Saturday, December 14th, 2019...12:16 am

A Motivated State of Mind

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It is that time of year where there are final papers and assignments to write and exams to mark. Compared to time spent writing or in the lab, it can be much more appealing to get cozy in bed as the holidays draw near or join in on the various holiday festivities.

Anyone else having trouble with motivation during this time? Know that you are NOT alone and look no further than this post for a little motivation to keep you going!

Through my years as a psychology student I have come across some books from classes that have turned out to be useful beyond just needing to read them for the class.

One of those books is Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation” by Edward L. Deci. This book helped me to understand why there are times where motivation feels absent and little ways that can help me to get back into gear. I wanted to share some of the information in this book with you, my fellow grad student!

We love Autonomy!

Humans have a need for autonomy, that is to be able to make decisions because we want to, a sense of independence and control over our actions.

When we feel autonomous we tend to embrace an activity with a sense of personal interest. It is hard to feel fully autonomous in our work when we have deadlines to meet.  As it approaches, we are acting not so much out of interest for what we are doing, but because of the time pressure. This is part of the reason why motivation can be so lacking leading up to a deadline.

The fix

A quick way to help boost motivation in these situations could be to remind yourself how the task aligns with something you are interested in or that you value. Here are some others:

  • Take a moment to remind yourself what makes you passionate about your degree and try and see that one paper or assignment or time in the lab as part of that. What is the rationale for doing a given activity? What will you gain from doing it that aligns with what is important to you?
  • As you write a paper, consider if you are writing on a topic that is personally interesting, that ignites genuine curiosity. 
  • Find ways to increase your degree of choice – choosing when to do your work, the environment you work in, how long you work on it and what you decide to write about are some ways that you can increase your sense of autonomy 

Motivation doesn’t just come from techniques, it has to come from within ourselves and making the choice to do something because we want to and see the value. Motivation in this way is likely to have long term effects as well as short term.

Another great way to stay motivated is through a supportive social environment. Here are some helpful groups for grad students on campus!

Graduate Writing Groups 

Gather with your fellow graduate students who are also getting some writing done and help keep each other motivated. To register, just send an email to . There are some coming up this weekend! To see more, visit the gradlife event calendar 

Grading Jams 

In similar fashion, join fellow graduate students who are also doing some grading. A quiet space, coffee/tea, and snacks will be provided! Free for U of T grad student TAs and CIs. The last week of grading jams is next week. To sign up and to check out the various times coming up at the gradlife events calendar 

Whatever you’re trying to motivate yourself to get done, I believe in you! I hope that you are also able to find the time to do something for yourself this weekend as well.

Talk soon,


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