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How to get motivated and get things done

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You took to your dissertation work like a duck takes to water. Maybe you’d just started the perfect masters project. Or you were getting ready to ace your final exams. Then came lockdown.

It’s enough to throw even the best of us off our game, which is completely normal. Motivation is a tricky one. Sometimes it is really easy to get motivated, and you find yourself powering through an assignment with no distractions. Other times, it feels as though you’re trapped in a death spiral of procrastination. 

But all this change shouldn’t stop you from achieving what you want out of your degree, and it’s still really important to make this time count and use it to your advantage. We’ve got together an easy-to-understand guide to what motivation is, how to get it, and how to follow through to get things done. 

What is motivation? 

Scientists define motivation as your general willingness to do something. It is the set of psychological forces that compel you to take action. But what does that actually mean in real life? 

How does it work? 

Very few things create resistance as effectively as being forced to do something. Sometimes you might find yourself not even wanting to do things you usually enjoy, just because you feel you have to. It’s often this mindset that stops motivation in its tracks. 

To combat this effect, change how you think. Rather than thinking “I have to”, say  “I choose to” instead. You’ll soon realize that nothing in life is actually a ‘have to’ at all. You don’t have to get up, and you don’t have to do work  – you choose to because you enjoy the benefits those actions create. When you focus on the benefits of your actions, you’re way more likely to get things done. 

Now, it’s one thing to feel motivated. It’s another thing entirely to actually find in yourself the ability to accomplish the tasks that you’ve set for yourself. This process of getting things done is essentially where you not only want to take action, but where you have the ability to execute as well.

You only get a certain amount of willpower on any given day and as time goes on, our willpower diminishes and our ability to follow through on our motivations declines. Essentially, the more decisions we make, the more likely we are to become fatigued by these choices and avoid making them. With that in mind,  try to stick to a few tasks to complete each day and structure your time so you don’t hit the willpower wall and feel your motivation slipping. 

Tips on keeping motivated

Keep a routine 
From the moment we wake up to when we’re getting back in bed again, we’re inundated with potential choices, like what to eat for breakfast, what clothes to wear, what book to read etc. Sticking to regular routines minimizes the number of decisions that must be made, allowing us to save this energy for doing the things we find most important.

Do the important tasks first 
No matter how good your routine is at home, you’ll likely still experience some degree of fatigue by the end of the day. To combat this, make sure you take on your most important priorities first thing in the morning to give them optimum focus.

Get rid of distractions
It’s usually obvious what you should do, but it can be so easy to give in to temptation and abandon your work without getting what you wanted done when there’s distractions around. Is the tv on? Try and work in another room. Family distracting you? Get up earlier and work before they’re up and about. 

Look after yourself
This is a bit of a given, but the more you look after yourself the easier it is to get motivated and get stuff done. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep and get enough rest to recharge for the next day so you don’t hit that motivation wall too early. Having a healthy diet and exercise are also going to boost your energy and put you in the best headspace for completing your tasks.