Feeling a motivation slump?

you can do it written on a lightboxIt has been a long time since we all entered lockdown, and psychologically we are beginning to feel the strain. I have lost count of the conversations I have had in the last few days where people have said they ‘can’t get going’ or are ‘having a sluggish day’. Me? I am ‘just not feeling it’. Which suggests we are in a collective lockdown slump, it’s been going on long enough for us to have adjusted and we cannot see the end.

How do we focus on university work during a lockdown slump?

Step 1: Acknowledge the slump, don’t give yourself a hard time. Acknowledge it for what it is, it’s not about grades, feedback or reading; it’s a reflection of the time we are in, what we are all experiencing. We are almost on pause, waiting for the government to let us know the next stage is starting and knowing we have no control on influencing that commencement.

Step 2: Create a goal: not a large goal which is going to take days, but make a goal for today a goal for now and focus on this. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, whether it is to put a load of washing on, spend time doing meditation, go for a walk, reading a chapter in a book, or writing 100 words. Make a ‘now’ goal. Ignore your excuses and make the goal.

Step 3:  Do it and reflect on the fact that you have achieved your goal.

Step 4: Unsurprisingly it is go back to step 2 and then repeat steps 2 and 3.

We all have slumps, but underneath it all we are resilient, we have grit, just sometimes our motivation and determination take a dive.

So what about tomorrow?

Well you could plan ahead – create a trigger before you go to bed this evening…

For example, if you think you might go out for a walk, run, or ride place your shoes somewhere obvious – so that when you see them you are cued into recalling the goal, which will take you to step 3 quickly. Or perhaps you are planning to read a chapter; create a link to the chapter and leave your laptop within your visual field in the morning. Or, you could repeat today’s actions of creating a ‘now’ goal and achieving it.

It is important to focus on things we can control, actions we can achieve and step by step our determination and volition will return.

And what about the rest of this week?

Here are some things you can do to boost your motivation:

  • Reflect on your achievements. You have completed a goal every day, feel the reward from a little forward momentum.
  • Keep a check on your self-talk. Do you have a tendency to self depreciate? Over generalise? Discount the positives? Now is the time to check your self talk and self correct. Amend that distorted thinking from “I am never going to finish this year” to perhaps “I will finish this year, I can do this”.
  • Keep a check on your emotional reasoning. Switch to “I can call Alister on teams” rather than “I cannot do this by myself”.
  • Do something that will make you laugh. Whether it is to watch a funny film, talk to a friend or watch funny vids on Tiktok.

Remember that this is the next stage of adjustment, we first had to adjust to social distancing, then to learning through emergency online methods and now we are adjusting to doing assessments at a distance. It is not necessarily our preferred way of working, but we are resilient. We will keep going and you will get to the end of the year.


Thank you to Dr Hazel Bending, our BSc (Hons) Psychology course leader, for writing this.

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