Parents often bring up procrastination as a major hurdle to their child’s success. The reality is, though, that procrastination is not the result of willful belligerence, but rather the result of a real struggle. As the New York Times reminds us, procrastination is an emotional control issue. If we want work to get done on time and without rushing, we need to flip the script and focus on motivation. The Motivation Equation helps us break that down:
Expectancy: This refers to our expectation that we will be successful; no one wants to start a task if they expect to fail. We can increase expectancy by breaking a project into smaller parts, asking for help or committing to just 15 minutes of effort at a time. Another way to increase expectancy? Help your children notice when they do excel. Anything we can do to make a task less overwhelming and help students believe in their abilities increases their motivation.
Value: Value simply asks, “How important is this to you?” Ideally, students find intrinsic value in what we ask of them, but even when they do, increasing extrinsic rewards is a powerful part of motivation — especially if expectancy is low. Verbal recognition is the easiest way to increase value. Other low-cost rewards include a loosening of screen time rules, permission to stay out or up later, letting kids decide on meals or other family activities, or earning points towards larger rewards. As students build new routines, you can pull back on extrinsic rewards without negatively impacting motivation.
Impulsiveness: In our experience, the best way to decrease a student’s distractions is to involve that student in recognizing and responding to those distractions. Asking questions that encourage students to think about working efficiently and separating work time from play time creates buy-in that simply isn’t there if we tell them what to do: Do you feel good about the amount of time you spend on your work? How can you change your environment to make it easier to focus on doing your best work? What gets in the way of you working as well as you want to?
Delay: Many of the tasks that students procrastinate are valuable because of the impact they will have in the distant future. They study for the test to muster the quarter grade that contributes to their grade for the year. That year’s grade is part of a GPA that hopefully means they can attend a college that sets them up for a job they’re excited about ten years down the line. On the other hand, checking Snapchat gets them social stimulation right now. The rewards discussed above can help decrease the delay in gratification for school work. Some students also find creating a vision board and keeping it close to their work area serves as a reminder of why they want to do well in school.
Of course, there are a host of other ways that students can increase their motivation, and if you’d like our help, contact us today.