Loyola Students are about to embark on a period of final exams and a barrage of due dates that will fill every waking moment and even steal some sleepy ones. This process will be difficult for the C student, just as it is for the A student. Working toward long term goals such as earning a high grade in Organic Chemistry or graduating with a degree in Creative Writing are tough. While we are built for achieving long term goals (see: Pyramids, Great Wall of China, that 10 page research paper that wouldn’t write itself), it takes a certain amount of motivation to get there.
Motivation is tricky. I do not suggest using the same strategies that the builders of the Pyramids used to earn A’s on your upcoming finals. I’m a pragmatist at heart, so truthfully, I recommend anything that works – but let me tell you what experience and research say are the most effective.
Behavioral research shows that motivation to start and continue a task is best done through carrots… or reinforcements. Receiving compliments, eating snacks, taking Netflix breaks, scheduling video game time outs, taking naps, going for walks outside, going for walks inside, skipping ahead to an easier assignment, talking with a friend, going to the gym, deciding to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, going for a meal with friends, having a cup of coffee, getting a high five, receiving a high five, going for a drive, going for a streetcar ride… the list goes on… are all better ways to build rewards into your study habits instead of punishing yourself through procrastination, sleep deprivation, locking yourself in a room, failing a test, avoiding telling your parent why you earned a D on that paper, telling your parent that you earned a D on that paper, feeling guilty for taking the undeserved videogame break, missing meals, isolating yourself socially, no one giving you a high five, pounding your 3rd Red Bull of the morning, taking Adderall when it is not prescribed to you or writing run-on sentences. Why is this? Because, we are better at avoiding punishments than learning from them. This will always be true, but it is especially true when we are not aware of the meaning behind why we are at Loyola.
When your internal reason is your center, you can put the extra hours into studying and not feel like you are sacrificing or being punished. Studying and learning can become reinforcements in and of themselves. You no longer avoid the anxiety (read procrastination) but face it and make your way through it. Pretty soon, you’ll be on your way to earning that A in Organic Chemistry and designing plans for your next Pyramid.