At least for me. When professors hand out short-term assignments due in the next couple days, I don’t have much trouble starting immediately. However, when a project is assigned over the course of an entire semester, or my research sets up a goal for a year, I have a lot more trouble making headway.
Much of this is because it can be hard to find the motivation to get started. With short-term assignments, you get a sort of instant gratification from a distinct begining and end, whereas with an ongoing task, it can be hard to be sure that you’re making progress. In addition, longer projects tend to have more roadblocks and setbacks that make it feel like you’re moving backwards rather than forwards. Both of these facts can be distinct drains on motivation.
However, not only is life often defined by long-term tasks (going to and graduating from college, finding a job, being promoted in a career), but oftentimes it is these broader goals that make our lives more fulfilling and allow us to accomplish the most. So how can we overcome the barriers to success?
I use a two-part process. First, I break up the long-term task into monthly, then weekly parts, and each week I try to set daily goals. This is a common technique to ensure that you not only have a specific plan to move forward, but you have smaller achievemnts to use as movtivation and you can feel good everyt time you check something off the list.
But the second part isn’t necessarily obvious--try to, as much as you can, create results from what you’re doing as you’re going along. Whether it’s making graphs for your research or finding trends in linguistic information for a project, sometimes these small products are enough to remind you that you ARE progressing when simply checking off tasks isn’t enough.
Hopefully this advice can be helpful to you too as your work towards your bright futures!
-- Joanna Slusarewicz