How to increase your motivation and get things done

Are you finding it difficult to maintain your motivation to complete assignments?

It is likely that during the busy academic term you have several assignments to work on and that need to be submitted soon. Are you finding it difficult to get started? Are you waiting to feel like writing your assignment, or do you feel you need to do more research? Perhaps you have several tasks and not sure which one to do first?

Do you feel that you want to get your work done, but wonder whether your efforts will produce the results you want?

It is common to have these questions when doing academic work, particularly when deadlines are approaching.

Take a moment to consider why you go to lectures, go to your part-time job, watch a TV programme, or read this blog post. You probably will notice that you have a variety of reasons underlying your decision to engage with any activity.

So, how do we decide what to do with our time, our capacity to pay attention and our energy?

What is motivation?

 “Human beings have an active will toward health, an impulse toward growth – the actualisation of human potentials.” (A. H. Maslow)

Maslow (1971) believed in people’s fundamental drive to want to learn and develop their abilities. He called it the drive towards self-actualisation.  He was concerned that people might not make efforts to develop their potential and therefore leave their abilities unused. He thought it was a missed opportunity and that it could lead to feeling unhappy, so he focused on encouraging people to engage with activities to develop their potential.

“To be motivated is to be moved to do something.” (Ryan & Deci).

Our motivation can be influenced by what we focus on, where we put our attention. When we are motivated we are more likely to sustain our efforts because we are interested in the subject, and we can see that we are making progress and as a result we can derive a sense of achievement (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

When we are interested in the topic, and it feels relevant to our lives, it is called intrinsic motivation. We can develop it by focusing our efforts on making progress, and this promotes the desire to continue persevering as we want to complete the task and derive a sense of achievement.

When we are motivated by external factors it is called extrinsic motivation. For example, if we want to meet others’ expectations, or for a specific reward, or we are thinking about specific grades and their implications for the future. We can produce behaviour change in the short-term provided we are interested in the reward. However, it may lead to loss of motivation once the reward no longer is of interest. It can also lead to surface learning, and it can reduce taking risks particularly in situations of uncertainty. This is likely to be due to wanting to avoid making mistakes, or  avoid having a sense of failure (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

We all use these two types of motivation at different times. For example, we get up early to go to work as we know it is necessary to fulfil our obligations, or we do the dishes because we need clean plates for dinner. And we do things for our friends and family because it is meaningful to us, even if the task may require a lot of effort, or time. So, if you want to increase motivation identify those factors that are of interest and meaningful to you.

How motivated we feel is influenced by our mindset. This refers to our mental attitude, how we think about our abilities and about the work we have to do. If we think our intelligence is fixed and therefore not able to develop, we are more likely to feel stressed by the grades we get. This maybe due to viewing them as evidence that our academic ability is not as good as we would like it to be. Therefore, if the grade is low (or not what we were hoping for) we are likely to feel disappointed and concerned about our ability to manage the academic demands of the course.

Research shows that our brain is plastic, therefore we are capable of learning new things at any age, that we are capable of developing our abilities by making dedicated efforts. This is called the growth mindset (Dweck, 2017). To continue to nurture our interest in developing our knowledge and experiences we requires a flexible attitude and being willing to put the effort into learning new things.

So by maintaining a flexible attitude, an open mind, and reflecting on what is of value to us, we can maintain our motivation to learn. We need to maintain our energy level to sustain our efforts and to tolerate the frustration or disappointment when we don’t meet our expectations. The key is to continue to make consistent efforts so that we can make progress, and monitor that the tasks we do lead to achieving our goals.

Our internal perception of how we feel about a task can be influenced by our sense of self-efficacy. This refers to our belief in our abilities and our capacity to get things done (Bandura, 1997). As human beings were fundamentally curious, and it is curiosity that leads us wanting to explore new interests.

