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10 Tips to help motivate yourself

Motivating yourself
Why do you do what you do? Why do you learn? In principle, human beings behave in a certain way in order to feel good at the end, which means that they generate positive experiences and avoid negative ones. Positive events increase motivation, just as negative events can decrease it, because we want to avoid them as much as possible. In this article, you will discover 10 tips that will help you motivate yourself.

1. What needs to be done?

Before you start learning, you need to be aware of the importance of the task, of learning. Is the task really important? Once you are aware of the importance of the learning, you are more motivated to do something.

2. Set mini-goals

When you're faced with a huge mountain of tasks, it's extremely difficult to find motivation. So try to break the mountain of tasks down into parts in order to achieve your goal step by step. The same goes for your goals. If you set goals that are too ambitious, it will be hard to motivate yourself as achieving it seems so far away. On the other hand, if you set mini-goals or intermediate steps, it can help you move forward and stay motivated.

For example, you have to read a 400-page book and you can't find motivation to start because you only see those 400 pages. But if you divide the book into chapters and read chapter by chapter, it will motivate you every time you finish a chapter. Or you can set a goal of reading 40 pages a day. In this case, you will have finished the book after 10 days and you will not have read more than an hour a day!

3. To-do lists and learning plans

These intermediate steps or mini-goals can be written on a to-do list and checked off each time. The act of checking off these tasks triggers a sense of satisfaction, freedom, and accomplishment and motivates you to continue. Be careful, however, not to add things to your list that prevent you from learning. If this is the case, create two lists: a to-do list list and a not-to-do list.

In addition to the to-do list, it's also a good idea to make a revision plan on which you check off learning units or entire days as soon as you finish something. Like the to-do list, following this schedule gives you a sense of achievement which will help you to stay motivated . Plus, both help you keep track of your tasks and learning material and plan your day.

Make sure you consider duration, i.e., note how long you think a task will take you. Break large tasks into small blocks of time. Set yourself deadlines but make sure that these deadlines are feasible.

4. Rewards

Learning in small steps boosts your motivation, especially if you associate each mini-goal with a reward. The reward doesn't have to be big, such as eating a small treat, taking a ten-minute break, running around the block or drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Look for small rewards that fill your brain with positive emotions. This type of motivation is called extrinsic motivation. You are motivated to act by external stimuli such as rewards, praise, peer pressure, influence, appreciation and recognition.

5. What motivates you?

What motivates you? - Group learning? small rewards? solving complex problems? praise? Whatever it is, find out what motivates you and what de-motivates you in your learning to increase your performance. For example, if you prefer to study in a group or are motivated by the fact that others around you are also studying, try either finding a study group or working in a library where many other students are working around you.

It's all about organising your learning yourself according to your needs and wants in order to best motivate yourself.

6. Avoid your couch and your bed!

The bed or couch is incredibly comfortable and cozy and invites you to study there with flashcards, summaries or whatever. But this cozy place to work paralyses your concentration and you send false signals to your brain. When you are lying on the bed or on the couch, your body relaxes and gives the impression to your brain that you are resting, you become tired and you feel like watching your favourite series on Netflix. The motivation to learn is therefore absent. So, find a more suitable place, where you are not distracted and your body signals your brain that it is time to study.

7. Get dressed!

Studying in pyjamas is certainly comfortable, but again, your brain gets the wrong idea. Your outward appearance has a big influence on your motivation and drive to accomplish a task, because we often feel the way we dress. In other words, if you dress and prepare like a diligent student, you will behave more like one than if you sit at your desk in your pjs!.

8. Study groups or library

Why is the library such a popular place for students to learn? The proximity of your peers has a motivating effect on your own learning behaviour. The presence of others who also need to study motivates you and allows you to work productively. The atmosphere and sense of community can definitely have a positive influence on you, because in the middle of a room full of learners, you don't want to be the only one not studying.

Cramming in a study group can also have a motivating effect. On the one hand, you are more motivated to study before the group session, because you have set a common goal and you don't want to disappoint the other members of your group. On the other hand, it's more fun to exchange ideas and discuss the material with your classmates than to study alone at home. To learn what you should consider when forming a study group, check out the blog on study groups.

9. Holding yourself accountable

A lot of students will leave all their studying to the last minute, but this is not the ideal scenario as pressure will build and you will become stressed and just rush through your revision. Instead, you could tell someone your plans or share your revision plan with friends. This way, you are holding yourself accountable whilst not setting binding deadlines that will just make you stressed.

10. Think about the goal!

Setting goals and keeping them in mind certainly increases your motivation, but enjoying the journey can be an even more effective way to go forward with your morale sky high. Learning is no exception: if you don't just imagine the result, passing the exam, graduating, good grades and so on, but enjoy studying with friends, learning a new word, discovering a new physical phenomenon, then it will be motivating every day to open a book. After all, that is life, and you cannot fail.

Bibliography: Back, Peter Michael, Lernen, Motivation und Emotion. Allgemeine Psychologie II - das Wichtigste, prägnant und anwendungsorientiert, Köln: Springer, 2019.
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