At long last, here is Part 2 of the post about common causes of feeling unmotivated when in the middle of tackling a learning project. (Part 1 is here.) And just like before, I will suggest to you some solutions to these common problems. So, if you didn’t recognize yourself or your problems anywhere in the list of that previous post, maybe today you will find out something helpful. Are you are currently feeling so blah in your project because:
You have lost perspective.
If you are absolutely sick at the sight of the books/DVDs/PC you are working with and learning with, perhaps it is because you have forgotten why you wanted to do this in the first place. If so, it’s time to talk to yourself again:
Why are you learning this subject? What did you originally hope to do with it? Do you still have an interest in or a need for this body of knowledge or set of skills?
Spend three minutes going over the answers to those questions. If your original reasons do still matter to you, then set the timer and begin studying once again. However, you might find that your old reasons are totally irrelevant now. Here is an official permission statement: Feel free to abandon the projects that do not deeply matter to you. Then, begin on one that does matter to you, and keep yourself going strong.
Perhaps you are studying for the wrong reasons. Did someone else tell you to, strongly encourage you, or strong-arm you into this endeavor? Usually, extrinsic motivation like that does not work for long, or work well. Choose projects YOU want to do, and always keep in mind why you want to do them.
You aren’t using appropriate material that works for you.
Do you know a lot about yourself? Do you know how you learn, what makes remembering things easier for you, and what you are naturally adept at?
For example, if you are an extravert who can’t sit still for two minutes together, you’ll need to respect that fact in your projects. Find what methods and materials work with your learning style and level of expertise. Don’t expect to sit down with a book and a piece of paper for three hours of uninterrupted work every morning if you are naturally sociable, in motion, and aware of everything that’s going on around you.
Always work with your temperament and natural style, not against them. Fit your projects to your personality.
You are frustrated because it is taking too long.
As they always say (rightly), patience is a virtue. Maybe you are simply looking for humungous gains in your improvement much too quickly. Realistically, it will take months to years to really get good at something. “There are no shortcuts,” as one of my favorite educational writers (and school teacher) Rafe Esquith, reminds his students. If you can be more patient with yourself, you’ll enjoy the whole journey and your explorations while you are making them.
One trick I have to use on myself is making milestones for measurement. If you are improperly measuring your progress or the size of your project, it is easy to feel like you will never, EVER make it! Solution: Establish mini-goals during your project, and ways to test yourself. (More on this below.)
I have also learned that suffering of this kind can be alleviated by accomplishing some immediate application. Find a way to use your knowledge/skill now in a small way. Send someone a photo of your half-completed project. Translate the Spanish instructions on the back of your dishwasher detergent. Write up a short article explaining everything you have learned about your topic up to now and why it is important. Find a quick way to show what you know, and document your progress. Step by step, you will achieve your goals–and each step is valuable.
You are just completely floundering and feel helpless.
Consider if for all this effort you are making to learn, what you really need is a mentor/guide/helper. Find one. Sign up for a class, hire a tutor, or enroll in a program. Sometimes we just aren’t able to do it alone, and that is okay. With your enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and hard work, you will be someone’s dream student. Mentoring will benefit both of you.
On a smaller scale, perhaps what you need is simply an accountability partner or outside structure. You need someone besides yourself to observe and measure your progress. Again, sign up for class, or perhaps you can call a bossy friend. Always remember, work with yourself, not against yourself, or in spite of yourself. You can do this! There is always a way.
You feel you don’t have a sense of accomplishment/closure.
If you can never tell if you’re done, or when you will be done, with a learning project, this is probably because your evaluation methods/measures are faulty. Maybe they don’t exist. For each project we do, we need to measure progress within it properly. Of course, some projects are easier to do this with than others. Often, books have objectives and end-of-unit reviews built in. And if you’re learning to build a model plane, for example, you can mentally gauge what percentage you are through a project, ultimately knowing that when all the pieces are glued together, it’s done.
Based on your current project, create your own milestones that make sense for you: celebrate every finished chapter, mark down every completed 25%, commemorate every newly-developed skill—and look forward to achieving each of these milestones throughout your project.
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There you go: now you have a total of ten tips to help you combat the study motivation blues. I hope you can use them to pick yourself back up and restore your zest and exhilaration to the work of your studies. Be sure to leave a comment if you think of some more!