Are you feeling unmotivated in school? You are not alone. Motivation can be hard to find, especially if you’ve been learning virtually or dealing with a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning.
Students today, especially high school and college students, are so busy. So if you’re unmotivated, you might just be overwhelmed. You could be feeling the effects of difficulties in your family or the world at large. Maybe you’re having a hard time focusing or feel like your goals are too far away.
It’s normal to feel unmotivated sometimes, and you’ll deal with that feeling off and on throughout your whole life.
But the good news? You can change that feeling! If you cultivate the tools to keep yourself motivated now, it’ll only get easier to change your state of mind as you practice using those tools.
Here are five strategies you can try right now to help you re-motivate yourself in 2021:
Determine the Cause
If you’re feeling unmotivated, you might automatically assume you just don’t care about school anymore or will always feel this way. But you might be surprised to realize that you don’t actually know the real cause of your lack of motivation, which is why you can’t seem to overcome it.
Check out the “Questions to Ask Yourself” section in this Brown University article about motivation. These questions should help you think more deeply about why you might be experiencing a lack of motivation.
Chances are, you have specific hang-ups that are getting in the way of your productivity in school. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and don’t want to complete any task unless you know it’ll be perfect, which keeps you from starting in the first place. Maybe your parents have set unrealistic expectations for you, or you’ve set them for yourself.
Maybe you have an underlying fear of success because you aren’t sure if you’ll be able to match it all the time.
Take some time to journal or think out loud about why you’re feeling this way. Record your stream of consciousness thoughts on the subject and see what you discover. Sometimes locating a specific cause can unlock a new motivation to overcome it!
Tackle the Most Difficult Tasks First
You might be feeling unmotivated because you know you haven’t accomplished a goal that’s been on your mind for months. But you keep putting it off by finishing other tasks first.
While simpler tasks might feel easier to deal with when you’re feeling unmotivated, research supports the idea that you will actually experience a greater feeling of accomplishment and progress if you tackle your most challenging tasks first.
Getting smaller, easier tasks done right away actually gives you a false sense of progress but leads you to keep pushing off the tasks that are looming over your head. So, you’ll only increase that feeling of dread as you push off the harder items on your to-do list.
Start the day with a task that you’ve been dreading. Just start. You will likely find that it’s not as hard as you thought it would be. Once you’re done with the hard stuff, the easy stuff will feel even easier.
So, stop procrastinating on that big project you’ve been dreading for months. You can even break up the big project into smaller tasks and tackle them right away when you start your independent work time. That way, over time, you’ll find that you’re finishing the project little by little, and it’s not actually taking too much of your energy.
Change Your Physical State
Sometimes, all you need to increase your motivation is to change your physical state. You can do this in a variety of ways, including exercising, taking a dance party break, changing locations in your home, taking a walk, or even just standing up and shaking it out for a few seconds.
When you move your body, your mind can take a break from the workload you have in front of you. And you’ll inevitably change your emotional state when you change your physical state.
You’ve probably heard all about the benefits of exercise, but you can get some of those benefits even without adopting an intense workout routine.
Find a way to move your body that is fun for you. And either plan out a window of time each day to exercise or plan out short bursts of exercise throughout your day to shake up your routine.
Rid yourself of that feeling of obligation to complete a certain type of physical activity, though, and move around to help yourself find a new outlook on whatever it is you have to do.
Organize Your Workspace
Maybe your lack of motivation stems from a cluttered workspace--and this includes not just your desk and computer but also your mind.
Take fifteen minutes to organize your physical workspace. Restack loose papers, find folders to organize assignments, fluff your chair pillow, and put up some motivational quotes. Maybe even bring some elements of your favorite color into your workspace to make it feel more like you!
Create a calendar on one of your devices or in a physical planner to help you organize your school deadlines and the rest of your schedule. Sometimes just seeing those deadlines mixed in with the rest of your activities will help you understand when you need to prioritize certain assignments.
Then, organize your headspace by eliminating distractions like social media while you’re doing your schoolwork. You can even find anti-distraction apps that will help you manage your time on social media accounts and even block your access to them when you need to focus. No one is actually good at multitasking, so do yourself a favor and just avoid social media while you’re doing your schoolwork.
Take Care of Human Necessities
Finally, you might just feel unmotivated because you’re not taking care of your human needs like adequate sleep, rest, food, water, and social interaction.
Remember that no matter what your future goals are, you are a human being first, and you won’t physically be able to motivate yourself without first taking good care of your basic needs.
Take a look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and note where you think you might be lacking.
Make sure that you’re taking time to rest. (That might mean you need to forego your favorite nighttime video game for a while until your life gets less busy.) Get enough sleep, and take naps if you need to!
Drink plenty of water and eat healthy foods to keep your body energized and your mind sharp. Find a way to track how much water you’ve been drinking throughout the day, maybe by marking on a post-it how many times you’ve refilled your water bottle. Set a goal that will help drinking water feel like a game.
And make sure that you’re balancing your schoolwork with social interactions whenever you can. Though you might not be able to see your friends all the time, find ways to keep in touch with them over social media or the phone. Spend time with your family, or go outside to be part of the world for a few minutes.
Life cannot be all about school, so finding balance will be key to getting your motivation back!
And remember, it’s okay to feel unmotivated sometimes. Be kind to yourself and try these tips to shake things up.
But most importantly, don’t give up. You’ll find your way back soon.