How To Motivate Yourself to Study And Get Work Done Fast
Motivation is funny. Somedays you have it, somedays you don’t.
As students, we may find that we fall into the attitude of “I don’t feel like doing work” much too often. But how can you get yourself to do work when you do fall into this attitude? Let’s explore how we can get ourselves motivated to study.
Allow yourself time to relax
If you’ve worked tirelessly over the past few weeks or months and not given yourself some ‘relax time’ every day then chances are that you are probably burned out from doing too much work.
However, a lot of people believe that they’re burned out from over-working but they clearly know that’s false. If you work excessively, chances are, you’ll feel your motivation dip significantly as you just can’t give any more energy to your studies.
If you are going to schedule your day, then you must make sure you give yourself an hour or two just to mess around and enjoy. If you don’t give yourself this downtime, your productivity will suffer. You will instead feel like procrastinating when you are actually supposed to be working.
It’s true that some students can study for longer periods of time than others; some students are much more motivated than others. But not all students can work all the time, every student needs to recharge their batteries.
Exercise has a significant impact on learning and motivation. Who do you think will have more motivation, a person who is physically active or a lazy, couch-potato?
In order to keep our muscles healthy and toned, we do exercise such as weight-lifting. Similarly, in order to keep our brain healthy, we need to ensure that we are constantly learning new things. However, did you know that physical exercise helps your brain make new connections to process information. In other words, exercise improves the learning process.
During exercise, your organs produce a protein called “growth factors”, these travel to the brain where they improve the brain cell’s ability to make new connections. Furthermore, exercise increases the level of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin- these are useful in improving your focus, motivation as well as mood.
Exercise has also proven to reduce stress. Actually, exercise itself stresses out the body but the human body has a mechanism that toughens cells against stressful activities that you may face in your day. This means that you become more resistant to stressful events when you exercise.
Exercise has many other benefits such as reducing “dark mood” (depression) and reducing the chances of dangerous diseases. If you want to learn more about how exercise affects the brain, check out “Spark!”- a book written by Dr. John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman.
If you don’t feel like doing work, do some exercise. You can go for a run, walk, jog or do push-ups on the spot. Or you could decide to play sports with some mates. In the end, you want to get some sort of exercise in. This will no doubt help you make better decisions and get you out of your lazy mood.
Find and eliminate distractions and bad habits
I had the habit of coming home from school (very tired) and just sitting down and watching YouTube. Little did I know, two hours would fly by and I still didn’t touch any of my work.
The truth was that I got into a habit. A bad habit. Whenever, I came upstairs to my room, I would drop my bag, turn the water bath heater and then watch YouTube.
Obviously, when watching YouTube, I didn’t feel like studying. Humans are inherently lazy, we always follow the path of least resistance (the easiest path). Watching YouTube videos was much easier than revising for my upcoming test.
To solve this problem, I actually downloaded FocusMe on my laptop and my phone. This is an application and website blocker that would just block distracting applications for me. I was able to cut off YouTube (and other websites) from my life, and I am so glad that I didn’t loose all those hours in YouTube otherwise my academic performance could have suffered.
Through downloading application blocking software, you can eliminate distractions. Once, I blocked YouTube for example, after school, I just took a shower and got straight into work since YouTube was now ruled out. I would however, allow myself some time to relax after I did my work.
There are various applications like FocusMe, you can check out all of them here.
Get yourself a journal or poster to answer ‘why?’
Why would you need to get yourself a journal? Because you’re going to write down your study goals and plan for the day- every single day.
You have to write down your ‘why’. Why are you studying? Why are you doing all this? Why is studying important? You need to answer all these questions. Every. Single. Day.
If you fail to clarify why you ware studying then guess what? You won’t feel motivated at all. Sometimes, people make an ‘image board’ that has all their dreams and they stick this up on their walls to look at, every single day, because this clarifies their why.
How about making a video of yourself, talking about your dreams and why you need to study. Watch this video every single day, before you start your day or before you start doing any work. Once again, this will fuel your motivation to get working.
I’ve mentioned ‘every single day’ constantly over the past few paragraphs. You need to realise that it’s absolutely essential that you have a daily routine that re-iterates your ‘why’. When you know your ‘why’, the work will come easy.
Often I hear people say something like “How will knowing integration by-parts help me in life” and “how will this information ever help me in life?”.
