How to stay motivated this January

Jan 2017

[Updated in 2020] 

The first week of the New Year is over already and by now most of us have slowly, perhaps begrudgingly, returned to the routine of work and school.

The festivities of Christmas and New Year already seem a distant memory and, with these frosty, wintry days, many of us are no doubt struggling to stay motivated - motivated at work; motivated to stick to our New Year's resolutions; motivated to study for exams; or simply motivated to finish the book we've been reading for the past few weeks.

So, what happens when we lack motivation? We procrastinate.

This is a common problem and worryingly it seems to be a particular difficulty for students; procrastination can be an influencing factor on students' grades, drop-out rates and mental and physical health. It is also more common amongst those who are impulsive, perfectionists burdened by other people's expectations, and/or those who are worried about failure.

Professor Tim Pychyl, a psychologist at Carleton University in Canada, is part of the Procrastination Research Group and calls it "the biggest problem in education today".

He explained how procrastination is making the choice to avoid doing something, even though we know this will cost us in the long run; therefore, rather than a physical barrier like lack of time or lack of understanding, procrastination is an emotional barrier, a thought process - it is a mindset.

This may explain why younger people are more affected as they are still developing the ability to control their emotions.

Luckily, mindsets can be influenced and changed, and there are lots of ways we can reduce our own, and our child's likelihood to procrastinate, and instead turn these negative, wandering thoughts and feelings into motivational ones.

Break a task down into clear, manageable steps:

You should break a task into manageable steps and set yourself a clear structure on how you are going to complete it or achieve your goal. That way you don't feel overwhelmed or daunted by the sheer size of the task.

A plan will not only help you get over the initial apprehension but will offer you many mini-triumphs along the way which will serve as even greater motivation.

Get their buy-in:

With your child, have an open discussion about their lack of focus. Here you can speak about the value to be gained from following the task/activity through to the end: will it help them with their future aspirations?

They need to see the importance of completing the task for themselves. If you get their buy in they will also be more likely to commit their time and effort to the task and finish it to a higher standard.

If you are struggling to keep on course, have the same conversation with yourself, and remind yourself exactly why you set this goal in the first place, and why you care about achieving it.

Offer an incentive:

A big factor which will help your child stay on task is a reward. Rather than taking away their toys or gadgets for bad behaviour, why not offer them rewards for demonstrating good behaviour.

If they know for example that after they complete their homework they will be allowed to watch their favourite television programme, they will be better motivated to complete it. Once you know what works best as a motivator you can build your rewards around that.

The Kumon Maths and English Programmes aim to develop independent learners who are able to focus and concentrate on an activity for a sustained period of time, and see it through to the end. In completing their worksheets, not only do the students get into the routine of daily study, they develop the mindset, perseverance, and positive attitude to stay motivated on a task. In each new topic they master, the students see for themselves the real differences their efforts and commitment to their Kumon study are having, both academically and personally, and this encourages them to continue striving to reach their full potential.

Let's make this year a success by staying motivated!