Being motivated to study by yourself if you’re not interested in a certain subject, or in studying at all can be difficult. Especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, where the motivation coming from the classroom, study groups, seminars, or lectures you’re part of is no longer seeming to affect you as well. What can we do to help stay motivated during this time, and to keep up with some of the work that needs to be done?

There are two different types of motivation:

Intrinsic motivation: this is motivation that comes from within you. It is often the kind of motivation you have for doing things that you personally enjoy. It doesn’t matter if other people like or dislike them, because you want to do these things regardless.

Extrinsic motivation: this is motivation that comes from other people. By them setting goals for you and checking up on you, they keep you motivated. Also, someone else’s intrinsic motivation can rub off on you, and work as a form of extrinsic motivation, to help stay motivated to do something.

For example, if your friend was very good at cycling, and you decided that you wanted to beat him so you trained really hard, this would be a kind of intrinsic motivation. If your friend challenged you to beat him, and then encouraged you with your training, this would be extrinsic motivation.

When studying by yourself, you will find that you use both types of motivation. There might be a particular subject that you enjoy a lot, and you will end up staying motivated to work on this subject throughout the year, without needing other people to help you. You may also find that certain subjects are really difficult, and you feel as if you’re not interested in studying quite as much for these subjects. Thus, it can be useful to have some kind of group motivation to help you in working on these subjects and tasks.
If the work is piling up and you’re finding it hard to get started, here are six tips for creating some extrinsic motivation to help you start self-studying:

  • Get a friend to hold you accountable to the goals or aims you set yourself. When you promise someone else you are going to do something, you are much more likely to do it.
  • Start an online study group where each day you discuss what you’ve done and what you plan to do the next day.
  • Find someone who loves the subject you’re not so interested in, and get them to teach you some things.
  • Start a group chat where you can post your problems or challenges and discuss these with others as you go.
  • Get your parents to help you stick to a schedule that you make.
  • Find a set of videos online that are engaging and teaching you the content you need to learn (there are thousands out there if you search for the topic you want to learn!).

In short, if you let others know that you’re struggling to stay motivated with something, often they will be able to get you excited again and you can continue working together to keep each other motivated. And if you’re both not excited to study, then you’ll be able to work together to find creative ways to get things done.

Above all, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be at peak performance. The way you are working is, and will be different for the next month or so.


Jack might live in Paris and might be seen philosophising at a cafe or discussing culture and the arts in an alleged hipster hangout… Free spirit, lover of good things: mostly exploring our incredible natural environment.