It’s Sunday afternoon. You have a big test tomorrow and you’re worried about your grade in the class. You don’t want to disappoint your parents, either. But. But. You just can’t get out of your chair and get your school books. It’s so much easier to just sit and play on your phone or watch Netflix or hang out with your friends. You know that you are making a mistake, but just can’t get yourself motivated to get up and work.
You are not alone. Have you ever been on Quora? It’s a public forum where people can ask and answer questions. I’ve been answering questions recently, trying to help out teens. In the last week, kids have asked: How can I become good at school? How do I stop gaming and get my life together as a teenager? How can I get motivated to study and get better grades?
Just like many teens, they want to do better in school, but they don’t know how to start. Let’s start by talking about motivation. Motivation has to come from within. Motivation to change must come from within. Click To TweetWhile extrinsic (outward) rewards work for the short-term, the only way to make long-term changes is to motivate yourself. What do you want? How do you want to change?
If you’re happy with your life the way it is, you aren’t going to change. If you’re unhappy, though, you want to make changes in your life and are more likely to actually make those positive changes.
Before we get started with the big stuff: I made a FREE worksheet for you to write down your own goals and action steps. So, click below and grab that worksheet. I’ll wait.
Got the worksheet? Awesome! Let’s dive in:
See the forest (big picture): Long-term goals
How do you want to change? Think about goals that appeal to you – if it’s your mom’s goal, not yours, you probably won’t achieve it. Do you have a career in mind? What kind of education do you need to achieve that career? What grades and classes do you need in high school to get into college/ technical school/ the armed forces? Remember, this needs to be a long-term goal that YOU WANT.
See the trees (details): Short-term SMART goals
People who are successful make short-term goals that help them achieve their long-term goals. You can’t go from failing to top student overnight – it takes time and lots of baby steps to make that transition.
Research has shown that the most effective goals are
- S – Specific; the goal is clearly defined
- M – Measurable; how will you know you have attained your goal? Include percentages and/ or letter grades
- A – Attainable; Can you reasonably achieve your goal? If you set a goal that you cannot achieve, you will lose your motivation quickly.
- R – Relevant; does this goal relate to your long-term goals?
- T – Timely; Set a time or date to complete the goal by
Write an action plan!
Goals are great, but if you don’t know HOW you are going to achieve them, nothing happens. Now make a list of everything you need to do to accomplish your SMART goal. It might look something like this:
Common action steps include studying, taking notes, reading the textbook, and getting organized. Don’t know how? Check out some of my posts that might help:
- 6 Study Techniques Every Student Should Know
- Completely Change Your Studying with a Study Plan
- How to Take Control of your Test Anxiety
- Instant Organization with a Homework Folder
- How to Take Notes like a Pro
Build in small rewards for yourself when you complete an action step. The bigger the step, the bigger the reward. Your reward could be 15 minutes of playing your favorite game, watching a 30-minute show on Netflix, or getting an ice cream cone. Notice that these rewards are inexpensive and can be given immediate.
Writing your goal is the easiest part. Oh, the follow through is the harder part. Place your goal worksheet someplace you will see it on a regular basis – your bathroom mirror or the fridge door work well. Check the action steps and cross off steps as you complete them. (Nothing feels quite as satisfying as crossing something off a list!) Share your goals with someone else – your parents, friends, or teachers, etc. They can provide support and advice (and high fives!) as you as you complete your goal.
After the time period is up, reevaluate your goal. Did you achieve it? Did you need more or less time? What was the easiest part? The hardest part? Were there obstacles in the way? How did you work around those obstacles? After some reflection, make another SMART goal.
After a few rounds, you will begin to see significant progress. Once you start to see that success, it get so much easier to keep going. Believe me, the hardest part is getting started. If you want to make changes, you are halfway there.