Another dimension that can influence our level of motivation is our perception of control: whether we can decide how to manage the task, and whether we have the resources to do it.  If we notice that our efforts are producing the results we expect, and we notice progress, our motivation will increase. If the task is of value to us, and we can see that our efforts are making a difference, we are more likely to persevere until we complete the task.  By doing deliberate practice, where we persevere with our efforts, practise each step to learn to develop our skills and in time learn to master a skill (Ericsson & Pool, 2016).

We are also motivated by social rewards, such as having a sense of belonging and having a sense of approval from others (Usher & Kober, 2012). Often we are distracted because we do not have confidence in our capacity to complete the task well enough, and our perception of how others may view our work can prevent us from exploring our potential, in case we may not do it well enough. Our self-judgement prevents us from persevering with the task. To manage these feelings it can be helpful to keep in mind that each person learns at their own pace, and rather than compare with others focus on your unique contribution.

So what can we do to increase motivation?

“If you are open, flexible and creative in trying out new approaches, you will develop into a more rounded personality and effective learner.” (Cottrell).

To increase your motivation and confidence focus on building your sense of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). Think about what you want to achieve. What does doing well look like? How will you monitor your progress? Consider what you can do to improve your skills, what resources will you need, what experiences can help you to develop your strengths?

Keeping these questions in mind can enable you to shape your future. By reflecting and developing your self-awareness you will be more in tune with what your interests are, and what is important to you. Now is the time to plan and decide what goals you want to focus on. This will guide you to identify your priorities so that you can decide where you put your time and efforts. Be open to possibilities, and adopt a flexible attitude (Cottrell, 2015).

Consider the context in which you plan to study: perhaps you work better in the library, in a classroom, your room, or a different part of the house or flat.  Identify your preferences and look for an environment that allows you to study. Then, plan your study time so that your mind and body get used to a routine. The routine will allow you to develop the habit of studying consistently, reducing the need to make decisions every time that require effort.

By repeating your routine it will allow you to increase the opportunities to work on your tasks, and this in turn will increase your motivation as you notice you are making progress.  To deal with new tasks break them down into smaller steps and start with one task and if it does not appear to be interesting at first glance, search for something meaningful. If you find you are feeling stuck, explore what facotrs may be blocking your progress.

Developing self-awareness

When reflecting on the meaning of the task you can build your confidence in your ability to do that work. Think about what things you are interested in, what you’re curious about, as knowing what grabs your attention you can increase your efforts to work on a task. As you notice progress it is likely to increase your interest as you derive a sense of achievement.

It is normal to have a sense of doubt, particularly when learning new things, and to feel some uncertainty about how well we’re doing. We tend to be very subjective in our evaluation of our work as we aspire to do well. Keep in mind that when learning something new it takes time as we develop our understanding of the topic. We’re putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone so not knowing about the subject can challenge our confidence in our skills, or we may be unfamiliar with the strategies to complete the assignment (Molinsky, 2017).

Developing our understanding of our unique way of learning can enable us to improve our study strategies. By reflecting on what influences our mood and decisions to study we can identify when we work better and more effectively. By on our indunderstanding how we learn we can identify when we work better and more effectively.

How to get things done: Strategies to increase productivity

Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity” (Seneca)

1.Be curious: identify the areas that draw your attention, what do you find interesting? How does it relate to what you know? How can you apply the knowledge?

2.Make a choice: Decide what task you’re going to focus on, break it down into smaller tasks. Plan study periods, you may already have a method of working, or perhaps you would like to try the pomodoro technique (

3.Set goals: make them very specific so that it is clear what you need to do. Visualise the steps to take, and identify a way of monitoring your progress.

4.Take breaks: to restore your energy, and prevent symptoms of stress, so that you can maintain your motivation and increase your concentration.

5.Manage thought patterns: notice negative thoughts, observe them without judgment. Be understanding or yourself as you would be of your best friend. You can use mindfulness techniques to notice the thoughts without attachment, instead, let them go by and practise bringing your attention back to the task again.

6.Maintain your energy level:  maintain healthy habits, eating well, do some exercise, go outdoors, and establish a good sleep routine.

