College Motivation Manual: The Comprehensive Guide to Staying Motivated

College Motivation Manual

Staying focused throughout the school year is definitely easier said than done. With so many distractions and tasks popping up every day, college motivation sounds like a rare commodity. However, with a bit of organisation and a few clever hacks you'll be able to get through the rougher patches and manage to stay motivated and inspired to work hard for your goals.

When it comes to focusing on the task at hand and sticking to the schedule, many students find it difficult to block everything around them out and get the work done. In a college environment that's always buzzing with activity and excitement, it can be hard to establish and follow a plan to help you stay motivated. Here are some useful tips on how to keep your spirits up and maintain your concentration throughout the year.

1. Why Working on Improving College Motivation is Important

Motivation is often referred to as the thing that dictates our behaviour and it's easy to understand why. It is what drives us to become goal-oriented and to behave in a way that helps us accomplish the things we want. In other words, the combination of factors that activates and directs this intent is what motivation is really all about.

Recent studies, however, have revealed that many students are struggling to remain academically motivated throughout their high-school and college years and that many are disengaged from school. Bored or inattentive students that put little effort into schoolwork have been a pressing problem for years according to these studies.

Of course, schoolwork is also a well-known stressor, which in turn can negatively impact motivation. Tight deadlines, difficult essays, and papers can all cause students to lose motivation and fail to complete their coursework. There's always the option of consulting with experts when the workload seems overwhelming.

A 2003 National Research Council report on motivation showed that more than 40% of high-school students lacked incentive when it came to completing schoolwork and participating in classes. According to the scientists conducting the study, the students' lack of motivation should be addressed by schools, teachers, and parents in order to ensure that they will benefit from better curriculums and standards.

It has become clear that having little motivation is a big issue but you can establish a personal routine to help you maintain your focus and energy so that you can push through repetitive or dull tasks and get the work done. There are several strategies and tips to help you stay motivated and concentrated. Setting up and reinforcing good practices and routines will not only help you get through school work, it will also encourage you to stay positive and have a better outlook on your future.

It's important to remember that different techniques and processes work for different people so that you don't become stressed or frustrated by certain practices. If you've tried a motivational trick that hasn't worked for you, move on. There are many practices and habits that you can try in order to maintain your motivation and some of them are bound to work for your schedule and personality. Keep trying new things to improve your results and don't get discouraged if some of them don't work.

2. How Does Motivation Work?

Motivation is comprised of a series of social, emotional, cognitive, and biological factors that work together to influence our behaviour. It's why we do what we do and what pushes us to work towards achieving our goals. But if you've ever set a goal for yourself you probably know that simply wanting to do something isn't enough to get you there.

You need to demonstrate persistence and endurance to get through any challenge despite the obstacles that you face along the way. This requires an investment of resources such as time and energy. It's easy to get discouraged or distracted without the right support system to get you through the task. This is where motivation comes in.

According to psychologists, motivation has three main components:

  • Activation
  • Persistance
  • Intensity

Activation is the decision to start a certain behaviour. Persistence implies the sustained and continued effort that one chooses to make in order to achieve a goal despite the problems that may exist on the way. Lastly, intensity represents the amount of concentration and strength that a person puts into pursuing a goal.

Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic so we usually need a combination of both in order to accomplish tasks that we set for ourselves. Intrinsic motivations come from within ourselves and are fuelled by the desire to get personal gratification from resolving a difficult situation or problem such as a riddle or a puzzle. Extrinsic motivations are the ones that come from our environment and can involve rewards like social recognition, financial gain, or praise from our peers.

In other words, the force that we get from the desire to reach a goal pushes us to act in a way that will help us do so. Motivation is what initiates, sustains, and dictates goal-oriented behaviours. It inspires and pushes us to take action and complete tasks.

There are several theories that attempt to explain human motivation but no single one completely encompasses all of the forces that make us act. There are many such forces and they usually work together to motivate our behaviour. This, in turn, means that we can work on improving several aspects of our behaviour in order to improve our motivation.

3. Easy-to-Follow Motivation Methods

We've all had one of those days where we just couldn't bring ourselves to get the work done, whether it was because we lacked the motivation to do it or because we just didn't have the energy we needed. It's easy to get stuck in a rut, especially if you become stressed or dissatisfied with yourself or your work. But there are some methods to get yourself to commit to getting through a difficult task even on one of those days when you feel like you can't get anything done.

