Finding the motivation from within

A lot of students come and ask me for help in getting motivated. So many in fact that the old cliché of if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that I’d be a millionaire would apply. As I’m not getting a dollar for each question there is no point in keeping the answer a secret so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.

A lot of people think that motivation comes solely from the reward. So in workplaces the higher the salary offered the better the performance. If we applied this logic then the higher the reward for students would be the higher percentage of your final grade awarded to the task. But this isn’t the case, in fact the higher the percentage of the final grade on one task often leads to increased anxiety, greater time spent procrastinating and worse performance. Why is this? It could be that when the task is simple and doesn’t require abstract, complicated, creative cognition required the higher the reward the better the performance but as soon as we move past mechanical skill into above rudimentary cognition this is no longer the motivator.

So if not reward then what? I’ve watched a TED talk and another Youtube clip this past week which indicates that the motivating factors include autonomy, mastery and purpose. Whilst these clips both refer to motivators in the workplace they are very similar to those at play in learning and education. When you are studying you are more motivated when you have some choice in how you learn, so allowing a combination of ways to access materials or a number of different assessment questions where a student can choose from can help this. However not all programs and courses lend themselves to this so you need to find autonomy of the task in other ways, like scheduling your own time to complete work or finding the best way to prepare for exams. When studying you also need to feel competent, so seeking feedback from academic staff on your direction for an assessment or performance in tutorials and labs prior to assessment due dates or exams will help motivate you towards goal completion. The opportunity to further develop a skill when you know you have already made some progress towards the end goal is motivating in itself.

Finally, the goal has to match your values system or your purpose. We all have a desire to contribute to something which is bigger than ourselves. So if you are struggling with motivation ask yourself why you started studying? Why you chose this degree? What are your big end picture goals? If it’s just getting the degree or ticking off a box maybe the struggle with motivation may be more about not being clear about that bigger picture.

Now that you understand motivation you’re all set for success right? Well maybe not all set, but a little closer. Check out these inspiration or motivational quotes to help you on the journey – there is something for everyone!


Better storage and recall

Why wait until the end of semester to start preparing for those end of semester exams? Why leave all the work till the last minute? Now is the perfect time to start getting your resources ready for review and concentrating on developing better encoding and recall skills of the information already covered this semester.

If you’re interested in enhancing your encoding and recall strategies then try some of the Mnemonics (techniques to improve your memory) below:

  • Using Rhymes or songs – the memory uses acoustic encoding to recall these making them easier to recall. In the case of rhymes the terminal sounds are similar at the end of each line. For example:

Thirty days has September

April, June and November

All the rest have 31

Save February with 28 days clear

and 29 in a leap year

  • Imagery and diagrams – draw an image or use flowcharts to identify processes rather than words. You can use the image to recall the words stored with each image. Check out the Food pyramid as an example of how to use these.
  • Chunking and Organisation – The memory is limited to approximately 7 pieces of information. Grouping them together in categories or smaller chunks makes them easier to recall. For example break down the facts around arthritis into symptoms, diagnostic criteria and treatment options.
  • Acronyms – use the first letter/s of each word to make an acronym to remember a series or order of events. For example using EGBDF (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge) to recall the order of music notes.
  • Method of Loci – imagine a place or route that you are familiar with, like the one on your way to university. Now associate each landmark on this journey with a different concept you need to recall for an exam. Make sure you put them in order if that is also important.


These are just a few tips, you can read about some of these in more details here. If you are interested in additional tips check out our Enhancing Cognitive Functioning tipsheet.

Student led anxiety support group

One of the things I love most about working at UON is the enthusiasm and commitment of the students in not only achieving academically but in supporting one another in getting through the daily stressors. This week I’ve learned about two such students who have under the guidance of one of the counsellors at UON and The WayAhead group put together a support group for students who experience stress and anxiety.

The group, which is free, is designed to provide a welcoming and safe space for people who are, or have experienced anxiety or stress. The group provides a confidential and non-judgmental setting that is open to everybody. Many people who suffer from anxiety or stress feel that they are alone and no one understands their dread and fear.The support group hopes to  show students that they are not alone in their experiences. It is not a therapeutic group, but rather a discussion and sharing of personal experiences.

The group will run every fortnight on a Tuesday from 12:30-2pm at the Glasshouse. There will be free tea, coffee, biscuits and fruit along with resources to share.  Each week will cover a different theme:

Week 4 (Tuesday 16th August) Anxiety and University Life – Life Hacks for Uni

Week 6 (Tuesday 30th August) Student Wellbeing, mindfulness, relaxation Week 8 (Tuesday 13th September) RUOK day: starting a conversation about mental health with your friends and family. We ask ‘are you okay?’

2nd week holidays (Tuesday 27th September) Self-Awareness Month/Accepting yourself/ Managing stress around assessments and final projects

Week 10 (Tuesday 11th October) Mental Health Week – Creating awareness of mental health, what have been your experiences?

Week 12 (Tuesday 25th October) Preparing for Exams: talking about the tips and strategies that help you stay healthy during exams

Exam Period (Tuesday 8ths November) Managing Exam Stress/Coping Strategies/Sleep

If you want more information then contact Taylor on or show up on the day and say hello in person.

Money Management

For all of you who want some tips on making your money last you might be interested in attending a workshop on Callaghan Campus this week. The Workshop runs on Wednesday 17th August at 10, 12 and 2pm at the Glasshouse.

If the workshop isn’t for you but you want to have a chat to centrelink about your payments or an inquiry you have then individual consultations are also available.

To register for this and find out more click here.

Breaking the myths about alcohol

Tomorrow is the biggest day of Autonomy week at UON. For students this day is a chance to relax, enjoy a break from study and have a few drinks. Last year at this time I posted some resources for responsible drinking so this year I thought I might correct a few assumptions people make about alcohol and drinking behaviour:

  1. Mixing alcohol with energy drinks will increase the effects of alcohol –  FALSE, the caffeine in the energy drinks masks the sedative effect of alcohol that tells you when to stop drinking so it will delay you feeling the high not enhance the effects of alcohol.
  2. Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear – FALSE, it’s the amount you drink not the order you consume it in. Drinking too quickly will make you sick so pace yourself.
  3. Darker drinks are always healthier – FALSE, whilst they can have more antioxidants they can also contribute to a worse handover as a result of the fermentation process.
  4. Dark beer is always higher in alcohol content than lighter coloured beer – FALSE, don’t just rely on the colour of your beer to judge how many standard drinks you are having. Ask the bar man or read the label.
  5. Vomiting will help you sober up and prevents hangovers – FALSE, alcohol absorption starts immediately upon consumption so purging will not reduce your blood alcohol level by much.
  6. Eating before bed will reduce your hangover – FALSE, it may cause acid reflux but it wont reduce the chance of a hangover. Eating before you start drinking may slow the alcohol absorption process.
  7. Coffee and a cold shower will sober you up – FALSE, it may wake you up a little but it won’t speed up the processing of alcohol in your body. Time is the only cure.

So if you’re planning your day tomorrow keep these in mind and stay safe!


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