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Mental Health

The Motivation Dilemma and What You Can Do About It

As the end of the semester comes near, motivation is wearing thin. This is definitely happening on my end, and I hope it’s not happening to you because it’s not very enjoyable. However, we all know how this past year has gone and where it has left us.

Having the motivation to get work done during this pandemic was a lot easier in the beginning. Back in the spring, working from home was much newer and people were starting to adjust to this new lifestyle. There was an abundance of “How to Stay Productive” and “10 Ways to Make Working from Home Easier” articles written by people trying to make the best of a terrible situation. Heck, I even wrote one for my personal blog. In retrospect, there was a naivete to the beginning of the pandemic and how we could use our time. However, the idea of the perfect work from home lifestyle has worn a bit off as we reach the end of the year.

Black girl at computer desk writing in journal write natural work corporate african
Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

Similarly, the amount of motivation remaining by the end of a semester is much less than at the beginning. Now, I’m not saying that the pandemic is coming to a close either because it certainly isn’t, but by human nature, the length of it is making some of us a bit restless. The solution to this, however, is not to disregard the pandemic and go out without masks or social distancing, but rather to embrace it as the new normal and find ways to make the best of it.

When it comes to the motivation to do work, I find myself at a crossroads. One path says to do the work I need to do while feeling discouraged and unmotivated and the other says to ignore the work while feeling extremely guilty about it as you procrastinate. It’s not a particularly fun cycle to get stuck in. This same dichotomy appears in other parts of our lives as well. Parts of the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, illustrates this as our obsession with social media and the detriments to how it keeps us indulged in the feeling of scrolling through our phones, no matter how many times we say that we should stop.

So, while I did say that those productivity posts were a bit naïve, I think they just need an update. I haven’t been able to get completely out of this lack of productivity and motivation slump yet, but here are a few of the steps I’ve been taking to try to remedy my work ethic. Hopefully, they can help you too.

The first step is to have something to look forward to once you’re done with work. Incentives to complete tasks definitely help make them go a little faster, on top of the actual deadlines you might have too, of course. Right now, the big incentive is the end of the semester. Knowing that I can go home and see my family once I’m done doing all of my schoolwork for the semester has helped now that we’re in the final few weeks. On a smaller scale, I’ve set aside movies and TV shows that I will not let myself watch unless I’ve finished my work. This may seem silly, but it has been a lot more encouraging at this point in the semester than at the beginning.

Spa day
Photo by Adrian Motroc on Unsplash

The second step is to find a new workspace. In the beginning, I used this same tip and I would leave my dorm room for the library to get work done. However, I just kept getting lazier and stayed in my dorm. This space can be distracting, so I’ve been enacting this step once again in a new place to study that works better for me. Whether you are at home or on campus, finding another place with fewer distractions, or even a different type of distraction, can put you in a better mood to get your work completed. Currently, I’ve found the GSU to be a better place to study because it’s a newer space to me and the distraction of a little noise rather than complete silence has made it more enjoyable.

The last step is to find joy in a smaller task before moving onto the larger task you have at hand. You want to set yourself up for success once you sit down to do some work, and this requires being in a good mood to do so. For me, the small task has been either doing a piece of work that requires very low effort or taking a second away from schoolwork as a whole. In my dorm, I’ll use my MicroFridge to make some tea or a latte, which can be as easy as heating up a mug of milk and chai concentrate. But it helps. The drink brings up my mood because it was fun to make and I look forward to drinking while I do my work. Some other options, if you find joy in them, are setting up your to-do list in a bullet journal, jamming out to one of your favorite hype songs, or watering your plants. Do this small task before you sit down to crank out work and your mood might be lifted just a little bit.

I won’t say this is a very exhaustive list of everything you can do to feel more motivated in a time that’s inherently stressful, but they are a few steps that you can alter to fit your daily needs.

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Madison is studying journalism and international relations at BU. She's from Washington state, loves drinking tea, and watching Marvel movies. Check out her portfolio and blog at https://dontmakelies.com
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