4 Tips for Staying Motivated on Long Writing Assignments

When you’re handed a long writing assignment, it can feel like the first day of training for a marathon. The key is to stay focused on the end goal. 

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When you first get an assignment for a big writing project, you may not be sure what the project requires and if you have the tools to stay motivated. The key to victory is creating a game plan to help you stay focused on the goal—successfully completing your assignment.

Don’t let an extensive writing project overwhelm you. Here are four tips for staying motivated on long writing assignments.

Make a plan

As soon as you get your assignment, start on the right foot by planning not only what you want to write, but also how you will prepare to do so. First, decide on your topic. That will help you set progress goals and have a clearer focus when doing your research or other preparation. For example, if the assignment is to analyze the impact of an invention from the 19th century, don’t just identify photography as your subject—be more specific by examining the impact of photography on a specific aspect of culture such as art, communication, or politics.

When you’re ready to start researching your topic more thoroughly, set up a system for organizing your note taking and copies of any source material you may need to reference later.

Create an outline

Outlines are a great tool for keeping any kind of writing assignment focused and organized.  Outlines are especially important for longer writing assignments since you’ll be juggling a lot of information all at once. Try outlining in stages, starting with a basic vision for each aspect of your essay to expand on later. Then, fill in details as you learn more about your topic and formulate your important points. An outline can also help you identify gaps in your research and see where you need to delve deeper to present a well-rounded paper.

Set goals and reward yourself

The most important way to stay on task with any large project is to break it into smaller pieces. This will help you avoid procrastination and prevent burnout from working long hours to finish. When you get your assignment, establish incremental deadlines leading up to the due date. Make separate deadlines for research, outlining, and your first draft. Once you start the writing portion, challenge yourself to write a specific number of words per day. Always arrange your schedule to include a couple of extra days at the end to allow time for editing and polishing your assignment.

Finding ways to reward yourself can help you stick to your plan. For short-term goals, treat yourself to something small you enjoy once you’ve achieved each daily goal. You could take a walk outside, see a friend, or watch a favorite show. Just make sure you don’t indulge until your goal is reached. For long-term goals, you could plan an activity with friends, buy something you’ve been wanting for a while, or start playing a new video game. Whatever you choose, rewarding your achievements will create a cycle of motivation to help you push through to the end

Visualize your success

Sometimes, even though you know you’ll eventually complete a task, it’s hard to imagine how that will happen. Just as you might imagine yourself crossing the finish line of a race, picture how you’ll feel when your writing assignment is finished and what the positive outcomes will be. Will it mark the end of a challenging class? Will getting a good grade give your GPA a boost? Is there a chance your writing could get published for others to read? Whatever benefit you’ll enjoy from completing this assignment successfully, envision how that will improve your life. Then, use that image as motivation to complete it to the best of your abilities.

Lora Wegman is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.    

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