Motivation and Procrastination for Undergraduate Students

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Manufacturing MotivationProcrastination
What is motivation?

Manufacturing motivation

Motivate: to stimulate interest in, causing a person to act in a particular way. Concerned with movement.

Many of us can feel a lack of persistence, self-discipline, or courage in facing a task. Sometimes we feel the pay-off will be worth the effort… and sometimes we aren’t sure! But we can help ourselves act, which is what motivation is all about!

What makes us want to do something?

We usually act because of a reward that we’ll receive. Rewards are either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic rewards are thoughts or feelings within ourselves: we may feel proud, satisfied, delighted, relieved, exhilarated, confident, encouraged, amazed, secure, intelligent, ambitious, intrigued, pleasantly surprised. Intrinsic rewards are very powerful motivators as they are under our own control, and they lead to increased self-esteem. “I said I’d do it… and I did!”

Extrinsic rewards are responses from the world around us: we may be paid, win the prize, achieve an award, graduate, take a holiday, be voted Most Valuable Player, have our photo in the newspaper, etc. Extrinsic rewards are also powerful motivators, as they make us feel valued and recognized by others. However, they are much less under our control (e.g., Who else is competing? How will I be compared to others? How many prizes will be given out?).

Motivated people cultivate an intrinsic reward system. The external rewards (e.g., prizes, money) are a bonus!

Strategies to build motivation

What are some strategies to build motivation?

  1. Make a promise and keep your word.
  • Set a specific long-range goal (e.g., read Anatomy text by end of week 13) and break it into smaller steps or goals (read one chapter a week). 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. Praise yourself.
  1. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu). Begin with a small step, and make a plan for the next step.
  2. Develop a routine. Link a new activity with one that you do routinely, like do your sit-ups (new activity) before drinking your morning coffee (old habit).
  3. Include the words “goal, persistence, self-discipline, effort and intrinsic reward” in your vocabulary. Explicitly use these words in relation to your activities.
  4. Observe when you are becoming uncomfortable thinking or doing particular tasks. Discomfort is a signal: Am I unsure, bored, scared, out of my depth? Ask yourself: What is appealing about this activity? What is fearful? Then, experience the discomfort (just sit with it) and soon it will have less power over you.
  5. Think positive: “This will feel great when it’s done” or “I can do it!” instead of “I can’t stand doing this”!
  6. Act like the person you wish to become. Picture yourself as being successful. What do you look like? What are you doing? Where are you? Bring this image to mind as you start challenging activities.
  7. Believe in yourself! Reflect on times when you were motivated. Is there anything in common between then and now? Can you make a small change so this situation is more like those times?
  8. Adopt a hero. Ask yourself, “What would _____ be doing now?” JUST DO IT √
  9. Hang out with motivated people.
  10. Guard your health so you have strength, energy and enthusiasm.
  11. Get support before the downward spiral: behind in assignments→ feeling “stupid” in class→ not attending class→ not understanding the next readings→ losing touch with classmates→ feeling ashamed → falling further behind→ feeling discouraged→ not wanting to start…
  12. Use time management and organizational tools: term or monthly calendars, weekly schedules, To Do lists, prioritizing activities.
  13. Turn up the pressure. Move a deadline forward two weeks if you like pressure.
  14. 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.
  15. Ask for help when you start to see a pattern of poor motivation, rather than waiting. A teacher, mentor, parent, friend, or counsellor will try to encourage and support you.
  16. Start small. Try one of the strategies that appeals to you and give yourself time to develop it before adding new strategies. Remember: new habits take 21-30 days to “stick!”
Anti-procrastination strategies

Anti-procrastination strategies:

 1. Procrastination is just a habit

  • Change your attitude:

“I used to be able to do everything to my best, all the time.”

NOW: No one can do it all to 100%, all the time. Make wise choices.

2.  Change your usual habits:

  • Set priorities and be strategic.
  • Balance “what’s important?” with “what’s hard?” Do some of both, each day.
  • Decide if in these circumstances, something must be done less well than your best.

3.  Get started with the “5 More Rule”

  • Set a modest target (e.g., 5 sentences to write, or 5 pages to read, or 5 problems to do, or 5 minutes of work, or 5 dishes to wash, or 5 more crunches).
  • √ Just Do It. It is so modest, of course you can do it!
  • Congratulate yourself for reaching your target.
  • Re-consider. Will you do 5 More? Pack up and go home?
  • As you get over the “hump” of starting, and begin to settle into your work period, you may decide to increase what you are asking of yourself (e.g., 45 minutes of work? 10 pages of reading?).

4.  Keep Going: Improve focus and concentration

  • Unplug (seriously!)
  • Do “hard” things first, early in the day and at the beginning of the week.
  • Use the “best” location & time of day for you.
  • Work 50 minutes, take a 10 break, for up to 3 hours. Take about an hour’s break, then repeat.
  • Use a “Distraction Pad” while working:
    • Briefly record distracting thoughts
    • Get back to work
    • Review Distraction Pad once daily, and sort into categories of topics (e.g. too late &/or not important; need to do; personal concern that could be addressed; great thought coming at the wrong moment—like an insight into some perplexing statistical matter for a lab—that should be noted for future reference.
  • Act as needed

5.  Know when to stopmindmap example

  • Does it have to be perfect? Is “good enough” acceptable or practical?
  • In writing papers, it is sufficient to write “the latest” word on the current understanding of a topic, rather than aiming to write the definitive or “last word” in an area.
  • Use a mind map to summarize material and see if you are lost in details (researching, studying or writing). What’s important? What can be used another time (maybe!)?

6. Commit to something

  • Set goals
  • Make a plan
  • Be accountable to yourself (keep track of accomplishments) or to someone else