7.Develop an optimistic attitude: if you feel you have made a mistake, or things don’t work out the way you hoped,  give some space for your feelings of disappointment or frustration, and then focus on what you can learn from it. Then, reframe the situation and consider what steps you can take next to make progress.


Bandura, A/ (1997) Self-Efficacy. The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Cottrell, S. (2015) Skills for success. Personal development and employability. (3rd Ed.) London: Palgrave, Macmillan Education.

Dweck, C. (2017) Mindset. Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Updated edition. New York: Ballantine Books.

Ericsson, A. & Pool, R. (2016) Peak. Secrets from the new science of expertise. London: The Bodley Head.

Molinsky, A. (2017) Reach. How to build confidence and step outside your comfort zone. Great Britain: Pengui Random House.

Pintrich, P. R. (2003) “ A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(4), pp 667-686.

Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). “Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.” American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.  

Usher, A., & Kober,, N. (2012) “What is motivation and why does it matter?” (pp 3-5). PDF download retrieved from

Prevent procrastination: how to get things done. The Psychology of Action (Part 1)

Why do we do the opposite of what we want to do?
We tend to behave against our intended plans such as working on assignments because we may have worry thoughts anticipating the result will not be as good as we want it to be, or perhaps because we think what we are doing is wrong. Sometimes we think there is only one right way to do it, or believe that we shouldn’t make mistakes.

When thinking like this we can feel discouraged and then we are likely to stop working on the task because we don’t feel confident we can do it well. It could also be due to having a feeling of aversion because we think it is too hard so we delay getting on with our work.

When we worry that we may not reach a high standard we may inadvertently create obstacles that prevent us from making progress. Although we may not be fully aware of it, we are likely to behave in what seems a paradoxical way (ie doing the opposite of what we want to do) to protect our self-image. We want to see ourselves in a good light, and when studying we want to see ourselves as being academically capable.

We are motivated to maintain a positive self-concept (Baumeister, 1996). If we do not achieve our goals, or if we assume that when a task is hard it means that we are not intelligent enough to do well, we may feel frustrated and worried anticipating negative consequences. If we have not done well because we started too late, or had a problem that prevented us from making progress we rationalise our behaviour by explaining to ourselves and others that there are reasons for not doing well.

We would rather have some explanation for not working than taking the risk of putting in a lot of effort and then finding out that we made a mistake, or failed. We have a tendency to prefer to deal with a negative outcome when it is as a result of not trying rather than finding out that we didn’t do well because we do not have the ability.

Why would we tend to do this? It could be because we don’t like having doubts about our capacity for academic work, and we worry that we are not capable of reaching the high standards we expect of ourselves. Another common tendency is to avoid the task because we anticipate it being difficult and hard work. As human beings we have the tendency to avoid difficulty and discomfort:  we much rather feel comfortable and not have to make efforts to achieve things.

So avoiding getting started, or not persevering with assignments, may be due to not wanting to experience the discomfort of what we perceive to be too challenging for our ability. This is based on the assumption that if a task is difficult it reflects on our ability, however, by changing your perspective and view hard work as a sign that the task is a challenge and it requires more effort to learn it so that you can build your knowledge.

Any task that is of value will require more effort and will challenge us, so if you view the task as something you want to learn it is more likely to be motivating and it will allow you to tolerate setbacks better as these are viewed as part of the learning process (Gollwitzer,, P.M. & Oettingen., G. (2015).

What can you do to persevere with your efforts?
You can encourage yourself to get on with the task by reframing the task as something that you choose to do because you want to increase your knowledge, and develop your skills. You can also reflect on how you are perceiving the task: what makes it so hard, do you need more information or guidance? Do you feel it is hard for you but not for others?

It is important not to compare with others as we each have different skills and ways of doing things. Instead, look for what you can learn, and remind yourself that with practice and continued effort it will eventually become familiar.  Imagine the benefits of increasing your knowledge and honing your skills (report writing, researching, synthesising information, etc). These skills will be very useful as part of your personal and professional development.

