Richard Woodruff

This conversation is closed.

How can I motivate myself to work?

Dear TED community,

I'm an 18 year old college student who is struggling to find any sort of motivation, I genuinely cannot start working, This has resulted in me retaking the previous year of Education, Whether it be homework or coursework I somehow manage to get distracted by anything and everything.

I Really Really want to mean something to this world, Instead of just becoming a useless bum or shelf stacker, I want to make a difference and don't want to be the person who looks back and says "I wish I'd tried harder as a kid", Please someone help me find a way to motivate myself and

Thank you for taking the time to read all of this!

Richard Woodruff.

  • thumb
    Oct 30 2011: Baby steps.
    Motivation is a skill you can hone.
    I'll tell you what works for me when I can't get going.

    Set yourself a small timer (10 minutes). No distractions just your work in front of you- you're not gonna do all of it, just 10 minutes of constant work.

    When the timer rings you've got two options (neither is wrong)- you can keep working with momentum, or you can take a break at least you got 10 minutes down.

    Make small successes a habit- it sounds silly or maybe new agey- but I certainly believe making a habit out of winning the little battles is a solid foundation to build on.
    • thumb
      Oct 30 2011: A great suggestion, Christopher. I do the same to get housework done...something I never want to do. :)
      • thumb
        Oct 31 2011: Hi LINDA,
        I just was fascinated by seeing your picture and responding to the 'how to motivate myself' question.
        I often advise and apply myself that before we need to do a taxing shore, to first do an activity that makes us feel alive and energetic. After that we wouldn't mind so much to do a chore. Any time we feel not motivated anymore , we just recharge our battery again with something that makes us feel alive and enthusiastic again. take care, ANKE

        Read your biography. Thank you
        Warm rgards
  • thumb
    Oct 30 2011: I totally understand what you feel. I retook my college years twice and I have been struggling with the kind of disorganization you write about for a long time. At first, I was mad at myself and I thought that there is something wrong with me, since everyone else was working systematicly and dilligently. Then, at one moment in my life I simply accepted myself. I kind of took to the guy that is in me, and his nature. I realised that my putting stuff until the very last moment is the only way out, and I turned my weakness into a strenght. It is true that due to the fact that I was doing everything very quickly the quality of my work was often barely satisfactory, but I was making a constant progress, so by the end of my studies I was an A-student (almost like, but I never struggled after grades).

    Richard, you are facing a very difficult and very easy situation at the same time. You have to trust your heart from now on as you will never be able to change yourself. Even if you suddenly become organised you will simply feel awful. Stop believing you can learn something by changing your nature. Keep distracting yourself and do everything they ask you to do using the good old deadline pressure. Doing it on the daily basis you will soon perfect the method and become really good at it (and even have fun with it). Soon you will be able to complete even the most complicated tasks in no time. This skill is the best practical skill you can learn at school, and the only one that matters in the professional world. I am telling you this from my experience.

  • thumb
    Oct 30 2011: Richard -
    What an honest question! There is little more frustrating than those times in life I can't get my butt moving in the direction it needs to go, and want to. You're not alone, everyone experiences this at some time I think. Giving in to distraction is the best saboteur I know, and learning to focus isn't always easy - unless you're doing something you love. What do you love?

    The TED Best of the Web talk on 'The Divided Brain' comes immediately to mind. Have you seen that?

    I hope TEDsters everywhere respond to you, and the answer reveals itself in the conversation.

    Ask yourself -
    1.Do you know what you're passionate about? What lights you up?
    2. Do you have the tools or resources to find out?
    3. Do those tasks required of you now connect to the future vision of your life? Are they leading you to it?
    4. Are you isolated? Do you feel connected to others? Do you have people around you that inspire you or lift you up?
    5. Do you work better in a team?

    Here's a conversation that just posted by Bill Burns that might interest or inspire you:

    I've only experienced this once when it truly overwhelmed me. For me, it was the result of grief and isolation. The only way out was by connecting to a sense of purpose, and being around people who believed in me. Each person has their own story, that's mine. I support you in finding answers, Richard. Don't stop looking. Take risks and do something every day that leads you towards your answer - just like you did here!
  • thumb
    Oct 31 2011: Hello Richard,
    What works for me is the feeling of responsibility and commitments I have towards others, whether that is my family, work or the variety of commitees I sit on. I don't really have many off days but I will try to make productive whatever free time I have. Yes I can have 'fun' whether that is going to the pub, for a run or shopping but nowadays im told old to sit indoors watching X factor on a saturday night!

