The Gummy-Bear Method for Motivation

Motivation tricks are the little games we play to cajole ourselves into persevering through a disagreeable task. Some days, students have no problem getting through several hours of solid studying while, on other days, every minute buried in a textbook seems like eternal agony.

AU student Amanda Gillis recently posted a photo of her newly-adopted motivation trick: using gummy bears to lure her into reading successive paragraphs in her textbook. Other students?who should have been studying and not on Facebook?quickly commented on how well this trick would work for them, too.

On those days when you need a little trick to get your momentum going, try one of these:

Gummy-Bear Method. Place a gummy bear at the end of each paragraph of your textbook page. When you finish reading each paragraph, claim your tasty reward. This works with other treats too but it’s advisable to use chewy treats so that you have a reasonable chance of making each treat last until you’re due to eat the next one. Health tip: choose fruit-based treats, not sugar-based.

Timer Method. Set a timer for a short interval that seems manageable to get through, such as 10, 15, or 25 minutes. Disconnect your internet and vow to do nothing else but study until the timer goes off. At the end of each interval, reward yourself by quickly checking social media. Then reset the timer for another short study session. If you do a full 25 minutes in one stretch, set the timer for a five-minute break and step away from your desk for a refreshing break before getting back to work. (For more timer tips, read The Voice Magazine’s article about the Pomodoro Technique, Measuring Time with Tomatoes.)

Switching Horses Method. This works best if you’re taking multiple courses. If you find yourself unable to concentrate on one course, put those books aside for 30 minutes or so and switch to another course. When you get back to your first course, you’ll feel fresher. Plus, you will have accomplished more studying in your other course. If you’re only taking one course, switch to a different task, such as reviewing earlier chapters, peeking ahead to the next assignment, or finding an online resource that explains the material in a different way.

Goal and Reward Method. Set a goal you want to reach in your day’s studying, such as finishing a textbook chapter or a study unit. Decide ahead of time how you will reward yourself for reaching that goal. The reward should be an indulgence?something not too expensive or inconvenient but one you wouldn’t otherwise allow yourself to have (maybe a specialty coffee, a hobby magazine, or a short walk in nature.) A special short-term reward will help you push through the day.

There’s no real trick to studying?you’ve just got to get through it. Finding motivation on those days when you’re tired, sluggish, or just sick of school is often the hard part. If you can trick yourself into getting through the next ten minutes, and then the next ten, you’ll eventually gain enough momentum to reach your study goals.

Share your favourite motivation trick to get you through sluggish studying, at

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.