Learning to motivate yourself and being able to persevere with tasks are also essential skills for your professional life. Practice reaching beyond your comfort zone, a little at a time, and you will notice you can do more than you think you can which in turn will strengthen your intrinsic motivation. This is when we are motivated by personal interests such as wanting to build knowledge, being curious about the subject, and enjoying the sense of achievement that comes from the effort we put into the task.

By reflecting on our progress we can derive positive feelings and this contributes to building our confidence and sense of self-worth. By focusing on our values and identifying what is meaningful it will stimulate making the decision to persevere with efforts to complete a task (Deci & Ryan, 2000).  

How can you stimulate your motivation and take action?
Motivation is what moves us to do something. If we do not feel like starting with a task we can reflect on what are the obstacles that prevent us from doing so. It could be that we have a preconception about the task, for example, we may think it is not important, or we may feel we do not have control/do not have the necessary resources to do it well. It could be that we are too focused on what we perceive to be an inevitable negative outcome, so we delay getting started.

One solution is to see the obstacles/difficulties as challenges rather than threats, which in an academic setting tend to affect our confidence in our academic ability. To get started with the task check your perception of the task, break it down into small steps and reframe it as a challenge that you can do. Then, start by working on one step, then another, and another until the task is completed.   

                                          “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” (Mark Twain)

The key is to focus on the process rather than on the outcome. And while focusing on each step remind yourself that you are learning, and that each step you take builds your academic competence, and your sense of self efficacy – the belief that you can do the task well enough. To persevere with the task when it gets difficult, or you notice your motivation decreases, focus on increasing your tolerance of uncertainty and of making mistakes. 

                                           “Failure is success in progress.” (Albert Einstein)

Keep in mind that mistakes are part of the process of learning. If you notice that you are delaying getting started/continuing with the task ask yourself: “Am I doing this (what you are doing instead of getting on with your work) as a way of having an excuse in case of a negative outcome?” Once you notice what you are thinking, pause, and redirect your attention to what is meaningful to you: what you want to achieve, and then keep going.                                  

                                            “There’s no beginning too small.” (Thoreaux)

You can remind yourself that by persevering with small steps you can make progress through the difficult parts of the task. Once you notice a little progress this will become motivating. If your focus is on having it finished this will prevent you from what you can do right now. However, if the focus is on what you are learning as you make progress with each step, it will allow you to keep going. Noticing the progress will builds on your curiosity to see what you can find out – what you are learning. 

How can you maintain your motivation and make progress?
To implement our intention of doing something we need to regulate our behaviour, and to do this we have to manage our cognitive and emotional responses. As stated above, we have a tendency to want to think well of ourselves and to protect our sense of self-worth when we anticipate failure. To protect ourselves from possible negative evaluations we create some responses, for example we may view an event by rationalising it: eg. “I didn’t do too well because I did it last minute, if I had done it with more time it would have been better”. Or, “the essay is not very good, but it could have been much worse as I only spent a little time on it.”

Another way of protecting ourselves is by inattention as when we prevent ourselves from noticing something (Baumeister, 1996). If we don’t know about it then we cannot act on it. For example, we may not notice the deadlines and without realising it we find that the deadline is approaching fast, leaving us with little time to work on the assignment, or revise for the test as we wanted to do. 

To maintain motivation for long-term goals it helps to create mental representations of the goal we want to achieve, or the behaviour we want to change to create a new healthy habit (Baumeister, 1996). For example, imagine researching for your essay, then seeing the words on the page as you tell your story of what you are learning. The more you focus on the process rather than on the result, and the more detailed the steps it is more likely that you will feel motivated to take action.

In addition, notice your self-talk (the running commentary that we all have as we go by our day), when thoughts turn into negative evaluations of what we are doing it can be very discouraged, frustration and restlessness. We divert our attention to protect ourselves from feeling bad because we think we are not doing well, or think the end is too far away and we are likely to be distracted.

