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With the COVID-19 restrictions of the past two years, you might have noticed a decline in your motivation to start certain projects or get certain things done. I’ve often found myself feeling anxious in the mornings and in the evenings about everything I had to do while also finding it increasingly difficult to find the motivation to actually get it all done throughout the day. As college students, part-time workers and people who are involved in their communities in various ways, things do start piling up fairly quickly during midterms and finals. If you’re also finding yourself struggling to self-motivate in your work environment, I’ve got a few tips!

Remind yourself of what you’re working towards

Whether that be for your internship, part-time job, extracurricular or for a course, sometimes it can be difficult to see what you’re working so hard towards every day. Maybe you feel like there’s no end goal in sight and when you get into a funk, you wonder, “what’s the point to this really?” or “what am I doing all of this for?” Take a second to metaphorically (or literally!) sit down with yourself and break down what your efforts now will do for you in the long run. 

Maybe you’re working a job that isn’t in any way related to your field. Try to reframe why you wake up early for those shifts, why you went through that training or why you have to put on a customer friendly face a few times a week. That job might be allowing you to spend some money on things or people you care about and might be allowing you to invest in that future you want to build for yourself. 

Or maybe you feel out of place in your internship and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Consider why you applied for it in the first place, the transferable skills you’re learning and how that experience will be helpful to you in your next role. The same goes for any extracurricular activities you invest time in weekly. Why did you want to join initially? What opportunities has that activity given you so far? What kind of opportunities might it give you in the future? 

I’m a firm believer that everything we do will serve us in a way in the future but if you’re questioning that yourself, it’s can be insightful to review why you’re investing so much time in these spheres of your life.

Break down your tasks and give yourself realistic objectives

The busier you are, the more overwhelmed you’re bound to become. And the more overwhelmed you are, the more you’re bound to procrastinate and the busier you’ll be. Breaking down big tasks into smaller ones can be really productive. If you set yourself unrealistic goals, you might start giving up before you’re even half-way through. 

Start by flagging what you have to get done for the following day and go from there. If you have to write an outline for a 10-page essay for the next day, maybe try working on one paragraph at a time for no more than an hour each and take a break in between. 

In the long run, try starting working on assignments or tasks as soon as they’re assigned to you. That doesn’t mean finishing up the task right away but rather starting it. That way, if things come up before the deadline, you at least won’t find yourself scrambling to get something started the night before. 

Celebrate your successes

No matter how big or small they may be, it’s super important that you allow yourself to celebrate your achievements. Whether they be handing in that last assignment for that class or winning an award or a scholarship, you deserve to be proud of yourself. 

Celebrating can also mean giving yourself a break and spending the night self-caring, whatever that means to you. Once you’ve achieved something you’re proud of or checked a goal off your To-Do list, treat yourself a little. That can be especially helpful when you get to certain points in the semester or the year when you’re starting to get a little exhausted. 

In the fall, once I’ve gotten my tasks done for the day and have some down time, I personally love watching a cozy series like Gilmore Girls or one of my favourite movies like 10 Things I Hate About You.

Establish a productive workspace

Online or hybrid school and work can be tricky. You might find yourself working in places you normally wouldn’t because you’re at home a lot of the time. I don’t blame you. I do it myself. Why would you sit in an uncomfortable chair for hours when you can work on the couch for a bit or on your bed? While that’s true and I’m sure most of us have done it, it can be really easy to lose motivation when there’s no clear boundary between where you work and where you unwind. 

If you can, try to clear out a table or a desk if you still haven’t and get yourself a somewhat comfortable chair. Make sure your workstation is somewhere that you’ll actually want and be able to work in too. If you’ve found a great table but it’s in your family’s dining room and your grandparents are constantly coming to talk to you, it might not be the best spot. 

If you easily get distracted by windows or want to stare at something other than a blank wall, make sure to take that into consideration. That could mean finding a spot away from a window or putting up something on your wall so you’re not just watching paint chip.

Declutter your workspace

Once you’ve found your workplace, make sure to keep it tidy and decluttered. If you’ve got books and snacks everywhere, you’ll get distracted and you won’t be able to motivate yourself to get things done. Whether you’re decluttering it every day, every week or month, just make sure your space isn’t getting in your way rather than helping you.

Decorate your workspace

If you like to keep things simple and would rather have no possible distractions, that is completely fair. But chances are that you might like adding a few things to your workplace to make it a big livelier. Maybe you’d like a corkboard or a calendar you can hang on your wall or a whiteboard on which you can write your To-Do List or deadlines. Or even some cute stickers! 

Maybe you want to get some colourful post-it notes to write positive quotes on so you can cheer yourself up as you work. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you make it a place that feels like you… Just a slightly more productive version of yourself! And again, make sure your decorations aren’t distracting.

Make it a daily habit to move your body

You don’t have to be an athlete or maintain any specific kind of body shape advertised in the media. Just make sure to keep moving in some way if you can for at least a few minutes per day. That could be by taking a walk outside, doing some yoga, an at-home workout video or joining a local sports team or dance club. If anything, just moving your body for a little bit will help you get rid of that restlessness you might feel after having spent the better part of your day sitting. Staying in that same position for an extended period of time can make it hard to focus and feel motivated after a while.

Our days tend to be pretty packed so try to schedule in a bit of movement every day either at the start, at the middle or at the end of it. Just a little bit of movement will go a long way in helping you feel more motivated!

Maybe you’ll try a few of these tips and will still feel a bit unmotivated every now and then. Don’t beat yourself up about it. All you can do is try again the next day. Be gentle with yourself. Most things in life are a journey and it’s normal to feel tired and unmotivated at different times along the road. Just keep going and remember to look after yourself and listen to your body.

Laura is a fourth year BFA Screenwriting and Creative Writing double major at York University. She is HCYU's Co Campus Correspondent, a Junior Poetry Editor for the Existere literary journal, a writer for Winters Free Press' Artichoke magazine, and the AMPD Journal's Lead Editor. She is also York's Film Students' Association Screenwriting Representative, l'AEFFY's Events Coordinator and Winters College Council's secretary. She loves traveling, discovering new music, reading and binging TV series, movies, and podcasts. She has experience in various artistic fields and is interested in pursuing either screenwriting or writing and editing in the book publishing industry post graduation.
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