Studying is difficult. When people ask you to make a list of your favorite activities, studying isn’t something you list in the top ten. Studying takes a significant amount of mental energy and effort to sustain concentration. Whether it’s preparing for an exam or to retain information for your own good, it’s challenging to maintain the motivation necessary to learn new material.
In a world full of instant gratification, it’s easy to be distracted. I’d much rather scroll through social media than stare at academic writing, even if I find the topic interesting. The truth is, studying isn’t all that fun to begin with. It’s hard to stay motivated because it requires effort, it’s time consuming, and it’s a boring task in and of itself. So how can you stay motivated to do something that feels like watching paint dry?
Here’s 10 ways to stay motivated to study:
1. Change perspectives. Take a step back and realize your privilege. You’re blessed enough to have the opportunity to learn. Regardless of how much you enjoy the subject, some people don’t have the ability to learn in the way you take for granted. Others don’t have quality educators to show them the ropes, or families and neighborhoods that are conducive to their studying. Appreciate the fact that you have the privilege and opportunity to expand your mind.
2. Link content to passion. If you can find a way to link whatever you’re learning to your passion, that’ll increase your motivation. Think about ways in which learning something in the class—whether it’s through the content or a life lesson from your peers and professor—tie into your future. You can contemplate your career or continued self-growth to motivate yourself to sit through the torture experience that is studying.
3. Fake it till you make it. Convince yourself that the content is interesting or the information is important to you now and in the future. Have you ever praised a dog for going to the bathroom in the correct location? Use that same type of artificial enthusiasm and then notice how it creates actual excitement for a boring task. If studying is a necessary evil, then you might as well pretend to make it more enjoyable than it is and save yourself a frustration headache.
4. Minimize distractions. This behavioral intervention helps you be more efficient. There’s no such thing as multi-tasking, so stop trying to check emails, scroll through social media, and text while studying. You can study longer or you can study smarter. Choose to minimize your distractions to maximize your productivity and decrease the amount of time you spend doing something you don’t enjoy. Turn off your phone, sit in an environment that feels comfortable to you, and make sure others can’t interrupt your study flow.
5. Schedule your time. When you see a clear beginning and end to your studying, it helps serve as an additional motivator. If you only have 30 minutes to exercise in the gym, what do you do? You decrease the rest periods between sets to increase the intensity of your workout. You push yourself as hard as you can, knowing that your time is limited. Studying with this same level of intensity makes time go by faster and helps you retain more information than studying for hours without a set start or end.
6. Do the difficult tasks first. Mornings are meant for you to tackle something big. When you attack your day by starting a big project early, you feel a sense of relief because you can see how much progress you’ve made. Your brain processes the big picture easier in the morning and is more proficient at detail work later in the day, so work with rather than against your natural tendencies.
7. Start projects early. Rather than waiting until the last minute to finish a study guide, get started immediately. You don’t have to complete the project, just dip your toe in the water. This step of action is often the most difficult step, and getting it out of the way sooner rather than later puts momentum on your side. Your unconscious brain will process thoughts and ideas related to the project while you sleep and are occupied with other tasks. Then when it becomes crunch time, your brain will be primed and ready to go.
8. Maintain physical health. When you’re physically healthy it’s easier to learn information. Our brains and bodies are connected, so the better condition both are in, the better you’ll study. Getting the proper amount of exercise and sleep is important. When you sleep and exercise on a consistent basis, your circadian rhythms will give you energy when you need it most. Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated will aid your metabolism, which also provides energy, and will improve your cognitive ability.
9. Prioritize mental health. It’s difficult to study when you have other things going on in your mind. Going to therapy is a great way to externalize the thoughts and feelings that build tension and increase your stress and anxiety. Engaging in therapy is like getting an oil change, when you do it on a regular basis it improves the car’s ability to run smoothly for a long time. Meditating will also aid your ability to focus on the task at hand. If you combine therapy and meditation, you’ll make significant progress in your ability to concentrate on your studies and you’ll feel better in the process.
10. Connect to your creativity. When you’re not studying, do something creative. The more you can connect to something for the enjoyment rather than the end result, the more passion you’ll discover. The motivation you need is tied to doing the things you love. As you continually reconnect to those processes, you’ll discover the motivation needed to get you through tough tasks.
Studying is important. Teaching yourself to study is like bodybuilding. The more you flex the muscle, the stronger it gets. When you study on a regular basis, it makes you a more well-rounded human, and gives you the confidence you need to share your thoughts with the world. Studying empowers you by giving you the discipline you need to achieve your dreams. What other motivation do you need?