BY ANNABEL MONAGHAN
Studying is one of your most important tools for success in a college environment. Most full-time students should plan to spend 30 hours a week studying—and that’s outside of time for lectures and classwork. For the studious and most academically motivated in university, this isn’t much of a challenge, but for many of us, studying is a challenge.
Studying requires hours of dedicated focus, and summoning the willpower and energy for that can be tough—especially if you’re dealing with other responsibilities, like a job or parenthood. If motivation is your biggest problem, there are some strategies you can use to overcome it.
Compensating for Study Apathy
When you don’t feel motivated to study, for whatever reason, try some of these strategies to break out of your rut:
- Declutter your room
Decluttering has a number of benefits all its own, but it can also be a useful way to jump-start your productivity. Picking things off the floor or clearing your desk doesn’t take much effort, but it can feel good and get your body and mind in gear. By the time you’re done, you’ll feel motivated to take on a new task, satisfied that you did something productive—and you’ll probably have a cleaner workspace where you can do it.
- Set up a timetable (with breaks)
Instead of jumping right into studying, consider setting up a timetable for yourself. For example, you might allocate 20 minutes of studying, followed by a 10-minute break, with repeating cycles like this indefinitely. You’ll begin your momentum since you’ve officially taken a step toward studying, and you’ll establish some degree of motivation for yourself; you know that, no matter what, after 20 minutes of studying, you’ll have time for a break.
- Commit to five minutes
Starting a task requires much more effort and willpower than continuing a task you’ve already started. To overcome this mental hurdle, commit to studying for an inconsequentially small amount of time—like 5 minutes. Most people can convince themselves to study for just 5 minutes, but by the time those 5 minutes are up, you’ll have enough focus and energy to keep that momentum going for another hour or two.
- Start with something easy
You can also jump-start your motivation by choosing to tackle some easy task before diving into the hard material. For example, you might review flashcards of material you already understand before taking on something new, or you might read a short chapter for one subject before beginning work on your term paper for another. Like many of the items on this list, it provides you with a combination of benefits, including a short-term feeling of accomplishment, an excuse to get started, and momentum you can carry into your core studying material.
- Plan to reward yourself
Everything is easier to start when you have a reward waiting for you at the end. If you achieve a certain studying goal, like completing a chapter of content or studying for a full 2 hours, reward yourself with a pizza, a retail purchase, or even an episode of your favorite TV show. It will motivate you to achieve your goal and make studying a more positive overall experience.
- Eliminate distractions
Distractions can be powerful deterrents to studying, so you may have to exercise control in eliminating them. For starters, turn off all notifications on all your devices, or put them in airplane mode if you don’t need internet access. Turn off any televisions or speakers in your environment (apart for some low-level music or white noise, if that helps you), and put away any distracting objects.
- Find what works for you
Everyone has different motivations. Whether you’re studying to become a specialist surgeon or even an 18-wheeler accident attorney, take some time to experiment and find what works for you. Once you know there are a few tactics that can perk you up and/or get you in the mood for a good study session, you can call upon them in the future to build your momentum. Much of your studying success depends on your structure and routines, so don’t neglect this area of your academic life.
- Enlist the help of a friend
Hold yourself accountable to your goals by telling them to a friend or roommate. Explain what you intend to do and how you intend to do it; just telling someone else can serve as a powerful motivator to keep you committed to your goals. They may also be able to provide you with tips, or a better environment in which to study.
- Attend a group session
Many students study more effectively and more consistently when they’re surrounded by their peers, so try to seek out a study group for your class of choice. If you haven’t tried group study sessions before, now’s the perfect time.
Annabel Monaghan is a writer with a passion for education and edtech. She writes education and career articles for The College Puzzle with the aim of providing useful information for students and young professionals. If you have any questions, please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.