Motivation is a slippery little sucker

by Jun 25, 2021

Motivation is a slippery little sucker. Sometimes I feel like I have a good grasp on motivation and I use it to do all the things. Other days it is nowhere to be found. NO. WHERE. So what do you do when you have really important things to do (um, like study) and you just can’t find the motivation to get going? You might feel something like this:

I decided to look into what exactly motivation is and how I could find it when I needed it the most. Some would call this smart, I call it procrastination. Nevertheless, it proved pretty useful. I found three things that I thought were really handy.


1. Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation, also known as internal motivation, can be described as the force that leads you to achieve because of personal satisfaction or desire.

For example, I like coffee. Actually I LOVE coffee. I love coffee so hard that I will get up earlier than usual to get into the city just to go to the best coffee place to get my almond flat white (which they sometimes write on the cup as AF, always leading me to think that’s right! Coffee is awesome AF!).

It would be great if my motivation levels to tackle each day were as strong as my motivation to drink a good cup of coffee. But they’re not. Why is that?

I look at it like this: my internal motivation to do what I do is really big picture. If you’re studying to become nurse, you might be doing so because you feel this is your calling, something you’re really passionate about. You are internally driven to learn and experience what you need to become a nurse.

However, this doesn’t mean you LOVE every subject in your degree. You don’t have that same burning passion that motivated you to enrol in your degree to attend your 9am Monday lecture.  So what do you do to get through the bits you’re not motivated to do, to get to the stuff that you really desire?


2. Extrinsic motivation

Enter extrinsic (or external) motivation! I LOVE external motivation because it can mean rewards like treats or more coffee! External motivation can be really useful to keep you going in the short-term and help you get through the not-so-interesting parts so you can get moving towards the interesting stuff.

Goal setting can be a really great external motivational tool to help you keep going. I am an anxiety-driven over-achiever (it’s possibly because of the coffee but…sshhh) and I often think about how I am going to achieve ALL THE THINGS in one go.

The point is that I am not going to. Goal setting, or chunking the task into smaller goals is so much easier to tackle. I personally think the best part is about goal setting (apart from the treats I give myself) is:


3. Self-efficacy

The third important thing I learnt from my procrastination research is that any motivation needs to be moderated by self-efficacy. Essentially, you need to believe in your abilities and competencies.

So, unfortunately all those ‘You can do it! Be your best self!’ up-chuck inducing motivational quotes you see floating around your socials have a bit of truth to them. How? According to an article in Positive Psychology: “Self-efficacy determines how we think and feel about ourselves.”

You can build all the skills and knowledge you want, but if you keep thinking that you can’t achieve what you want to, you will be unhappy and you will lack the confidence to get things done.


So now when I’m feeling unmotivated to do all the things in my life, I know the best way forward is to break down the tasks into small achievable ones and ensure I am significantly rewarded for what I do achieve on those low-motivation days.

Created a check-list of what I need to do? Yep – this definitely deserves a break and a large cup of coffee while I whisper to myself ‘you got this girl!’


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

By Rachel Yasmineh

By Rachel Yasmineh

Project Manager

Rachel Yasmineh is a Project Manager for UTS Careers. She has been working in Student Engagement in Higher Education for more than a decade. Rachel is dedicated to delivering the best and most valuable university experience to students as they make their journey through university and beyond.