To increase your concentration notice what is happening…pause, and change your perspective of the task by reminding yourself that you can view it as a task that requires practice, time and effort and that you can persevere because the overall goal is important to you (Duckworth, 2016).

At times it may feel as if we are of two minds: one part of us wants to keep going with the work because we value doing well, and another wants to do something easier or less demanding. Notice this tension, acknowledge it and then remind yourself of what you want to achieve. Yes, you could stop your work and watch a youtube video (so easy as the internet is only a click away!), or you can remind yourself that you chose to work for 25 minutes and that in your break you will do something that you are looking forward to (maybe contact your friend or family, or check the youtube video). This will reduce resistance to doing the work, and allow your thoughts to flow so that you can express what you are thinking about the topic you are working on.

Instead, develop a perspective of a curious observer or that of a researcher (McGonigal, 2012). Focus on what you see just like a scientist observing an experiment. View what you notice as information to adjust your efforts. It takes time, and requires a lot of patience. The key is to remind yourself of your values, why you are doing the task. As you practice your ability to persevere and maintain your efforts will increase gradually (Duckworth, 2016).


Baumeister, R. F. (1996) “Self-regulation and ego threats. Motivated cognition, self-deception, and destructive goal setting“. In The Psychology of Action. Linking cognition and motivation to behaviour. Chapter 6. Gollwitzer, P.M, and Bargh, J.A. Eds. London: The Guildford Press. p.27-47.

Baumeister,, R.F., & Tierney, J. (2011) Willpower. Rediscovering our Greatest Strength. London: Penguin Books.

Deci, E. & Flaste, R. (1995) Why We Do What We Do. Understanding self-motivation.  New York: Penguin Books.

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000) “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 54–67 (2000) doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020, available online at

Duckworth, A. (2016) Grit. The Power of Passion and Perseverance. London: Vermillion.

Gollewitzer, P.M. & Oettingen, G. (2015) Psychology of Motivation and Actions. In Wright, J.D.(Ed) International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Ed,, Vol.15. Oxford. pp.887-893.

McGonigal,, K. (2012) The Willpower Instinct. How self-control works. Why it matters, and what you can do about it. New York: Penguin Books.

Mischel, W. (1996) “From good intentions to willpower.” In The psychology of action. Linking cognition and motivation to behaviour. Chapter 9. Gollwitzer, P.M, and Bargh, J.A. Eds. London: The Guildford Press. p.27-47.

Young, S. (2017). Stick with it. The science of lasting behaviour. London: Penguin Life.

Prevent procrastination: How to get things done. The Psychology of Action (Part 2)

What is willpower and how can we develop it?
Willpower is having a sense of personal agency. It refers to our ability to delay gratification and focus on the task because we want to achieve a long-term goal. However, if we are tired it will be difficult to maintain our efforts. Also, it may be more difficult to focus on the task when there are a number of immediate distractions. To make progress we need to maintain our energy level and manage or remove the distractions (Baumeister, 2011).

We can create a mental representation of the goal we want to achieve (think about each step leading to your goal) and create our own self-instructions (Mischel, 1996). For example describing the process – a series of steps to get the task done – so that we know in detail what we need to do from step to step.

By having a visual representation of the process it allows us to persevere with our efforts while keeping the goal in mind. It is important to have the expectation that we will complete the process, and that we will eventually get the reward that is important to us.

A practical approach to build confidence in our ability to persevere is to take a moment to reflect on past experiences related to the task: Did you have a challenging time in school/college? Did you find it difficult to get on with assignments? Perhaps you got feedback that said you needed to make more effort or would not achieve your potential. To manage these thoughts and feelings you can remind yourself that the past does not determine the future.

Also, keep in mind that others did not have the full picture of your experience of doing academic work. Perhaps back then there were difficulties not easy to express to others, or it was not clear how studying would become important to you. Now you are in a different situation where you can focus on how you want to see yourself acting: are you someone who wants to complete tasks and achieve goals?  You can create a new perspective that will help you move forward. Decide that you are a person who can persevere with efforts, can tolerate uncertainty, and can acknowledge that self-doubt is part of the learning process.              

