Everyone is expected to have this unrealistic approach to motivation when it comes to schoolwork. Students are expected to have an abundant and overflowing reservoir of motivation that never seems to run out. But this cannot always be the case. There is no doubt we all withhold the capacity and willingness to learn. However, there will always be days in a student’s life where we might need reminders or new approaches that reignite that incentive again. These reminders are unique and specific to each student. Remaining mindful and self-aware throughout your school life, will help you personalise your own learning and maximise your ability in academia.
1. Find Your Inspiration
Towards my later years in secondary school, I felt like I was running on empty when it came to how motivated I felt with my academics. I can now pinpoint this as a result of the externally added stress and responsibilities that filled my life as I got older. Not being motivated, does not always directly correspond to a lack of interest in school. I knew I still had dreams and aspirations that I wanted to fulfil in my school career, and I had a strong zeal to learn. I also knew if I did not come up with an effective solution, I was going to miss out on my full potential. I think this step here was crucial.
When I identified my problem, I had a choice to make: Continue down this path with a superficial attitude towards school? or Implement a plan that will help me maximise my own achievement?
If you ever find yourself in this situation, the self-awareness that it takes to identify this issue and work towards a solution is a huge virtue and you are already on a proactive path. Peel back the layers and get acquainted with your personal desires within each subject. For instance, if you are struggling to find inspiration in any subject, think back to the moment you made the decision to pursue this subject and reconnect with those feelings. Tackling your personal motivation is complex and there are many aspects to consider but doing this will get you started. If you want to hit the grade average you need to do that masters from your top Pathway recommendations, you need to stay motivated.
2. Identifying study goals with an efficient approach
There would be weeks where I was just about making assignment deadlines and struggling to stay on top of what seemed like a never-ending list of work. By the time the weekend came around, I was deflated and exhausted. Naturally, I found myself doing less work on the weekend due to that lack of motivation and the hours I spent studying gradually decreased. This was a result of immense procrastination that filled my weekdays with stress and anxiety and left me feeling exhausted on the weekends, with no time for study. Although I acknowledge the designated weeks out of a school year that are naturally rushed and intense, this cycle that I had created for myself was not sustainable and my performance proved that. The best approach that I would recommend and that worked for me was this bite-sized approach. This works best to prevent the pile up of workload and study. This technique allows you to deconstruct an overwhelming list into smaller assortments of weekly goals for each subject.
For example, as a 6th year student studying Biology, the generalized goal is to complete the course of text and perform your best in the Leaving Cert. What worked best for me, when studying, I created realistic targets within this subject for each week throughout the school year. If you spend one night reviewing an area of a topic, spend the next night doing short/long questions. You can then spend the weekend reviewing your answers and refining your knowledge. Keep record of the topics you covered and how you managed the questions each week. I have outlined the process below, so you can adopt it into your study schedule also:
- Set weekly study targets for the subject you are studying.
- Spend one night reviewing a section of the set target area.
- Spend the next night quizzing yourself on the topic.
- Review answers to quiz questions.
- Keep a journal of what you have covered in your study for the topic and how hard/easy you found it.
- Repeat the process for each stupid topic.
These weekly targets become the very reminder that placed everything into perspective for me and helped build my routine. All of a sudden, I had this sustainable plan that allowed me to do a small bit every day without draining my energy. These weekly targets give you autonomy over your own learning and hold you accountable for your own progress. Making smaller goals in this acute approach makes it easier to evaluate your success.
3. Building Healthy habits
This approach is not a hard tactic to begin, it is the maintenance that we all struggle with. If you find yourself constantly lacking in motivation, you need to pause and evaluate how effective your routine is. Jim Ryun once said: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
If you want your weekly targets to prove efficient, then a routine needs to be set in place and this will become your habit. For example, studying in the same place every day is creating a familiarity with your mind and this feeds into the habit. We all know when habits are made, they are hard to break. When you have taken the steps of creating your personalised goals, implementing them into your weekly routine and forming a positive habit, it will become very difficult to deviate from your path of feeling inspired and motivated.
4. Self-Direct Your Learning
When I feel in control of my own learning, I remain inspired. When it is possible, try and create situations that you can self-regulate. Nothing is worse than missing an assignment deadline solely based on poor time management. The only way I have ever been able to combat this problem, is by constructing my own deadlines. If I have an essay due in the next two weeks, I will cut that time in half and aim to have it done within the week. I understand that your time frameworks are given for a reason, and that you might need the two weeks, but you are often allocated more time than required. The earlier you start, the more time you have to draft and ask questions before the real due date starts creeping in. When you are creating your own deadlines, you are positively challenging your mind. The human brain loves to be provoked and this need for a challenge is what will drive your motivation and inspiration. That feeling of relief when you have competently finished something early, is now embedded as a code for self-discipline within your mind. Your mind sees the benefits of your self-control and this self-discipline will become second nature.
5. A Healthy Reward System
As you become autonomous with your learning, it is important to establish a balanced reward system. Studying for hours on end with no breaks is not sustainable and you are likely to get less done. Studying for an hour or so at a time and taking smaller breaks in between (<15mins) is one of many efficient studying techniques. You can also reward yourself with time-off, whether it is to re-focus you mind or spend time with friends, an occasional break is always well deserved.
As teenagers, our lives are fast moving and constantly changing. The inevitable is our lives remain unpredictable. Circumstances might change and leave you with a whirlwind of emotions. Especially throughout 6th year and transition into university, you will face emotional and physical challenges that may set you back a few days and disrupt your routine. No matter how far you defer from your routine, having an acute awareness of your own self learning and remaining mindful is all the equipment you need to re-direct yourself along a productive and determined route. Remain focused and self-encouraged and chase the goals you wish to achieve in your school life!