    Why not try some voluntary work? I see from your profile that your from Crowborough I know Sussex very well.In Brighton/Hove and surrounding areas are lots of opportunites check out this site [] I saw one project which is seeking a voluunteer for the East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to promote fire prevention and road safety. This type of experience could equip you will the transferable skills to work in a variety of fields, also I saw this one;RecordistTalking Newspaper For The Blind (Brighton & Hove District)0.806 km TO OPERATE A COMPUTER AND RECORD NEWS READ BY 4 READERS, THEN TRANSFER TO CD & INTERNET USING THE ADOBE SYSTEM.More information and contact detailsSeriously consider doing voluntary work especially during the build up to christmas, not only will you be supporting your local community but also improving your CV. Besides you don't have to volunteer 5 days a week
  • thumb
    Oct 30 2011: " Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it"

    Buddha... From the Artists way at work.

    Contemplate your contribution then just do it.
  • thumb
    Oct 30 2011: Firstly THANK YOU! so so much, all of you! I really do appreciate your help, and hopefully you will all get some satisfaction knowing that you have potentially helped me change and will possibly curve my future for the postive, I've follow Christopher Scheidler's advice and got my first 10 minutes done!, Turning all distractions off is a good idea and also just knuckling down and trying as hard as you can,

    Jedrek Stepien,"I was mad at myself and I thought that there is something wrong with me" I keep feeling this way! I'm glad that it's not just me being crazy and that there is hope to get over it! Thank you for the help.

    Bob Shingles, I like the thought that if i started to pay for more of my own things I'd feel a greater urge to work hard, I already have a job at a nearby 'Waitrose' this is why i said I didn't want to be a shelf stacker my whole life! thank you for the input though and will take it on board and start chipping in for various bits around the house, certain bills! sure will make mother happy!

    Jake Williams, thank you and I accept the 30 day challenge!

    Linda Hesthag Ellwein, thank you for your honest and heartfelt answer! It really makes me feel like part of a community even though I've only just created an account, I love TED talks, they are one of the few things that really inspire me! will watch the video's you've suggested, The Steve Jobs talk at Stanford university was a big motivator, and also the Three A's of awesome by simon sinek was amazing! if you're interested!!

    Once again thankyou all for your input!
    Will report back on my progress over the next couple of days!
    hope to keep in touch!

    Richard Woodruff
    • thumb
      Oct 31 2011: Hi Richard,
      Just saw your question and read all the answer. Great to get such a feedback. I like to add the following:I often advise and apply myself that before you need to do a taxing shore, to first do an activity that makes you feel alive and energetic. After that you wouldn't mind so much to do a chore. Any time you feel not motivated anymore , you just recharge your battery again with something that makes you feel alive and enthusiastic again.Try it out if you like.
  • thumb
    Oct 30 2011: A few other people have provided great answers to your question. But to truely be motivated you have to look inside of yourself and do the work. It may not be fun or easy but someone has got to do it and once you do it you will be able to look back and be proud of yourself. College is an oppertunity. Sure, you can have fun, but you need to remember what you are there for. Study, work hard, and one day you can make a difference, but it will not be easy.

    I really like what Christopher said about no distractions. This means cell phones, T.V., internet, etc. nothing accept you and your work.

    And don't be afraid to get a job. It takes 30 days to form a habit so if you can constantly get out of bed in the morning and try your best each day for 30 days in a row, than it will become natural. Good luck, I hope I helped.
  • Oct 30 2011: Hunger is a good motivator. If you are not working then someone is paying for your bills and thus that is your crutch.

    It is easy to not have motivation when people are paying for your bills.

    Get a job and start paying for your bills. It will drastically increase your self-esteem. Bad jobs will motivate you to look for better jobs and once you find a better job, your self-esteem will grow even more.

    Almost everyone has to start in a bad job and we hate it but you need that experience to allow you to grow into that career that will help you make the change in the world that you want.

    It really is this easy.
  • Oct 30 2011: The other answers are good. Perhaps try a martial art. They are good for discipline, motivation and work ethic. Perhaps what you learn will transfer over to academic studies.