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motivation to do homework

How To Get Motivated To Do Homework

August 2020



Article by Herman Barnes

Article by Herman Barnes

Northeastern's Human Services program graduate, Herman Barnes contributes to our blog pro bono. He sees his mission in helping students prepare for academic careers by providing them with experience and skill-based background required for successful studying and research.

The best kind of motivation is intrinsic motivation. You do something because it’s fun to do. In a perfect world, homework should be fun and you would do it because you enjoy it – just like you play games or scroll your feed. However, we don’t live in the perfect world, so how to find motivation to do homework is an age-old question.

If you are one of those lucky few who either love doing homework or are strong-willed enough to soldier on – just skip this post. It’s specifically for those who have no motivation to do homework but wish they had.

Why Should I Do My Homework?

Finding your own answer to this question is the key to finding your motivation for homework. “Because the teacher told me so” or “because I’m supposed to” won’t do – otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. How about these to motivate yourself?

Because good grades will help me get my dream job

Some subjects are more interesting than others. Some are flat-out boring you out of your wits. However, you can evaluate the usefulness of a subject for your personal goals. For example, Math is not everyone’s jam, but it is required to do so many exciting things! You want to design games? You need math to balance them. You want to design buildings and urban spaces? You need math. You want to launch spaceships? Math again.

Whenever you are down on motivation, think about what you are working towards – be it a college degree or your big dream – and say to yourself “I do my homework to achieve that one day!”

Because I need to know this stuff

Some of the things they make your learn are just essential for you to lead a healthy and safe life. If everyone knew their Physics, we wouldn’t have so many domestic accidents – with electric outlets, exploding microwaves, burning oil, shattered hot dishes, and so on. If everyone knew their English, we would know how to put our thoughts into words and would understand each other better. If everyone knew their History, there would be much less hate and conflict.

Because it makes me smarter

Homework may seem stupid, but it teaches you things you need to know – even if this is not immediately evident. It shapes your thinking.

You think that memorizing the morphology of a flower or blood-vascular system of a frog is a waste of time? It teaches you systems thinking. Geometry? – Logic and pattern recognition. Literature? Social and emotional intelligence. Math problems? Problem-solving, duh!

You think you won’t need half of what you learn at school in real life? Spot on! Yet you will need all the skills you acquire along with it.

What If I Don’t Want To Do My Homework Anyway?

“What if I know why I should, but I can’t make myself do my homework? Last week I didn’t do my homework because I just couldn’t! I set there at the desk and tried to concentrate – and just nothing!”

I’ve been waiting for that question. Mindfulness and reasoning don’t always do the trick. Sometimes, you need something a little bit more practical.

How To Do Homework When You Don’t Want To

Procrastination tricks even the most reasonable of us into hours of unproductive fiddling. Overcoming it is hard work in itself, but boy does it pay off! Here are the arguments to reason with yourself.

In two-hour time I want to be free

If you give in to your desire for instant gratification, you know you will let yourself down. Just a bit of fun before you start working! And where do you find yourself later? The same pile of work to do, minus two hours, plus a ton of guilt for failing the mission. Is it where you want to be?

Instead, try to imagine the sense of achievement. Imagine how you will feel when your work is already done. Imagine how proud you are of yourself and how cool it is to play and do whatever you want when you are free! Positive reinforcement is the best motivation!

Well begun is half done

To start is the hardest part. Yet once you are in the flow, it gets easier to continue. This is the simple truth behind the above English proverb, Japanese kaizen principle, and the pomodoro technique invented by an Italian student.

Set a timer to 15 or 25 minutes, and – this is important! – concentrate on the task at hand until the timer runs out. No excuses! Only 15 minutes – this is not hard. When the time will run out, chances are high that you will choose to continue and gather momentum.

I owe it to my future self

Think of it this way – by procrastinating, you postpone unpleasant tasks for a little while only to dump them all on your future self. Your future self won’t appreciate that. No one appreciates being a scapegoat.

You lie to yourself that eating ice cream or watching YouTube instead of doing homework is self-care, while real self-care would be literally caring for your [future] self and doing that homework right now.

How Do You Not Be Lazy To Do Homework

There is no such thing as laziness. Laziness simply does not exist. If you are going out of your way to avoid doing homework, try to find the reason for this aversion.

Are you well-rested?

If you cannot collect your thoughts no matter how hard you try, chances are you are tired or sleep-deprived. Nothing undermines our cognitive ability as a lack of proper rest. If you have enough sleep but still don’t feel refreshed, try tracking the amount of deep sleep. This is the most essential phase for memory and learning. You should have 1 to 2 hours of deep sleep every night.

If you have less, something in your environment must be getting in the way – streetlights in the window, noises in the street, uncomfortable pillow, high temperature in the room. Look around you and fix that.

Are you hungry/thirsty?

As the saying goes, a sharp stomach makes short devotion. You cannot concentrate on anything if your basic biological needs aren’t met. So go ahead, grab some healthy snack, drink a glass of water – but make it quick. You don’t want to make an excuse out of it.

Are you comfortable?

If you keep fidgeting and don’t seem to find a comfortable position, maybe you need to change the place where you study. Check if the desk and the chair are of the right height for you. Make sure your environment does not bother you. Loud colors, distracting noises, or strong smells (even the pleasant ones) can ruin the focus.

Are you just okay?

If you find doing homework and household chores harder than it used to be and feel apathetic towards things that used to bring you joy, this might be a sign that you are depressed. Try to think what could upset you. Maybe it’s something at the back of your mind that you forgot.

If there are no apparent reasons, you might want to see a doctor about it. Don’t just shrug it off. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues in teens and young adults.

How Do You Focus On Homework Without Getting Distracted

Now that you got yourself to do the homework, you must make sure that nothing distracts you. Here are the things to do.

Use music strategically

Music can be a great helper, but sometimes it is too distracting. Don’t listen to the radio when you are trying to concentrate. Create a study playlist of calm instrumental music. Leave songs with captivating lyrics or dance rhythms for breaks.

Get your phone out of sight

Turn it off, put it under the pillow, at least mute the notifications, and set the “Do not disturb” status in all your messengers. Don’t get near it for the two hours that you intend to study. Seriously, it makes wonders. Also, tell your family/roommates that you are studying and will be available for socializing later.

Make breaks

Keeping focus for hours straight is a fool’s errand. Your brain will find ways to distract itself. To avoid this, make a 10-15 minute break every hour to freshen up and regain concentration.

Don’t run away with it. If you tend to slip back into procrastination mode – set a timer to make sure you are not making your breaks unproductively long.

Don’t be afraid

One of the most common reasons people procrastinate is fear of failure. The task just seems too daunting, or too complicated, or too big. Don’t let it intimidate you. Break it into smaller tasks and do it one by one. If you have a term project, set aside time in your schedule when you will work on it. Two hours every week – that doesn’t sound as bad as “twenty pages by the end of the term”, does it?

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