If you've ever gotten through a challenge such as an intense workout or a difficult school project you know that making a plan, managing your resources, and following the steps you've set out for yourself are all key elements of completing the work. The same principle applies to keeping your energy and motivation up throughout the school year. Here are some of the methods you can use to stay focused and committed during your college years.

3.1. Make a College Motivation Vision Board

Making a college motivation vision board can be a great way to help yourself visualise your goals. This constant reminder of what you want to achieve and why you want to do so will keep your enthusiasm up and encourage you to maintain your momentum once you get started working.

Whether you use pictures, quotes, decorations, or incentives, having a visual aid to keep you excited can go a long way during studying. You can find motivational quotes online and print or write down the ones that you like and put then on your vision board. Pictures are also great visual incentives so make sure you find some that you love and add them to the mix.

Use colours that you love and get creative when you're making your vision board. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration and you can find a wide variety of unique and inspiring board designs online. You can make your motivation vision board out of anything from a whiteboard that you draw colourful designs onto a foam panel that you cover in fabric and decorate. Thinking outside the box is a definite plus when it comes to crafts.

You can tie a few strings across the board and use laundry pins to hang inspiring notes and images to help motivate you. You can draw your favourite things on a whiteboard and start adding images and ideas that you discover at any time. Pins and foam also offer you a lot of options in terms of moving things around and improving your vision board as you go.

Make sure that the things you choose for the board are meaningful to you and help keep your spirits up. If you're not a big fan of inspirational quotes and dry wit is more to your liking, adapt. Write funny things that brighten your mood on the board instead. Pictures of people who you look up to can also be a great addition to the board.

If you're setting incentives and rewards for yourself, pin them on as well. For instance, if you've decided to get a treat after finishing a long and complicated project, put a picture of that treat on the board. It will encourage you to push forward and stay motivated. The most important thing is to create a college motivation vision board that represents you and portrays your goals. As long as it works for you, anything goes.

3.2. Learn to Set Achievable Goals

Setting attainable goals will make working less stressful and help you stay positive. If the endpoint doesn't seem as daunting you're more likely to feel good about the amount of work that you're doing and about your progress. If you have to write a big paper, break the work down into pieces and take each part of the project as an individual task. It will make it easier on you if you go through each section at a time and organise your time better.

Having smaller points to cover will also help you keep track of your progress. If you're just starting to work on a new subject or project and you feel tired or overwhelmed, start small and work your way up to longer and more intense studying sessions. It's important to adjust to new routines and practices so just keep doing the best you can and build on your achievements.

Setting achievable goals is important in order to reach the end result. Challenging yourself is great but having too much on your plate and becoming overwhelmed by massive workloads isn't going to help you be more productive. The only thing you'll manage to do by taking on to much will be to tire yourself out and make it even more difficult for yourself to stay organised and motivated.

3.3. Start Out Small

This is important in terms of building your confidence and supporting your endurance and motivation. Starting out small will help you rejoice in every step you cover and keep you excited about the work that you do. If you're trying a new learning technique, don't kick things off with a four-hour session if you're not feeling up to it. Maintaining your concentration forever isn't realistic and everyone becomes tired after focusing on work for a while.

Do things at your own pace and increase the work volume that you do as you progress. Practice makes perfect so don't be discouraged if you can't do everything from the very beginning. As long as you work hard and reinforce good habits that help you stay motivated and focused, you'll manage to get complete the tasks that are handed to you.

3.4. Commit to Your Goal

Think of this part as an insurance policy to guarantee that you won't abandon your project. Raising the stakes for yourself will ensure that you stay committed to your goal and follow through. You can share your goals with others to keep yourself motivated. Whether you post your challenge on a blog, discuss it with family and friends, or write about it in a newspaper, the end result will be just as great. You'll feel committed to the project and want to prove that you can see it through.

Nobody wants to feel embarrassed in front of their peers, so sharing your intentions with others will keep you intrinsically motivated to push through and show them that you're capable of accomplishing the task. You can raise the stakes by setting penalties for yourself if you don't do what you're supposed to in order to achieve your goals.

Donating money to charity, giving your dessert to a friend, or skipping on a get-together with peers can be small but effective penalties. They will also encourage you to stick to the schedule that you've set up for yourself and keep your work on track.