What can you do to maintain your efforts and make progress?
When you become aware of a distraction, and feel the impulse to do something else, notice your feeling and pause. Take a moment to remind yourself of what is your priority. To increase your ability to focus and concentrate on the task remind yourself of the reasons why you’re doing the task, bring your attention back to the page and keep going. As you practise this technique you will gradually strengthen your capacity to manage distractions.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power
to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
                                                                             (Viktor Frankl)

To make progress in changing our behaviour we need to pay attention to our thoughts and actions. If we know we get easily distracted, or find it difficult to delay gratification (doing easier and more pleasant things) create plans of what you will do when the distractions happen. Do this before you start working on a task (Baumeister, 2011).

By pre-planning how you will structure your time you will know when you can have your break/reward. This will help to sustain your concentration while you are working. If you get distracted because you are finding the task too hard, remind yourself that it is part of the learning process. To restore energy take a 5 minute break, go outdoors, stretch and move. Have some water to keep hydrated. Then return to the task for another 25 minutes. As you increase your capacity to concentrate you can increase the time of your study periods, although always taking breaks to move and stretch as this is essential to maintain your energy level.

We need motivation to maintain our concentration. To be intrinsically motivated to take action we need to believe that we are capable, and that we can make choices. We can do this by focusing on what is important to us, and engaging in a task that we consider meaningful. This is having an internal locus of control: we do something because we feel we have chosen to do it and believe we can persevere with our efforts. When we make mistakes these are tolerated and understood as part of the process – as opportunities for learning. Nurturing this internal drive increases our ability to sustain our efforts and allows us to create habits that support our goals. This is the key to self-determination and  resilience (Deci, 1995).

We like to be autonomous and feel that we make choices to do things that we are motivated by, but when revising for exams, writing an essay or dissertation it may feel like an obligation. To stimulate your motivation to do your work reframe this task as a choice, and keep what you want to achieve in mind.

If you find you get distracted and do not work consistently on your revision/dissertation identify what other things that are distracting you, notice them, pause, then identify whether these are new priorities you need to pay attention to, or are they things that you can let go so that you can get on with your work. Make a list of the benefits that persevering with the task will bring you. As you make gradual and consistent progress your confidence in your ability to get things done will increase.

Strategies to get started and get things done:

1.Set goals: these need to be very specific so that it is clear what you want to achieve in the short-term (this could be within an hour, a day, a week). Describe exactly what you need to do, or what you would like to achieve realistically within the specified time. Draw up a plan of your goals, from  larger ones to very small ones. For example: the larger goal may be to revise for an exam, then the smaller goals can be the different topics in the module, and then small steps for each topic within the module.

2.Commit to taking action: make the choice to start with a specific goal, and decide that you will follow through. Start with the small steps and work your way through each one. Keep in mind a mental representation of the goal: visualise what you are working towards, including each step in detail of how you will go about doing the task.

3.Manage your expectations: sometimes we have self-doubt, or worry whether we can achieve the task when we have so much to do, and so many different modules/courses to revise.
Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, that even if the material is difficult this is expected as it is new material. To increase the strength of your decision to get on with the task by viewing yourself as someone who follows through with tasks.

Persevering with your efforts to understand the material will gradually build your academic confidence. Remind yourself that you have prepared for exams before now, and although difficult you got through them. If you think your work is not good enough, rather than evaluate yourself negatively/lose hope that you can do it, focus on identifying what you can do different: identify one thing that you can do to improve/change to make progress in this moment. Then move on to the next step.

4.Create meaningful rewards: We are more able to sustain our efforts if we develop an abstract representation of the reward to keep us going while working. For example imagining the good feeling of having persevered with your efforts and completing the first step. Decide what you will do when you complete it, maybe speak with a friend, go out doors for a walk, or watch a episode of your favourite series. Make sure you create a limited period of time for your break so that the reward does not take time away from starting your next step.

