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Motivation and procrastination

Do you ever feel like you just can’t get started? Manufacturing Motivation for Undergraduates (PDF) covers tips and strategies you can try to regain your motivation for schoolwork. You can also try our Anti-procrastination Strategies (PDF) and more general Motivation and procrastination (PDF) resource.

Looking for something short and sweet? Scroll down for our quick tips!

If you’re a graduate student, you might find Staying Motivated in Graduate School (PDF) helpful. You can also scroll down for some quick tips for grad students.

If you would prefer to have any of our resources as .docx or another type of accessible format, please email us.

MODULES AND RESOURCES: Motivation & Procrastination


Undergraduate Module

Strategies for increasing motivation and decreasing procrastination.


Graduate Module

Motivation challenges in grad school: research, strategies, plans, and resources.



1. Set realistic goals: break large projects into smaller steps.

2. Think about how the current activity fits in with your long-term plan, to help prioritize. Visit Career Services if your courses and goals really don’t align.

3. Engage: Act as if the topic or activity interests you. Discuss one idea after class with a friend. Put equal time and effort into activities of similar priority.

4. Evaluate the costs of doing or avoiding something. Make a choice, and accept the consequence.

5. Create a Weekly Schedule or To Do list that includes time for exercise, social activity, and relaxation after you’ve worked. Or use a daily List of Accomplishments to record your positive activity.

6. To “kick start” work, use the “5 More Rule.” Commit to 5 minutes, or 5 pages of reading, or 5 sentences to write. Just do it. Then, ask yourself: “Five more? Stop now?”

7. Hang out, or form study groups, with motivated and engaged students.

8. Turn up the pressure by setting several small deadlines to finish before the due date.

9. Watch for the downward spiral of falling behind, missing class, getting discouraged. Talk to your professor, TA, learning strategist, or friend for help.


1. Create opportunities for “autonomy supportive” work. If your supervisor does not support autonomous thought and activity, try to off-set this by seeking outside activities which give you choice, volition and freedom.

2. Reflect on whether your values and goals are congruent with the external needs and goals.

3. Develop mastery in skills, knowledge, and behaviours requisite for your area of studying.

4. Connect with people with whom you can share ideas. If you feel isolated, join a support group or use the online dissertation support website www.phinished.org.

5. Reward your efforts and accomplishments. Pay attention to your own feelings of intrinsic reward (satisfaction, pride, relief from pressure, etc). Earn your pleasure.

6. Observe when you are becoming uncomfortable thinking or doing particular tasks. Discomfort is a signal: “Am I unsure, bored, scared, out of my depth…?” What is appealing or fearful about this activity? Experience the discomfort and soon it will have less power over you.

7. Act like the person you wish to become. Picture yourself as already having reached your goal, or being successful. What do you look like? What are you doing? Where are you? Bring this image to mind as you start undesirable activities.

8. Believe in yourself. Reflect on times when you’ve been motivated. What is similar between those times and now? Can you make small changes so this situation is more like those times?

9. Make a promise and keep your word:

  • Set a specific long-range goal and break it into smaller steps or goals. Be clear in your intentions.
  • Tell someone, and ask them to follow your progress. Be accountable.
  • Keep a log or journal of your goals and achievements.

10. Develop a routine. Link a new activity with one that you do routinely (e.g., do your sit-ups (new activity) before drinking your morning coffee (old habit)).

11. Turn UP the pressure. Move a deadline forward by two weeks if you like pressure. Or, turn DOWN the pressure. Eliminate extra responsibilities, and plan small steps if you don’t like a lot of pressure. Focus on the “must” not the “should” activities.

First photo courtesy of Amodiovalerio Verde and second photo courtesy of Norlando Pobre under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No-Derivations 2.0 license.


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