3.5. The Importance of Anticipation

If the internet has taught us anything, it's the importance of the hype. The same excitement that makes cat videos go viral can help you move mountains when you're working if you channel it properly. Set your goal in the future and make a visual reminder of the date on which you'll achieve it. Now get excited about it! Reminding yourself about how great it will feel to reach that day and finish the work will keep you motivated to push through the tough moments and try even harder to reach the deadline.

The motivation vision board that we covered previously can help you remind yourself of what you're trying to achieve and of the rewards that you'll get once you've completed the task. Once you've covered the hype, make sure you keep yourself on track and monitor your progress. Make a schedule and stick to it. Having a plan will help you make the most out of your energy and stay focused.

Reward yourself for your achievements. Treating yourself to something like your favourite cookie when you finish one of your tasks can help keep your spirits up. Don't overindulge but take a moment to celebrate each milestone that gets you closer to the end result that you are striving for. If you skip on a work session make it up later on so that you don't fall behind.

Make a visual aid to help you stay on track. A colourful calendar, post-it notes, or reminders can help you count down the days you have left to complete the work and ensure that you are aware of the amount of work that you've covered. Not only is it incredibly rewarding to see your progress, it's also effective when it comes to pushing yourself to give it all you've got.

4. How to Sustain Motivation

Now that you've prepared for the task at hand and you've got a good plan set up, you've got to make sure that you stay motivated and energised along the way. There are several things that you can do to sustain your motivation and reach your goals. Avoiding distractions and reinforcing constructive habits can make a huge difference when it comes to staying positive and focused.

In other words, making sure that you are using the best possible techniques to maintain concentration and motivation is key. Surrounding yourself with a beneficial environment that encourages focus is just as important. Here are some of the things that you can do to sustain motivation and increase your productivity.

4.1. Just Start

Procrastination can be our worst enemy and it's hard to get things going if you're always thinking that one more day won't make any difference. Set a date for your plan to begin and just start. It's the hardest part but once you get the ball rolling it'll just get easier. Work your way up and keep pushing yourself to stay on schedule so that you don't fall back into habits that discourage you from working.

The “Just Do It!” slogan has the right idea when it comes to motivation. There's no better time than right now to start working on achieving your goals and starting small is better than not starting at all. Nobody expects you to be a prodigy from the very beginning and any path will have ups and downs. But if you do your best and stay focused on what you want to accomplish you'll have nothing to regret at the end of the day.

4.2. Keep Yourself Accountable

It's very easy to get distracted in a college environment but you won't get anywhere if you keep procrastinating. There are many motivational strategies you can use to keep yourself accountable and on track with your work. You know yourself better than anyone else so trust your instincts. If you feel like something is distracting you from the task at hand get rid of it when you're working.

Figure out what works best for you. If rewards motivate you to work harder focus on them. If the personal penalties that you've set for yourself annoy you swap them out for something else. Here are a few tips on how to find motivation for college work and to keep yourself from straying from the plan you've set out:

  • Tune out distractions. Surrounding distractions are an important reason behind the lack of motivation in college. If something is disrupting your work or drawing your attention away from the task that you're focusing on, get rid of it. It's the only way to make sure that you're getting good results and truly committing to the work.
  • Be honest. If you decide that the punishment for procrastinating is donating five pounds, do it. If you're not honest and you don't play by the rules that you've set up, you won't get anywhere. You're only cheating yourself after all.
  • Make your environment work for you. Staying organised and focused is difficult in a chaotic environment. If it's loud, distracting, messy, or disturbing in any way change it. You have to commit to the work so keep your desk neat and turn your phone off if people are texting you. If it's noisy or distracting go to the library instead. You've got nothing to distract you there and you'll actually get bored if you don't work on your task. It's the best environment for studying.

4.3. Remain Positive

Staying motivated in college can be hard when you're stressed out and overwhelmed. Don't let it get to you or you'll just end up worrying yourself sick for no good reason. Keeping a positive attitude through rough or demanding situations is a quality that will help you long after you've finished college. Best of all, it's an asset that you can develop.

