Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsAt some point, everyone experiences that studying becomes more difficult, which makes it hard to stay motivated. So how do you stay motivated? How do you keep going? There is a formula that will help you look at motivation from a different perspective. This is called the motivation equation. It won't suddenly make everything fun or easy, but with this formula, you gain insight in how to get through the more difficult times. The equation, shown here, predicts which activity you are most motivated to do at a certain time and which factors influence this. Once you know this, you can even try to adjust these factors. For studying, the following applies.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 secondsThe value is how important your degree programme is for you or how much satisfaction you get from it. The higher this value, the more motivated you are. But you also need the expectancy that you will actually experience dissatisfaction. Suppose you're only studying to get a diploma, but you don't think you will be able to pass all your exams. Your overall level of motivation won't be very high. If you passed your first few tests, your expectancy will increase. After multiplying value and expectancy, you divide this by delay-- the time between the activity itself and the satisfaction you experience. As you can see, delay is the decisive factor. A high value and high expectancy don't mean much if the satisfaction is delayed.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 secondsYou can see from this formula that the shorter the delay, the more motivated you will be. This should remind you of our theory about planning. Setting short-term goals is vital for motivation. So try to set yourself daily tasks that take no longer than about two hours to complete. Often, the task itself or completing the task will be satisfying enough. But if you have to do a particularly unpleasant task, then you might need to give yourself an extra reward. This doesn't have to be big. It can be a cup of coffee, moving to another task, listening to music, or having a tasty snack, for example. But be aware-- a reward will only increase your motivation if you think of it beforehand.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 secondsOtherwise, it doesn't have an impact. So make a note of it in your plan, for example. And rewards only work if you, 1, only receive them once you have successfully completed the task, and 2, don't receive them if you don't successfully complete the task. We humans tend to gently ease into things before really getting started on a task. And before you know it, you've given yourself a reward for procrastinating instead of actually studying. The order of work and reward is therefore more important than the amount of the work or size of the reward. So now you can give yourself a chance to stay motivated and get through the hard moments. Good luck.

What determines study motivation?

The video explains the motivation equation:

Motivation = (value x expectancy) / delay

The motivation equation provides insight into the factors that determine motivation. The equation looks ‘mathematical’, but don’t take this too precisely: the equation doesn’t try to provide you with exact science, but it tries to show how the different factors are interrelated. The equation in this step is a simplified version of Dr. Piers Steel’s Procrastination Equation.


Delay = the time between the effort and the positive outcome

How long does it take until you see the positive effects of your efforts?

The longer it takes between effort and outcome, the higher the delay will be and the lower the motivation score will be. Long-term goals are less motivating than short-term goals.

Can be influenced by: Setting subgoals. The quicker a subgoal can be completed, the more motivating. Aim for goals that take less than 2 hours to complete.

Expectancy = the chance that your efforts will prove fruitful

This is your own feeling: How big is the chance you will succeed?

Can be influenced by: Setting subgoals. The more precisely formulated this goal is, the better. Small and precise goals have a bigger chance to be completed than big and vague goals, hence the expectancy to succeed rises.

Value = how much you value the positive outcome

How important, worthwhile and rewarding is the goal for you?

Can be influenced by: Normally completion of a task can be rewarding in itself. But if a task is not so important for you and very much disliked, extra rewards can be of help.


Reflect on one or more of the following questions. Share your thoughts in the comment section:

  • Are you motivated for your studies normally?

  • How do you keep yourself motivated?

  • Which situations are you easily motivated for, and when do you struggle the most?

  • What should you do (or keep in mind) to motivate yourself during hard moments?

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Improving Your Study Techniques

University of Groningen

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