Finding motivation

Getting something started

It sounds simple, but sometimes procrastination habits can overpower your current motivation (or lack thereof). Here are a couple of strategies to beat procrastination and get started on your work:




Beat procrastination with "Eat That Frog"!

  • Procrastination is something we are all prone to do. It’s not a moral failing and it doesn’t simply mean you are a disorganized person. Rather, it’s about “mood repair.” That’s adaptive. You’re trying to help out your present self because you are feeling too stressed, overwhelmed, or confused about the task at hand. 
  • You will never be done with your to-do list. Not now, not tomorrow, not 4 years from now. So, what’s the best way to deal with that? Find your “frog” and deal with it first. 
  • Your “frog” could be the: 
    • Most important work that needs to be done for your success right now
    • Task that can’t be done (well) in one sitting that you keep putting off 
    • Thing you’re dreading 
  • It also helps to shrink big frogs by dividing them up over time. This:
    • Makes everything feel easier. 
    • Improves the quality of your work. 
    • Builds your confidence – you start to feel more and more like a highly capable person because you are meeting, and succeeding at, those difficult tasks every day. 
    • Lowers stress by giving yourself permission to just handle one small part at a time.
  • Is it hard to prioritize right now because everything feels equally important? Try giving a sequence to the tasks in front of you. What's urgent and important should be your first priority. Try scheduling things that need to get done, but aren't urgent. Get rid of tasks that distract you and don't succeed in furthering your course of study. 


SMART goals may be helpful in focusing on where to start

Use SMART goals as a guideline to determine which of your planned actions in a given situation should be prioritized. This guideline can help you decipher the best plan and move forward successfully!

S Specific: What will be accomplished? What actions will you take? 

M Measurable:  What data will measure the goal? (How much? How well?) 

A Achievable:  Is the goal doable? Do you have the necessary skills and resources? 

R Relevant:  How does the goal align with broader goals? Why is the result important? 

T Time-Bound:  What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal? 

Once you get started, you'll be ready to conquer the next two challenges!

Keeping it going day in and day out

Building habits that stick 

The advantage to making something a habit is that it becomes a default setting and then reduces the stress of uncertainty and waffling (Do it now; or not?).  Also, in studies of people who are good at accomplishing their goals, we don’t find that they have superhuman reserves of willpower. Rather, they’ve figured out how to reduce the role of willpower by tweaking their environment. How can you do this too? 

  • Map it to habit cues of time, place, & preceding action. Try tackling your math class in the same room, at the same desk, at the same time each day, and start by opening your book and your web work. Then reward yourself at the end - a snack, some online browsing, a walk around the block. 
  • Set tiny habits and reward yourself (this hacks your dopamine). Want to read more of that book for English? Just start with 10 pages a day.  By the end of the week, that’s 70 pages! 
  • Try piggybacking or stacking/chaining. Insert a new habit you want to add into your daily routines. You’ve got laundry once a week - read that chapter while it’s going. 
  • Use “friction”
    • Decrease friction to make it easier to start. 
      • If you want to go jogging first thing in the morning while you listen to that podcast for class, put your running clothes by the bed. 
    • Increase friction to make it easier to stop. 
      • After you use your phone to login to IU systems, silence it and put it in your bag while you’re trying to focus. 

Remember it takes time to build a habit – give yourself at least 21 days to start (although research suggests that it can take up to 66 days before that new habit feels automatic). Be patient with yourself, but just know, it's difficult for most people - you're not the only one! You can do this!

Learning with your whole self 

Take care of your whole thinking, emotional, physical self like you’re someone that you love and need to nurture and support - like a friend or family member. 

That means more than just a bubble bath and scented candles (though that might help, too)! Make sure you're getting enough:

  • sleep
  • exercise
  • healthy food and water
  • outdoor time
  • stress reduction activities

This is easy to neglect and take for granted, because these areas for attention sometimes seem either 

  1. obvious; or 
  2. like a luxury or even self-indulgent (seriously who’s got time for that?)

However, a daily, intentional approach to taking good care of yourself will improve your mood, ability to manage those negative emotions that crop up, and dramatically amplify all the important learning you are doing as you prepare for exams in your courses, projects, papers, and presentations.  The research on this is substantial and will make the time you put in better and more efficient. 

(Happy side note: taking care of yourself will improve your life in general and will positively impact those around you. It's a win-win for all!)

Okay, so how is all this connected to learning and what are the specifics? Read more on Learning.IU's Stay Healthy page.

When you really just don’t feel like doing it... 

  • Remind yourself of how you’ll feel if you complete the task in front of you vs. how you’ll feel if you don’t.   
  • Check in with yourself:  Why are you doing all of this?  How does it connect with your values, your dreams, and what you find meaningful and purposeful? 

Sometimes all it takes is reminding yourself of the big picture. You've got this!