MEWD: Motivation

Emma Foster - ASK Blog PicMotivation is something that I really struggle with. Or rather, my motivation is one of the things that depression has stolen from me.

This is super unhelpful in all walks of life; Amelia has highlighted how important motivation is. I find it particularly hard when it comes to University since, as we all know, Uni is all about self-driven study. No one is standing over our shoulders telling us we need to attend every class, or when we need to start our assignments or study for our tests. If we don’t want to go to our lectures or our tutorials, we don’t go.


My lack of motivation first started to present itself (seriously) in mid-February last year (2014). I was taking extra units over the summer, and while the face-to-face component was all finished up, I still had an assignment to complete.

I’d really enjoyed this course — it was a business law course, and I find those really interesting. But for some reason I was in major struggle-town with this assignment. I understood the question, I knew what I needed to do, but I just could not get my brain into gear to do anything.

I’m generally quite particular about my assignments. I know that if I put enough time and effort in, I’m quite capable of doing well. However, I’m also not really one to plan my assignments out on paper. I tend to form an idea of what I want to talk about where, and then just type it up as I go. In the case of this particular assignment, that’s where I was letting myself down. Because I don’t plan anything out and pretty much just launch into typing fully formed and structured paragraphs, if my brain’s not in a place where it feels it can do that, it’ll just shut down. So when I’m already dragging my feet because I’m very poorly motivated, this means that I pretty much just forget about working on assignments altogether.

What I ended up doing was abandoning all sense of structure and fully formed sentences, and just typing the information I needed into a word document in no particular order, and without any idea of where it would eventually end up in the essay.


I found that this was the only way to trick myself into being motivated. I did this by trying to reduce the amount of pressure I was putting on myself to turn out perfect work instead of a draft. It also meant that I could tell myself that I didn’t have to go and work on THE ESSAY as a big scary title that I was going to be judged on and have graded, I was just going to try and find a couple of bits of information on employment law, and I’d deal with structure when I had everything I needed.

Of course, what I ended up with was a document full of fairly good information, but in absolutely no paragraphs or linking sentences or structure what-so-ever. My motivation to do this was still severely lacking, but I did manage to work it all into some semblance of an essay. Needless to say, it wasn’t my greatest work. Usually I’d stress out about (what I saw to be) sub-standard work on my behalf, but because I’d struggled so much, I was just pleased that I’d finished the darn thing.

Retrospectively, I think the following things would have helped me if I’d done them from the beginning:

  • Had a plan! That way I wouldn’t have just been staring at a blank word document expecting my brain to work to fill it with wondrous things. I would have had an outline that I could have started by filling out a little more, and adding information. This, in turn, would have helped me to…
  • Break my assignment down into smaller pieces. Every time I thought about having to work on ‘the assessment’, it was daunting and a little bit scary. And because I wasn’t that motivated to begin with, it was easy to convince myself that it was too scary to do right now, and just not do it.


Editor’s note: Don’t forget that, if you need someone to talk to, FedUni has a free, confidential counselling service for students available at Mt Helen, Gippsland, SMB, Horsham and even by phone. You can find more information here.

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