Finding motivation to get work done

26th February 2015

How to find motivation

My dissertation deadline is Friday (tomorrow!) and over the past weeks I’ve found it difficult to find any motivation to finish it off. I’d sit at my computer for hours and hours, and have nothing to show for it than less than 100 words. It was depressing.

But then I took a new approach to the way I worked. I read this article about not being productive 24/7 and it inspired me to find my most productive hours of the day. Honestly, my new system has entirely changed the way I work.

And so, here are my tips for finding motivation to get the work done!

Find your most productive time

I read somewhere (if only I could remember where) that there are two hours of the day when we are most productive. Finding out when those two hours are could significantly help your motivation.

For example, I found that I produced more work between the hours of 5pm and 7pm that at any other time in the day. I could do more work in those two hours than in the 8 hours between 9am and 5pm – the hours I use to do university work in.

However, that’s not to say you can’t get work done in those spare hours when you are less productive. Choose to do tasks that require less concentration and less motivation during these hours and save the work that needs the most motivation to these two “golden hours”.

Again, coming back to myself as an example, when I discovered my two most productive hours I save this time for working on my dissertation and other piece of coursework. I would spend the rest of the day revision, writing up lecture notes, cleaning the flat, blogging, etc. – basically the tasks that require less motivation to get done.

Honestly, this has changed the way I work!

Set yourself goals

Having goals can be very motivating, but they should be realistic and achievable. Say for instance you are working on an assignment for university you might look at your current word count of 1,000 words and say “I’ll write 500 more words by the end of the day” or whatever seems realistic in your situation. You might find it useful to write things like this down, like in a to-do list, so you can check things off as you go along.

Does anyone else get a real buzz of satisfaction from ticking things off a to-do list?!

Reward yourself

Whether it be a cup of tea and a biscuit, or a trip to the shops, rewarding yourself for completing a goal will motivate you further. I’ve already told myself that as soon as my dissertation is done I’m going to take myself out for a nice meal to celebrate. Having that thought in mind is pushing me to get my work done.

Use a timer

I previously mentioned this technique in my organised student post. It basically involves setting a timer for 30 minutes. In that 30 minutes you work, and once the timer is up you can take a 10 minute break to do whatever you like. Then, set the timer for another 30 minutes and return to your work.

This system is great for staying on track and avoiding large, wasteful breaks.

Do you have any techniques for staying motivated?

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  1. It’s really hard to stay motivated sometimes. When I was working on my thesis for grad school I found myself lagging along and working randomly. I did learn when my most productive times are and those are during the hours of 9-12. Once noon hits I’m done. As a teacher now, I teach until 1 p.m. and have the next two hours as a planning period. If I had morning planning periods I would probably get more done!

  2. Awesome tips! I think my most productive hours are between 9pm and 11pm. Quite late, but by then my chores have been done so that’s not stressing me, and I can focus on my side projects. :D

  3. I find SMART targets work well too. I’m sure you’ve heard about them, it’s a buzzword thing at the moment which is, well, terribly unexciting really.

    My motivation is bizarre, sometimes I just need to grab the day and say “This is what I’m doing”. Good luck with your dissertation!

  4. Jamie

    This may sound crazy to most people, but when I get done with per say an essay or some bit of homework or reading…I take a 5-10 minute (which I might do right now, as I’m extremely tired from all that reading I did for Psychology — half way done through Chapter 6 – Memory!). I’m worn out as well (physically — seizures (don’t love them)). So basically, I reward myself with a nap.

  5. Cat

    I’m not sure if I have a consistent productive time. It seems to vary for me since sometimes I’m very productive in the afternoon and sometimes it’s at night. It’s never in the morning though!

    Crossing things off of a to-do list is super satisfying for me! I often make a hand written list at work, so I can get that nice feeling of actually crossing things off.

    I use the timer method but in a more extreme way. I set a timer with Simple Blocker on Chrome to block distracting sites, and then I also set a timer with the Forest app on my phone to stop myself from using it. I’ve definitely caught myself trying to visit Tumblr or something while looking up something online, and Simple Blocker did its job, haha.

    Nice tips though! I saw on Twitter that you finished your dissertation. Congrats! :D

    • Holly

      I do have a bad habit of writing things on my to do list that I’ve already done, just so I can tick them off!!