7 Tips for Getting Motivated to Learn

Driven to Learn
Part 2 of 3

Your dog died. Your mom is sick. You just started a new job. Your family’s getting ready to move. You’re sure you’ve just met the love of your life….

Feeling a little distracted and unmotivated to do your schoolwork? That’s natural. It’s hard to stay focused, even when life is fairly normal. When the distractions of life tend to keep you sidetracked, get moving again with some of the following suggestions.

1. Don’t let others be a bad influence.

“Live for the moment.” “Forget that stupid class.” “Don’t you want to have some fun?”  “School’s a joke!” 

Letting your friends or classmates convince you to skip class or to go out instead of studying for an important test will not get you very far. Don’t let them tell you what you want. You know what you want. 

Remember: In the long run, it won’t matter if you pass up one evening out to get fast food with your buddies. They’ll be going out again. But if you pass up your chance to study for the test, you’ll be giving up a chance to do your best.

If you want to do well in life, you can. If you want to learn and to complete your education, then you can. Keep your ultimate goals in mind and stand your ground when others try to lead you astray. 

2. Keep your curiosity alive.

What are you interested in? What piques your curiosity? What do you question or doubt? Getting an education isn’t just about test scores and grades. Occasionally go beyond what your teachers require or what your textbook tells you. Ask questions. If your teachers don’t know, find out the truth for yourself. Do your own research. Find out more. 

3. Change your situation.

When you find yourself completely unmotivated, you may need to change your situation. When you have a choice, seek out instructors who will inspire and encourage you; avoid those with whom you don’t seem to connect. If you find yourself with a teacher you feel isn’t the best for you, try changing your class schedule. Don’t be afraid to drop a class and add another.

Check out the schools in your area for specialized classes or programs that might move you in the right direction. One of the largest public high schools in Kentucky, for example, provides an extended campus for career-based curriculum programs such as pre-engineering, biomedical science, and media arts. You might also want to consider private school, a special charter school, homeschool, or traveling to a school out of your district. Explore all the possibilities. Making a change might provide just the inspiration you need.

4. Reward yourself on a daily basis.

What things do you enjoy each day? Use these as incentives for completing your school work:  “When I finish my algebra homework, I’ll go and play the piano for half an hour.” Or, “First, I’ll get ready for the history test, and then I’ll check out that new computer game.” If it helps, reward yourself each time you complete a task.

5. Be accountable to others, as well as to yourself.

Of course, your parents might already be keeping you accountable to some degree. If not, involve them a little more when possible. Although you must take responsibility for your schoolwork, your parents might be willing to help keep you on track. Inform them of important due dates, for example, and have them check on your progress as the dates approach. 

Or you might try Allen’s method. Although he wanted to do well in school, he knew he spent too much time playing computer games. One evening he closed up his laptop and handed it to his mother, “Mom, please put this away and don’t let me have it until I’ve finished my homework.” 

You and your friends can hold each other accountable too. Form a study group and promise to meet at particular times throughout the semester. Or ask your best friend to text you during your homework time to make sure you’re working.

6. Utilize your talents and abilities.

Do you have an essay to write or a speech to make? Pick a topic that you love or that you already know a lot about. Is music your passion? Be creative and use your talent to make your next class presentation. Love to cook? Ask your French teacher if you can whip up a batch of crepes to serve to the class for extra credit.

7. Remember your dreams.

What are your dreams for the future?

Perhaps, you dream of writing the great American novel one day. You love writing fiction, but you feel stifled with the writing assignments you’re given in school. That’s understandable!  When you’re writing that essay, though, remember that those writing skills you’re learning and perfecting—even those boring grammar rules—can be applied to all of your fiction writing.

If you want to design computer games, you’ll need to develop storytelling abilities. So instead of balking at the next plot development study in English literature class, learn something from it.  See it as an opportunity to gain a valuable skill for what you really want to do.

Maybe you’re interested in athletic training. You’ll need to understand how the human body works, so you should stay well motivated to complete those labeling projects in anatomy class. 

And if you have no idea where you’re headed, undertaking your studies with at least a little interest can give you some direction. Tackle your courses—both required classes and electives—with an open mind. The knowledge, ideas, and experience you gain from them might help you discover your dreams.

The next time you find your motivation waning, remind yourself how the things you’re learning now could be useful in the pursuit of your future goals. Perhaps you’ll find the daily grind of school a bit more bearable. 

Need more help? Check out 7 more tips in part 3 of Driven to Learn.

Written by Beth Prassel-Sieg

Part 1:
8 Things Your Teacher Won't Tell You About Education
Driven to Learn
Part 3:
7 More Tips to Keep You Going in School
Driven to Learn 

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Good habits formed at youth make all of the difference in life. Aristotle