Student motivation is often lacking because of the stressful and competitive atmosphere that schools create. Standardised testing, pressure, and busy schedules can overwhelm anyone every now and then. Take a deep breath and calm down. Nobody expects you to be perfect so don't put too much pressure on yourself. Having unrealistic expectations will only discourage you. Do the best you can and stay positive: you'll have nothing to regret if you've done all you can.

Daunting as examinations, tests, and presentations can be, they're only obstacles in your way towards reaching your goal and as long as you give it your all to get through them, you are on the right track. If you're feeling exhausted or anxious, do something to relax and have a positive attitude. Here are some great ways to keep your spirits up:

  • Take a break when you feel tired or stressed. Don't burn yourself out by pushing yourself too hard. Give yourself breaks when you feel tired or overwhelmed and take your mind off the work. Sometimes all you need to power up is a funny video or a 5-minute coffee break.
  • Change things up. If you get stuck in a rut and you feel like you can't go on switch things up. Instead of reading at home go to the park for an hour or two and take your work with you. Moving around will give you a breather and studying outdoors on a warm day will make you more relaxed.
  • Surprise yourself. Boring or repetitive tasks can make anyone feel discouraged and inactive. Take a friend out for lunch, go to the movies, or take a walk when you get tired, bored, or feel like the work is tedious.

4.4. Build a Support Network

Peer pressure has a huge impact on motivation for college students so it's nice to know that, even when you're struggling with something, you're not going through it alone. There are like-minded people that have the same issues everywhere around you so build a support network that both you and your friends can benefit from.

Join a study group or ask your friends to study with you for the classes that you're taking together. It's always a lot more fun to work with your friends and colleagues than it is to do it alone and a group effort can keep everyone motivated. Make sure that you all commit to the task at hand and that nobody causes distractions. If you just joke around you're not helping anyone in the group improve.

4.5. Read About Your Goals

There's no magic textbook on how to motivate students but there are certain strategies that have been proven to work. One of them is getting empowered by good examples. Read blogs, articles, stories, or books that discuss reaching the same goals that you are aspiring towards. Reading about people facing the same issues as you are will not only keep you motivated, it might help you learn a few new tricks that you can use to overcome obstacles.

Relating to others also lets you know that you're not alone and keeps you focused. After all, if they managed to do it so can you. Share your own experience with others and talk about the things that you are learning and going through with your friends. You may find that their worries and problems are similar and you can always brainstorm together to figure out better solutions.

4.6. Chart Your Progress and Celebrate Success

Keeping track of your progress can help you balance your workload and stay on top of your schedule but it's also great for maintaining your motivation. Celebrating when you've reached certain points in your work can be very rewarding as well and it can give you a much-needed morale boost. Don't skip on the occasional acknowledgement of your effort and give credit where credit is due.

The fact that you've reached the halfway mark, finished a difficult chapter, or passed a test shouldn't go unrewarded. After all, part of the fun is feeling proud of yourself and of your hard work. Charting your progress will encourage you to push forward and try even harder to reach your goals. It will also ensure that you are always aware of the tasks that are still pending and of the amount of time that you have left to complete them.

When you actually reach your goal, feel free to make it count. Reward yourself with something you enjoy doing and bask in the praise admiration of your peers. You've earned it! If you've set a prize for reaching your goal, enjoy the experience of getting it for yourself. That feeling of satisfaction and happiness will serve as a good incentive for your next challenge and remembering how amazing it was will keep you motivated during the work to come.

5. Final Thoughts on College Motivation

College motivation can be hard to find in a challenging, chaotic, new, and scary environment. Moving away from home, adjusting to new peers, trying to make new friends, staying focused, none of it is easy. Maintaining your motivation through it all certainly won't come naturally but you can work on it and succeed. It's just a matter of harnessing it and making sure that you have the time, environment, tools, and mindset necessary to do it.

It all comes down to trial and error. Some motivational strategies will work better than others for you. We're all different so it should come as no surprise that the plan you create to keep you motivated will be a reflection of your personality, likes, and dislikes. Play to your strengths and the motivational techniques that you end up using will bring out the best in you.

Don't get discouraged when you fail, it happens to everyone. Make the best of every situation and learn from your mistakes. It may sound like old news but we tend to forget the simplest of things sometimes. It's important to stay focused and work hard to improve your skills. Motivation may not be easy to find all the time but it can work wonders when you harness and cultivate it. In the end, your own college motivation and experience will only depend on you and on what you decide to make of it.