Skip to main content

You’re at home with a second cup of coffee, facing a blank page and a deadline. You really want to do the task, but just can’t seem to get started. Meanwhile, a friend has told you she wants to look for a better job but procrastinates instead. And, a cousin who was eager to start college now wants to quit.

Surely, you’re the one with high motivation. Right? Not so. Freezing, procrastinating, and quitting are all degrees of low motivation.

Common wisdom says desire should be enough to motivate action. But motivation is more than an on-off, “want” switch. It’s the psychic fuel that comes from our reactions to five, situational factors. Specifically, it’s the value, focus, control, confidence, and enjoyment we experience during an activity. Any single, low factor is enough to sack our drive. Combine several and our no-go reactions can take us from freeze to quit in seconds.

Real know-how is the fill up station. It takes just two steps: notice when a factor dips and re-energize with appropriate strategies. To notice your gauges, ask questions like those below and rate your reactions. Then, use any energizing strategy to refill those 1-3 levels that are holding you back.


Do you value this task(s)? Is it relevant to you and your personal goals? Do you have a plan? Will achievement bring valuable rewards?

Rate your reactions:

scale of 1 (worthless) to 5 (worthwhile)

Energizing strategies to try:

  1. Describe what the finished work adds to your life.
  2. Plan out your work steps.
  3. Set and state goals that matter.
  4. Identify rewards you want. Hint: If the task(s) don’t light your desire, plan to give yourself an achievement treat or gift that will.


Are you paying attention to the task? Or are you distracted? Do you know how to do the job? Are you using the best methods and resources for the assignment? Are you single tasking? Have you turned off all electronics and eliminated other interruptions?

Rate your reactions:

scale of 1 (distracted) to 5 (focused)

Energizing strategies to try:

  1. Identify what’s distracting you; eliminate or at least put aside those disruptors.
  2. Improve your environment, methods, and tools.
  3. Start with something so easy, it can’t fail, like reviewing the directions, taking notes, planning your steps.
  4. Concentrate! Focus your thoughts on the task and what you’re doing.


Do you have the power and control to work your own way? Are you directing your own progress? What choices can you make to do high quality work? Do the task size and deadlines seem manageable?

Rate your reactions:

scale of 1 (impossible) to 5 (doable)

Energizing strategies to try:

  1. Break large jobs into small steps.
  2. Spread the steps out over time.
  3. Work in short time blocks.
  4. Add creativity to make the tasks your own. Hint: Even using colored pens or fonts, adding pictures, or labeling the parts can up your sense of control and the motivation that goes with it.


Do you believe you can succeed? Are you giving yourself positive messages about the task, your abilities, and the outcome(s)? Are you thinking of similar, past successes? Do you believe that you can learn or overcome whatever is difficult?

Rate your reactions:

scale of 1 (I can't) to 5 (I can)

Energizing strategies to try:

  1. Watch your mind at work. When things don’t work well, change your approach.
  2. Improve your efficiency or the quality of your work. Use resources like You Tube videos or experts who know more than you do.
  3. Think of past experiences where you have succeeded.
  4. Give yourself a pep talk! Make sure your self-talk is positive and encouraging, especially about your abilities.
  5. Realize that others have struggled and then learned to succeed. So can you!


Are you stressed? Have you been taking care of your physical, psychological, and social needs? Are you using the easiest and best methods? Are you excited about the opportunities this project brings? Do you have time to do a job you’ll be proud of ? Are there others who will appreciate your efforts?

Rate your reactions:

scale of 1 (stressful) to 5 (pleasurable)

Energizing strategies to try:

  1. Use stress management techniques like breaks, music, or better task management.
  2. Take better care of yourself.
  3. Use tools and methods that are easy, even fun. Adopt the ones that pros use.
  4. Think about the advantages growth and progress will bring.
  5. Manage your time by identifying doable, small tasks and spreading them out over time.
  6. Let others know what you’re doing and ask for their support and encouragement.
  7. Plan a celebration when you’ve finished the job.

In the End…

Motivation is like getting healthier. There’s a lot of things you can do that will make a positive difference. Some involve changes in your point of view. Most involve actions that change your experience. And both increase your self-motivation skills.

In short, the motivation filling station is your ability to create:

  • VALUE – a sense of task worth
  • FOCUS – the ability to concentrate at will
  • CONTROL – a sense of personal power
  • CONFIDENCE – a belief in your own abilities
  • ENJOYMENT – an experience of pleasure

Eliminate Back-to-School Stress! How?

With our 5-lesson SMART Start Tutor-Coaching program.

– Guided Self Assessment
– 5 One-on-One Coaching Sessions
– 7 Digital Tools for Success

Learn More

About the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)

The USDLA, a 501(c) 3 non-profit association formed in 1987, reaches 20,000 people globally with sponsors and members operating in and influencing 46% of the $913 billion. U.S. education and training market. USDLA promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training and serves the needs of the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking, and opportunity. Distance learning and training constituencies served include pre-K-12 education, home schooling, higher education, and continuing education, as well as business, corporate, military, government, and telehealth markets.