Well first off, there are various applications of what you learn at school. Seriously. Just search it up. But the other thing is that school doesn’t just teach you content to learn, you learn way more than that.
Studying these topics (that may seem difficult and useless to you) are actually testing your hard-work, diligence and discipline.
What’s your study goals?
Similar to what your ‘why’ is for studying, you need to follow similar steps to identify what grade or percentage you are aiming for in your classes, tests or exams.
Once you have set yourself a goal, it may seem daunting. Terrifying at first because it’s so big and seems out of reach. But you have to think about a long-term goal in terms of days.
What is your daily ‘win’? What’s required from you everyday? Is it a certain number of hours you need to put in to work? Do you need to answer a few questions everyday to move closer to your goal?
When we think in terms of days, at the end of the day, we know whether we are progressing or not. If you are hitting your daily goals, you can tick that checkbox to signify your achievement. Slowly, day by day, you will gain motivation from completing these daily tasks.
Get yourself interested in a creative way
You know how some people doodle when they don’t feel like anything? Well, what happens when doodling crosses studying? You get Mind Maps.
Mind Maps are a fun and creative way to summarise and take notes. If you don’t feel very motivated to study just get yourself a blank piece of paper and start drawing images. Images of what you can remember from a topic. Slowly, these illustrations will turn into a beautiful Mind Map.
Make use of the ‘Pomodoro technique’
This technique is a highly effective productivity hack that ensures that you get a concentrated study session when you work.
The technique is pretty simple. You first have to decide on a task to work on, get a piece of paper (or your journal) and write what you are going to accomplish in 25 minutes.
Remove all distractions and then start a timer for 25 minutes. During these 25 minutes, work solely on the task you wrote down (the one you want to complete). If you are feeling distracted by something or if something is bothering you, write it down. This will help you identify what’s on your mind to be addressed during your breaks.
Once your 25 minutes is up, take a 5 minute break. You should probably just do stretching or some light exercise. If you go on your phone then you might be coming back a few hours later (after scrolling through Instagram and watching YouTube).
After the 5 minute break, start another 25 minute timer. Repeat this process until you have four 25 minute sessions completed. You can then take a longer break (30 minutes).
How can you adjust this technique?
The ‘Pomodoro technique’ can be adjusted to account for shorter sessions or longer sessions depending on your needs. However, this technique works because 25 minutes is reasonably short, so we can work with quite a lot of focus for 25 minutes. If 25 minutes still seems to long, cut it down to 5 minutes.
There are plenty of apps out there that are about the ‘Pomodoro’ technique or timer/clock. However, if you’re going to be on a device, that’s going to be pretty distracting. Although there are many great apps out there, I would recommend you use a classic watch or stopwatch (unless you have application and notification blockers on your device).
How to study without motivation?
Is it possible to study without motivation? Yes it is. This can be done through creating effective study habit and routines.
The truth is, nobody can feel motivated all the time. But the best students (and highly successful people in general) do work when they don’t feel motivated at all. In other words, if you want to be the very best, you’ve got to do your best, even on those poor, lazy days.
When you have a habit in place, you don’t need motivation. You just start the process and there you go! You’ve created a routine that you can just simply follow.
Have an accountability partner and study buddies
The power of accountability is very strong. And you can harness it pretty easily actually. All you need to do is get another person and fill them in with what your up to.
Sometimes people go to the extreme to say “I will pay you $10 if I don’t study for……”. Now, I’ve never used this technique but man, I’m pretty sure this will work for some. The problem we face is that, we don’t know about the consequences of not studying. However, when we bring in money, you have the fear of loosing $10 when you don’t study for a certain number of hours.
Now, you don’t have to use money. Just telling people you failed to study a certain number of hours can create enough negative emotion (disappointment or embarrassment) in order to make sure you study.
Studying with friends can either be super-productive, fun and useful or the complete opposite (still with fun haha). If you can get studying in groups right, you are well on your way to studying well. Often, we need other people to motivate us and keep us going.
If you do feel unmotivated to study, talk to your friend or classmate so you can organise a time to meetup and study. On a personal anecdote, I used a similar technique to encourage myself to go to the gym. I remember that I would go gym only once a week but when I created commitments with my friend, I had to wake up at 7 am and head to the gym. Why? Because I didn’t want to let the person down; I had a commitment. And this is exactly what could motivate you, somebody else.
