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Academic motivation 

Find the energy and motivation to engage in academic activities 

   

Have you ever lost your motivation to study? Either for a period of time or in specific situations, for example when reading, during group work or when writing assignments? You are not alone! Motivation varies from person to person, and changes depending on time and place. Motivation energises us to perform actions and activities, and it can come from within ourselves or from the outside: 

  • Internal motivation is when the academic activity itself stimulates your interest and joy. When motivation comes from within yourself, you will have more fun doing the activities and find it easier to improve your skills. 

  • External motivation is when you are driven by an external goal, for example a good grade, praise from your teacher, prospects of a future career or competition with your fellow students. 

Being aware of what particularly motivates you – or of the kind of motivation you lack – is the first step to strengthening or winning back your motivation. 

  

Motivate yourself

Motivation won’t come on its own You have to do something actively to motivate yourself. 

At times, studying can be overwhelming and frustrating. You have to find out how to make sense of the time you spend studying. Consider what can make you want to do study-related tasks that you don’t immediately find interesting. 

Study to learn 

Think about the time you spend studying as preparation for the rest of your life. When you enter the labour market, you are going to apply the knowledge and competencies acquired during your studies. Even the things that do not seem relevant while you are studying help to develop your academic understanding and your academic skills. Consequently, it is crucial that you study to learn, and not just to get good grades in your exams. 

Learn for life (in Danish)

According to Associate Professor Per Blenker, students should feel academically motivated because "you have to learn for the life that awaits after your studies".

Find your angle (in Danish)

Carina is trying to steer her subjects and the academic literature towards something she finds exciting. 

Make your progress visible

Make sure your progress can be measured 

Making your progress visible will give you a sense of satisfaction, and this can boost your academic motivation and strengthen your efforts towards reaching your goals.  

When you are working towards a specific goal, keep track of your progress, so you always know how far you are from achieving the goal. Visualise and measure your progress using the methods suggested below. This will help create a positive environment for your work. 

   

A. Visualise your work 

The post-it method allows you to see how far you have come with the work you planned for the day or week. This method will make you feel you have achieved something, and at the same time make your work more manageable. 

What you need

What to do

  • Post-it notes 

  • A blank surface: Paper, wall, table or blackboard/whiteboard 

  • A pen or pencil  

  • Write "To do" and "Completed", either on a piece of paper, a blackboard/whiteboard or on post-its that you can stick on a wall. 

  • Write down all the things you need to do on post-its and stick them under "To do" 

  • When you have completed a task, move the post-it to "Completed" 

  

B. Fill the glass 

This method makes the time progression of your work visible. The method helps you keep to your time schedule and work more efficiently. Also, seeing how much time is left of your planned work day can be a good feeling. 

What you need

What to do

  • A jar 

  • Paper, buttons or similar 

  • A watch or clock 

  • Step 1: Plan how long you want to study 

  • Step 2: Make small balls or find buttons representing the amount of time you want to study. Each ball or button represents half an hour (vary the amount of time, if you like) 

  • Step 3: Place a ball or button in the jar after each half hour (don’t forget to allow time for breaks) 

  

C. Make a checklist 

If you make a prioritised list of your tasks and reading, you can make your progress visible by ticking off each task after completing it. This is a way to strengthen your motivation, because you can look forward to finishing, and relax when all the items in the list have been ticked off. 

Work with your mindset

Did you know that your mindset affects your motivation? 

See below (in Danish) to learn more about whether your mindset is blocking or strengthening your motivation, and not least what you can do about it. 


When you lose motivation 

At some point during their studies, most students will lose their motivation for different reasons. If you lose your motivation, one strategy to reignite your motivation can be to “Fake it till you make it”. For example, tell yourself that the topic or course is exciting, thereby making it more fun to work with. And if you can’t regain your motivation yourself, contact the Student Counsellors' Office

Watch this video (in Danish) about the effect of pretending:

Procrastination

Can procrastination be useful? 

Procrastination is a natural impulse, and we have all postponed study activities in favour of something more attractive. Some people feel guilty about procrastinating, but procrastination can actually be useful if used constructively in your work. Of course, you need to exercise self-control and make sure procrastination does not get out of hand. 

The thing is that your brain cannot perform optimally all the time, and procrastination can offer breathing space, allowing your brain to take a break and recharge, for example by taking a walk, drawing, scrolling social media or talking on the phone. When you return to your studies, you may even find that you have new ideas and that it is easier to concentrate.  

  • Allocate time for procrastination. Set an alarm for 30 minutes of concentrated work. Then allow 10 minutes for procrastination. Repeat 30 minutes of focused work and a 10-minute break. 

  • Use procrastination as a reward. Set specific goals for the day, for example by making a to-do list. Every time you complete a task on the list, reward yourself with a set period of procrastination or with something you are looking forward to doing.  

   

Understand your procrastination 

Some students postpone much of their academic work until a major deadline is approaching, for example an exam. Delaying academic work until the very last minute can cause a sense of panic because of the pressure to complete a heavy workload within a short time. Other students prefer to impose several shorter deadlines on themselves to even out the workload over the semester. This reduces exam stress because students feel better prepared and don’t have to catch up on loads of academic work just before the exam. 

Watch this video to learn more about procrastination and the sense of panic that comes with an important deadline. 

   

Boost your self-control 

There are several ways to reinforce your self-control. For example: 

  • Think of your studies as a job. Thinking of your studies as a job makes it easier for you to maintain self-discipline while you are working and to relax with a clear conscience when the work day is over. 

  • Make your tasks visible. Making your tasks visible enables you to see your progress towards your goal. 

  • Set deadlines. Deadlines can either be many short deadlines or a few longer deadlines, either for yourself or for each other in your study group. 


See also

Podcast for students

Studiekammeraten is a podcast (in Danish) for students at the university. It is about the challenges and opportunities in student life. Both of the podcast hosts are student counsellors, and in each episode, they talk to students or experts about different aspects of life as a university student. Listen to the podcast here: 

The podcast has been produced by the Student Counsellors' Office at Health. 


Practical experience relevant to your studies

Applying your academic knowledge and skills in a practical setting during your studies can strengthen your motivation. A student job, an internship or voluntary work can make your study programme seem more meaningful and prepare you for the labour market. Read more about career opportunities at your faculty