3 Self-Motivating Strategies for Success

by Grace Dickins

When you're facing a mountain of essay papers or a long night of cramming for a big exam, the lure of video games or mindless surfing on social media becomes that much stronger. This procrastination is part and parcel of the college experience, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's unavoidable. Not sure how to rev your engine and get past your own obstacles? Here's how to break out of the "I'll do it later" cycle:

1. Keep your goals small and achievable

The idea of "thinking big" is great on motivational posters or seminars, but it can lead to a lot of self-doubt in practice. Of course you need to have a big goal to shoot for over months or years, but if that's all you have to keep you going, every stumble is going to feel equally big. Whether you decide on new, smaller goals or break your big dream into manageable chunks, step-by-step is the way to go. Once you determine what goals you're reaching for, put up post-it notes on your walls, in text books, and on your calendar to remind you of your goal. The manageable size and scope combined with firm visual deadlines may help keep you on track.

2. Determine rewards for yourself

Another poster-worthy sentiment is the idea that success is its own reward. Sure, that's great when you actually achieve your goals, but it leaves you with a pretty dismal path to tread in the meantime. Figure out milestones in your work - a paper finished, a chapter read, and so on - and give yourself a reward for meeting them. It may be as simple as a gummy bear or five minutes of web browsing (set a timer to keep yourself honest!), but dangling a carrot at the end of your own line may be the solution you've been searching for.

3. Surround yourself with positive peers

No matter how determined you may be at the beginning of a semester, spending a lot of time with people that don't share your goals can accidentally hamstring your academic progress. If your roommates or friends tend to skip classes and blow off studying, rest assured their habits will start creeping into your own. If reinventing your entire social circle isn't something you're willing or wanting to do, at least supplement it with a few motivated classmates as study buddies. While kicking back now and then is fine, try not to make a habit of any particular group outing or vice.

You are capable of hitting every goal you set out to achieve. While this trio of suggestions won't carry you to the finish line on their own, they'll certainly help you get on the right path. If you do happen to stumble, don't get caught in a loop of self-chastisement and "what if" questions, as these can easily change your entire direction for the worse. Just resolve to do better in the future, move on, and remember: the finish line doesn't move, you do.