On a similar note, you’ve probably felt really motivated when you saw somebody else achieve something incredible. With this in mind, try to check out success stories of people who have gone done the same direction as you- make note of this. Read it everyday. Tell yourself that if these people can do it, so can you.
Organsie your life!
I’ve already talked about the fact that you need to get yourself a journal to write down your ‘why’. But a journal will also be very important in order to plan and organise your day.
When we don’t organise or plan our day, our day can get unproductive. Really, really unproductive. But when you know what do, guess what? You’re probably more likely to do it.
When you plan on doing several tasks, focus on just one of them. When it comes to study time and we have so much work to do, do you know what we do? Nothing. There’s so much work, we don’t know how to get started and hence we never actually start.
When starting off, there are two schools of thought. One is to start off with the hardest task, this is quite challenging to do though if you are feeling unmotivated. The other (and probably preferred) method is to start off with a relatively easy task and build up from there (in terms of difficulty).
Before you start doing a task, write down exactly what you want to achieve and for how long. You may have heard of Parkinson’s law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
This means that if set yourself a realistic target to finish your homework in 2 hours, you will finish it in 2 hours. If you choose 1 hour 30 minutes then you can finish it within this time (as long as it’s reasonable). But the problem arises when we don’t set a time deadline to a task at all. How long would it take then? The answer is: way too longer than it should.
The hardest part: getting started (use the 10 second rule)
Do you know what the hardest part is when doing a task? Getting started. We often need motivation, just to get over that initial part.
If you studied Chemistry, you may be familiar with the concept of ‘activation energy’. If not, it’s basically the minimum energy required to start a reaction. We can use this principle to help us with our study habits. Before we get any work done, we think about the task first. Then there is a barrier, we start thinking “do I really want to do this”, “this seems pretty difficult” or “I have time to do that later”. However, it’s just this small thing that we need to overcome and when we do start- completing the task becomes much easier.
You can use something like the ’10 second rule’ which states that when you think about doing a task, count to 10. When you reach 10, go and start that task immediately.
So how do we get over this initial barrier? I’ve already mentioned the ’10 second’ rule. But in addition to this, we want to reduce the time taken from thinking about a task to actually start doing it. How do we do this?
Well we basically reduce the ‘friction’ between thinking about and doing a task. This ‘friction’ is caused due to the time it takes to take your books out, walk over to your study desk, find the task that was actually set and so forth. This all needs to be carefully observed in order to make sure that transitioning to a task is super easy (or it has a lower activation energy). You need to reduce the amount of steps required to start a task.
You may have heard of the advice of ‘sleeping in your gym clothes’. This is exactly the same principle here. When you wake up, you don’t have to change your clothes. This reduces the number of steps taken in order to hit the gym so you are therefore more likely to do it.
One obvious way to reduce this ‘friction’ is to get more organised and plan for the day ahead. For example, before you sleep, set out all your books and stationary so that it’s ready for you to study early in the morning.
Moreover, try to increase the ‘friction’ between you and distractions. For example, put your phone further away from you (energy is required to walk over and grab it). You can shut your phone down (it will take time to reboot) or just use an app/website blocker to block you out of your phone completely (that’s infinite ‘friction’).
Another way to start a task is through something called visualtion. The technique is exactly from what you thing it is. Visualisation is where you see yourself doing a particular task. Visualtion is proven to help a task to get going- all you need to do is to imagine yourself doing the task- and then you use that spark to just go out there are ace it.
You have to do a little bit
Whenever you feel like you’ve come across a day where you just can’t do anything- you need to make sure you do some work. Even if it’s just a little bit. Why is this so? Because momentum and consistency is important.
If you generally don’t feel like doing anything and end up doing little to no work, this attitude will carry over to the next day. It’s like saying “tomorrow will be easier” or “I’ll feel more motivated tomorrow”. But this isn’t the truth. We all know what’s going to happen tomorrow. The cycle keeps repeating and you gain momentum-but in the wrong direction.
If you just spend a little bit of time on a productive task, that can propel you forwards. It’s important to take even the slightest ‘win’ from an unproductive day because the positive mentality will help you. But you need to set yourself up (once again organization is super important) in order to make sure that the next day isn’t going to be wasted.