Before you run out of steam – motivation to reach the finish line

“It’s so hard for me to bestir myself to study.”

“I just don’t feel like reading that book. “

“Cleaning, decluttering, cooking – at the moment I’d rather do anything but prepare for the exam.”

Do statements like this sound familiar? Then you need a motivational push! We’re going to give you some ideas on how to get started with studying. That’s what motivation means: the motives that lead to action.

What drives us? Reasons for motivation

There are different motives that make us want to do something. Psychology distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic factors:

  • Intrinsic motivation refers to acting out of an inner drive.
  • Extrinsic motivation is based on either experiencing an advantage or reward, or avoiding a disadvantage or punishment.

Think about why you decided to study and why you have chosen your subject! Maybe it was a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. On the one hand: interest in a subject and contents, the desire to experience student life or fun in activities such as evaluating statistics (intrinsic factors). On the other hand: the desire for an interesting, well-paid job, recognition, or expectations from your social environment (extrinsic factors).

While you are studying for individual exams, the big goal and your original motivations may fade into the background. Go back to what drives you, what interests you about your subject and what is fun to you! This will make studying for individual exams easier and you can regard them as milestones.

Studying and motivation

But how do you motivate yourself to learn? It is worth taking a look at the so-called self-determination theory of the psychologists Edward E. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. In their theory, the following basic human needs serve as a starting point for good learning and promote motivation:

Competence & Effectiveness

People want to perceive themselves as competent and make a difference. You surely know the good feeling when you have understood something or successfully implemented it. It is therefore important that you are successful in learning. Take small steps, do not overstrain yourself and appreciate every success. If there is something you don’t understand, ask and look for support if you don’t get ahead on your own or through books, scripts, videos, and co.

It is important that you that you have a realistic conception of where you stand with regard to your learning goals. The constructive feedback from lecturers (not only praise) can motivate and give crucial information about your learning level. Or compare your exercise results with sample solutions or fellow students* in order to assess your performance in a better way.
Get an overview and make learning plans! Think about which contents are relevant for you. You have certainly chosen your subject with a certain goal in mind. Take it into focus.

Social inclusion

The learning atmosphere and a sense of community are crucial for motivation and learning success. However, this is often neglected in the virtual semester. Keep in touch with fellow students, go to the library, and exchange ideas. If you have any questions, please contact your lecturer.

Learning autonomy

It is important that you take certain liberties and actively shape your learning process according to your needs.
This might work especially well in the virtual semester: watching the lecture at night – no problem! Going to the lecture without leaving the house – that is now possible.

Take responsibility for your studies. Are you dissatisfied with something? Look for a discussion with the people involved or get involved in the student councils and co. This also contributes significantly to increasing motivation.

Think about how well you implement the factors mentioned in your learning behavior and where you can make adjustments. Little things can make a big difference: use an alternative textbook that you understand better. Start a study group, exchange ideas, and benefit from mutual explanations and more fun in exam preparation. Plan your learning process according to your needs.

We wish you success and motivation for the final of this semester!


Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1993). Die Selbstbestimmungstheorie der Motivation und ihre Bedeutung für die Pädagogik. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 39 (2), 223–238 [PDF]