There’s probably nothing more frustrating than knowing an exam is on the horizon, knowing you need to study for it, and completely lacking any motivation to actually sit down and get started.
Studying is one of those things that’s easy to lose motivation for. It can seem overwhelming, impossible, and never-ending. “Studying” as an idea is so amorphous it easily causes panic, fear, and even total shut down.
But regaining motivation for studying isn’t impossible. And there are several ways to make sure your studying is stress-free, structured, manageable, and even fun. Let’s break some of them down:
Remember WHY you study
The first thing to do, right after you sit down to study (but before you bust out the notebooks and pens!) is to remember WHY you’re studying. What makes studying so important to you right now?
Is it because you want to become a marine biologist and you need to pass a test to finally launch your career? Or is it something less dramatic, like wanting to ace an upcoming final?
Or, maybe, the subject matter isn’t particularly interesting to you at all, or it might not even be relevant to your future career goals. Your answer to why studying is so important to you right now might just be that “It’s not! That’s the problem!”
Well, turns out, that’s OK too. Just because something seems unnecessary or worthless doesn’t mean there isn’t any reason to do it.
Reasons to study even when you feel like it’s fruitless can be as simple as keeping up your overall grades, passing a class so you never have to take it again, or even learning something outside your comfort zone so you can draw new connections to the topics or disciplines you *are* actually interested in.
Take some time to reflect on what your reason for studying might be. This can go a long way in motivating you to start. Viewing studying as a part of a larger picture can help make your emotional resolve to study much stronger.
Prepare your environment
Your environment has an enormous impact on your emotional state. So make sure you’re studying in a place that helps, rather than hinders, your work!
If you’re feeling particularly unmotivated to study, try cleaning and tidying up your desk, lighting a candle, or turning on soft music or ambient noise. Remove distractions from your space as well, like cell phones, clutter, and other projects you’re not working on at the moment.
It also may be a good idea to make sure you’re not SO comfortable in your workspace that you fall asleep or feel lazy. Sitting upright at a desk can put you in the right mental mood to dig into your work.
Sometimes, your typical studying location may get stale.
If you’re having a hard time motivating yourself, try moving to a new environment to study. Going to the local library or a coffee shop can make you feel like you’re really “doing something” and can turn your motivation on full blast.
Something about the new environment makes our brains feel refreshed and ready to tackle our work. If you can’t go to a library or coffee shop, you can try just moving your work into another room, or even working from the floor!
Get a study partner
There is nothing quite like peer pressure to get you to do something. So why not use peer pressure to get you to do the *right* thing?
When you feel that motivation slipping from your grasp, grab a study partner to help you concentrate. Of course, make sure your study partner (or partners!) are committed to working on studying too, so you don’t end up distracting each other!
As an extra bonus, set a time and a place to meet up with your study buddy and work. This way, you have an obligation to meet and are more likely to show up and get things done.
If you can’t meet up with a friend, try putting on a “study with me” Youtube video in the background while you work. These videos can simulate the feeling of studying with someone else, while also providing ambient sound or soft music. Many of them even include timers to keep you on track for when you need to study and when you can take breaks!
Make studying a game
One of the biggest reasons people struggle to study is that they feel overwhelmed. They’re stuck in a negative emotional rut, and they can’t get out. Their brains immediately try to run from the bad emotions, which means NOT studying and NOT confronting the problem. They put it off, and put it off, and eventually realize it’s too late!
So instead of fighting against your feelings of overwhelm, replace them with new feelings.
Turning your studying into a game is a great way to change your emotional state. By turning studying into a game, you stop thinking about the end result and focus on winning your little game instead. And that is way more fun than stressing about learning everything!
One easy way to turn your studying into a game is to quiz your study partners. Create flashcards, keep track of points, or simply see who can rattle off memorizable information the fastest.
Of course, you can also do this by yourself if you don’t have a study partner. An easy way to make studying into a game for yourself is to simply list out each of the concepts you need to master and then checkmark them off as you learn them. That might not sound like much of a game, but by checking each concept off, you get to see how much progress you’re making and feel good about every little milestone.
Make Your Notes Pretty!
Another way to replace the feeling of overwhelm is to make your studying process more fun through an art project.
Try rewriting your notes, but this time create fun doodles to illustrate key points. Even just using interesting designs, fonts, and colors can help make the whole thing a lot more fun.
Remember, your notes don’t have to be “Pinterest” worthy. All that matters is that you enjoy making them. As soon as you start having fun with the note-taking process, you’ll actually enjoy studying and have more motivation to keep going.
Create a Cheat Sheet
You can also make studying more fun by creating a cheat sheet that only takes up one piece of paper. It can be an interesting challenge to try to fit all the relevant information on just one sheet! Plus, simply the act of making a cheat sheet will help you retain the information you need. Even if you can’t use the cheat sheet for a test, you’ll have learned everything you need to!
Just do the First Thing
Sometimes, no matter how much we prepare mentally, no matter how fun we make it, no matter how many study partners we have, our motivation just isn’t there.
And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to not have any motivation. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, to feel like there’s no way you could ever tackle the mountain of things you need to tackle in order to be prepared.
Feeling that way is normal.
But despite all those feelings, you can still study. Your feelings are just your feelings, and they don’t have to dictate how you act. Recognize your lack of motivation, think about where it’s coming from, then accept it and move forward anyway.
Let your emotions be, and instead of trying for hours to create motivation out of nothing, just do the very first step on your studying to-do list. That first step might be something as simple as opening up a book. Turning on a laptop. Taking out a pen and piece of paper. Sitting down at your desk.
Motivation actually often follows action, so if you put yourself in motion first, your motivation may end up making a surprise appearance after all.
So if the motivation to study continually eludes you… stop chasing it.
Worry about getting the very first thing done.
Motivation will follow later, and by the time it arrives? You’ll already be studying.