It can be hard to get motivated to do your work, chores, or homework. With constant notifications on your phone and a whole library of films and videos on your computer, it seems like there is always something to distract us. Especially during the pandemic, it can be difficult to focus on your work if you’re working or studying from home. So, I will give you some tips on how I stay motivated.
While studying Social Work, I learned about the difference between external and internal motivation. This difference is important because it affects you in all the decisions that you make throughout your day.
When you perform a task only for a reward such as getting a promotion or to earn a good grade, or to avoid punishment, you are being motivated by extrinsic or external motivation. Your reason for doing something lies outside of yourself.
When you perform a task because you want to do it, because it’s fun, then you are motivated by intrinsic or internal motivation. Instead of doing something to get a reward, you do it because the activity is rewarding in and of itself to you.
It seems that intrinsic or internal motivation is the best kind of motivator. You will probably be more inclined to perform the task and enjoy yourself more while doing it when you are intrinsically motivated. However, this is not always possible. What can you do when a task is not intrinsically rewarding?
There is nothing wrong with completing an assignment that you are not interested in just so you can get a good grade. Or with rewarding yourself with a treat after doing your chores. However, it is important to identify whether or not you are already internally motivated to perform that task. Research has shown that rewarding yourself for a task that is already intrinsically rewarding can have an effect called “the overjustification effect”. Rewarding yourself for a task that you are already intrinsically motivated to do might actually decrease your motivation. It makes the task seem more like work and less fun or intrinsically rewarding.
When you need to perform a task that is not intrinsically rewarding, external motivation may help you get motivated. In this case, using external motivators, like rewards, might actually make you more interested in the task, especially when it comes to learning a new skill. So, in these cases there is nothing wrong with using external rewards and doing so may increase your internal motivation.
How to increase internal motivation
Some tasks may seem unpleasant or boring. It might seem like the only way to get through them is to reward yourself after you have completed the task. However, it is possible to turn externally rewarding tasks into internally rewarding tasks. If you can find internal or intrinsic motivation you will be more motivated to complete the task and you will not have to force yourself. So how do you do that?
Write down what your goal for this task is. What do you want to achieve? This can be small, like my goal to have a clean room. This can also be a bigger goal in which this task is just one step in achieving this goal. For example, when you are studying for a test, your goal could be to become a doctor. This test is part of that goal.
This is part of the first step. But now try to imagine what it will be like when you achieve your goal. Imagine how you will feel, how it will change your life (if applicable), what it will look like. So visualise your clean home, imagine how proud or happy or organised you will feel. Or visualise your graduation. Visualise what it will look like. Pretend you’re there.
Take some time to pat yourself on the back after each task
Research has shown that praise can increase internal motivation. So be proud and compliment yourself. You deserve it!
You are in a state of flow when you are completely engrossed in what you are doing. Activities that produce flow are activities that are interesting, fun, or internally rewarding. One way to help induce a state of flow is to get rid of all possible distractions. To achieve a state of flow, you must be in the zone, so to speak. So turn your phone completely off, and turn off notifications on your computer.
This has personally helped me get more motivated. Work and tasks are not things I have to do. They are opportunities. Every essay is an opportunity to get actionable feedback. Every workday is an opportunity to gain experience and deepen my relationships with my coworkers. And cleaning is surprisingly mindful. It is something that helps me relax, not a chore I would rather not do. Whether or not a task is intrinsically rewarding depends in part on your mindset. So change it.
I hope these tips will help you get motivated. It is helpful to find internal motivation for your tasks. Additionally, both for motivation in general and to achieve a state of flow it is important to get rid of all distractions. But if you are faced with a task that you cannot find internal motivation for, there is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself.
Written by Merel Melchers
Merel is an undergraduate studying English with Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen. She enjoys reading, writing and playing with her dog. She mainly writes about personal development, student life, and mental health to motivated and guide passionate young women.