5.Create pre-plans: IF (distractor) happens I will (action you will take). We increasingly have difficulties in maintaining focus as digital technology makes distractions easily available. For example, if you feel tempted to check the notification on your phone, and you know that it is difficult to leave it, plan beforehand what you will do so that it does not interrupt your concentration (maybe turn your phone off for half an hour, or leave it in a drawer out of view).

We can also become distracted by the discomfort of the moment, such as feeling tired, frustrated, or hungry. You can prepare for these situations by having healthy routines and eating well so that you have the energy to manage what may seem attractive distractions. This in turn, will increase your confidence in your ability to focus, and reduce the worry about future negative scenarios.

6.Use the Pomodoro technique: it consists of creating study periods of 25 minutes with a 5 minute break by using a clock/stop watch. It is sufficient time to make progress and allows to restore energy at regular intervals. We are more likely to get started on a task and maintain our concentration when we know that the break will come soon. During your break move, stretch, and drink some water. You can repeat this two or three times and then have a longer break.
Notice how this practise can promote having a sense of achievement when you can see you are making progress.

7.Suspend your evaluation of your work: The key is not to evaluate your work while you are focused on the task. We can be very self-critical when we make a small mistake, or think it should be done differently, or if we start to compare with how others seem to be doing it better. When you notice critical thoughts, pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself that the priority is to make progress.

View the task as a draft, for now. The priority is to make progress to complete a first draft. Then, leave the task for a while so that you can have some distance from it to be able to evaluate it more objectively when you read it again to proof-read, and edit where necessary.

8.Make the task important: Give the work you will do high significance. This will allow you to prioritise it when distractions that may be easier or more pleasant appear.

9.Repeat behaviours: Create a routine, and persevere with your efforts. Repetition creates familiarity, and it strengthens motivation to complete the task/achieve goal.

10.Develop your support network: Find a study buddy or buddies, other students who also want to make progress with their work. Maintain contact with those who know you and encouraged you. Let them know about your plans to study so they can support your decisions to prioritise your work as it is important to you.

11.Reflect on your progress: Notice and acknowledge the work you have done: with each step you move forward.
As you see the progress you are making, and reflect on how you are maintaining your efforts, you can update your self-image to that of someone who perseveres and is committed to achieving goals.

As you see your progress it will support your motivation to continue with the task. The more steps you do, without pressurising yourself, it will increase your ability to concentrate and stick to the task until you eventually complete it (Young, 2017).


Baumeister, R. F. (1996) “Self-regulation and ego threats. Motivated cognition, self-deception, and destructive goal setting“. In The Psychology of Action. Linking cognition and motivation to behaviour. Chapter 6. Gollwitzer, P.M, and Bargh, J.A. Eds. London: The Guildford Press. p.27-47.

Baumeister,, R.F., & Tierney, J. (2011) Willpower. Rediscovering our Greatest Strength. London: Penguin Books.

Deci, E. & Flaste, R. (1995) Why We Do What We Do. Understanding self-motivation.  New York: Penguin Books.

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000) “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 54–67 (2000) doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020, available online at

Duckworth, A. (2016) Grit. The Power of Passion and Perseverance. London: Vermillion.

Gollewitzer, P.M. & Oettingen, G. (2015) Psychology of Motivation and Actions. In Wright, J.D.(Ed) International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Ed,, Vol.15. Oxford. pp.887-893.

McGonigal,, K. (2012) The Willpower Instinct. How self-control works. Why it matters, and what you can do about it. New York: Penguin Books.

Mischel, W. (1996) “From good intentions to willpower.” In The psychology of action. Linking cognition and motivation to behaviour. Chapter 9. Gollwitzer, P.M, and Bargh, J.A. Eds. London: The Guildford Press. p.27-47.

Young, S. (2017). Stick with it. The science of lasting behaviour. London: Penguin Life.