Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Motivation techniques for the screen-locked college student

4 min read


The thrumming of the internet calls to you and suddenly you’re sucked into the depths of YouTube or Facebook, unable to surface until hours later. At least, this is you if you act anything like me. Even as I’m typing this article I have my laptop screen split in two; one half is this article and the other is the equivalent of Vine re-runs, compilation-style on YouTube.

I’ve always had a problem with staying motivated, even when it came to the things I wanted to do. For instance, at the beginning of this semester I bought a ton of yarn and three different sizes of knitting needles in a period of two weeks. I learned the basic technique of English-style knitting from the internet in an attempt to find a relaxing hobby. I’m proud to say that using blanket yarn I actually arm-knit quite a few scarves. What I’m not proud to say is that the majority of the supplies I bought now are resting at the top off my dorm room’s closet, abandoned for now.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to abandon a new hobby—after all, how many of us lie to ourselves and say we’re going to start jogging the canal path or regularly attending the gym’s fitness classes? It’s all fine and dandy to abandon hobbies; the real problem is when you begin to abandon the remaining work for the last two weeks of classes.

Now, I’ve been pretty honest in these personal essays thus far but let me reassure you that I’m being truthful when I say I’m definitely feeling the burn of the last two weeks. Every time I have class I have to convince myself that I legitimately need to attend and force myself to go. It’s like debating with someone who’s had much more time to prepare and is armed with a list of things that seem much more important than one 50 minute lecture. If I’m worrying about what comes after college, it distracts me enough that I need to simply sit down or take a nap. If I’ve procrastinated on an assignment already, what’s the point of going to class when I can turn it in next class? Lastly, why study for finals when I can sleep instead for a healthy length of time?

Really, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself not to do something. Motivation is a fickle being that blesses us when we’re too busy and abandons us when we settle down to do the work. How do you retain the drive to actually get stuff done, then?

Before I begin my little advice section, let me be clear: we all know the typical ways to retain motivation. Take breaks when studying, get enough sleep, give yourself enough time for assignments, blah blah blah.

I’m not going to simply slap a new coat of paint on these and pretend they’re brand new and totally work 100% of the time. Instead, I’m going to recommend one of the best and worst motivators: tell someone you don’t want to disappoint when you need to get something done.

For instance: when I have a large essay due, I tend to let my mom in on my deadlines. I don’t necessarily tell her I want her to check up on me, but I let her know because I know she’ll naturally ask about how it’s going. She’s not strict, but I know that when I text her, there’s a general expectation that I should be working at a good pace in regards to my due date. Like I said, if employing this tactic, pick a person you genuinely don’t want to disappoint but who won’t lord the deadline over you, unless you’re into that.

Another key point is to examine the reason why you’re unmotivated to do something. Actually question the part of your brain that whispers that you can totally tackle that ten page paper in two days or that you don’t really have to go to the class study session before your exam.

Personally, I tend to be a perfectionist, which ironically means that I tend not to want to do something unless I can do it really well. Remember my example of knitting? My scarves kind of sucked to be honest, and even though I got used to needle knitting it still didn’t look exactly how I wanted. So I abandoned knitting. It is also possible you don’t consider yourself a perfectionist because you’re completely fine half-assing something the morning it’s due in a panic because you pushed it off. But think about it: why did you push it off in the first place?

Getting down to the root of the problem tends to be the answer to most of our personal or interpersonal problems. When that fails, the normal tactics for getting something done really aren’t that bad as long as you don’t abuse them. Worst comes to absolute worst, just remember we only have two more weeks to push through.


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