guilty about giving yourself those necessary designated breaks. Breaks are super important to refresh and relax for half an hour, making procrastination less tempting!  I found that starting work with the knowledge that I’d get to reward myself with a coffee break with a friend two hours down the line completely increased my work production.
      If you do need to work at home then I recommend finding somewhere that you can sit upright at a table, with as little distraction as possible.  Let people know that you are working to reduce interruption, get yourself some snacks and a cuppa, and create a calm working environment.  If this means you need to tidy up a little before you start, then so be it.  But spend ten minutes – not two hours discovering things under you bed that you haven’t seen for months.  Make sure you have your books, notes and essay/revision plan with you before you start so you don’t have to keep getting up and disturbing your own study flow.  When you put yourself into a focused frame of mind, procrastination is far less likely. 

I know everybody works differently, but I think the majority of us suffer with lapses in motivation and bouts of procrastination.  It took me some trial and error to work out how I study best. It wasn’t until I really realised how much was at stake that my ideas bucked right up and I discovered what works best for me. It gets to the point now when I can feel procrastination seeping in and my motivation starts to decline, and by doing these things I can stop it in it’s tracks. I haven’t got it all sussed and everyone has low points, but I hope these tips help and, if nothing else, prove that you’re not on your own in your exam or essay struggle.  Just remember, small goals add up to the biggest of achievements!!
Good luck.

R x