Staying motivated in a homework tsunami

by Sara Gustafson

Take time to sit down and discover what makes you focus (photo courtesy of Sara Gustafson).

After returning from a month of no homework and sleeping in, it can be difficult to get back in the swing of things. Classes, friends, activities, work and what seems like a mountain of homework can be overwhelming and discouraging. When feeling unmotivated, accomplishing anything productive can seem impossible. Motivation can be fleeting, but there are ways to intentionally establish and encourage it. 

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Emily Saxton, a junior marketing major, said, “… making sure I am healthy, … sleeping enough, eating the right food, reading my Bible and getting quality conversations … helps me keep on track.” It is difficult to focus on writing a paper or studying for a quiz when exhausted, hungry or in need of a shower. When feeling particularly unmotivated, asking the following questions can help:

  • Have you eaten properly and/or recently?
  • Did you get enough sleep last night?
  • When was the last time you showered?
  • When was the last time you did something active?
  • When was the last time you had a real conversation?
  • When was the last time you went outside?

Asking and answering these questions honestly can help meet the body and brain’s needs. A healthy and balanced lifestyle is the foundation for a mind ready to tackle the challenges of the day. 

Establishing a Personal Purpose

It can be much easier to stay motivated when there is an incentive, a reason for wanting to achieve. Acknowledging a personal purpose for accomplishing a goal will help center attention and make actions intentional. Emily Fisher, a senior intercultural studies major, said she stays motivated because “I really like learning; it helps that I am in major specific classes, so I am interested in the content.” Her personal purpose for completing assignments is interest. Interest is one of many purposes. Putting smaller pieces, like assignments, into the context of a big picture, like a dream job, can also be a purpose. 

Scheduling Properly

Being productive is easier when scheduled, according to an understanding of personal working patterns. For some people, it is easier to work in small spurts with small breaks, which can seem more manageable and less stressful. Some people work better in longer stretches when momentum is everything. Deciding the optimal time for productivity is also a factor. Some work best in the morning, others at night and others during the day. 

Using a Reward System

Establishing a consistent system for rewarding productivity and accomplishment can encourage motivation. It can also be a temporary personal purpose. When establishing a reward system, it is important that the reward is not gained by giving up on the goal. For example, as a reward for eating healthy all day, getting to eat chocolate cake. Otherwise, it is easy to avoid the goal and take the reward anyway. For example, just eating the chocolate cake in the first place. Rewards should also be specific, in order to prevent exploiting self-leniency. Therefore, a reward for completing homework should not be “not doing homework.” Instead, perhaps it could be a thirty-minute break or having one good conversation with a friend.

It can be difficult to stay motivated when responsibilities seem to be piling up. While motivation is a useful tool, it is unreliable in the long run. Motivation is fleeting, so it is important to develop a strong sense of self-discipline. 

But it is pivotal to rely on Christ for strength and encouragement. He is always there. 

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