Getting Motivated to Study – The Complete Guide

Exams are just around the corner and you’ve got 2 or 3 deadlines to meet coming up fast.  I don’t believe any student looks forward to this, and most put it off until the last minute which is not advised if you want to get the highest grades. Studying on any level can be overwhelming; however, just like most things that will benefit, it requires a huge amount of discipline.



Here are some steps to get you motivated to study.

Getting Disciplined     Your Purpose
Get into Game Mode Small Actionable Steps
Reward Yourself      Read-Watch  Motivational
Visualize    Study Partners/Groups
Get Rid of Negativity

Step 1: Becoming Disciplined

Self disciplined is the most important aspect of being able to motivate yourself. If you are not disciplined, no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to motivate yourself because you will always choose the easier option. People who have a high level of self control don’t waste time debating about whether they should indulge in behaviors that are going to hinder them from achieving their goals. Instead, they make consistent positive decisions and they don’t allow impulses or feelings to dictate their choices. As a result, studies have found that disciplined people live happier lives. One of the reasons is because they don’t have to deal with that dreadful feeling of constantly being disappointed with themselves.

As a student, it is important that you become self disciplined now and learn how to take control of your choices and habits so that you get the grades that you want. So before you start working on motivation, you need to work on your discipline. Here are some tips to help you:

  1. What are your weaknesses: Everyone has weaknesses; no one is exempt from them. Are you always watching TV? Do you spend too much time on social media? Don’t try and pretend that your vulnerabilities don’t exist; you are not going to overcome your weaknesses until you do.
  2. Get rid of temptations: If you are serious about mastering self discipline you are going to have to have to take some drastic measures. If your weakness is watching too much TV, either get rid of it or limit your time to the shows you really like. If you spend too much time on social media, close down your accounts or limit to 2 half hour sessions per day. If you don’t have access to your temptations you will drastically improve your levels of self discipline.
  3. Set goals and have a plan: If you don’t know where you are going, it will be impossible to get there. You must have a precise vision of what you want to accomplish accompanied with a plan of how you are going to get there so that you don’t get sidetracked.  More on Setting Goals for Studying
  4. Building discipline: Nobody is born with self discipline; it’s a behavior we have to learn. It’s no different to any other skill you want to master, if you want to learn how to play the piano you are going to have to practice every day and discipline works in exactly the same way. You are going to have to focus and put a lot of effort into becoming self disciplined and you will have to work on it daily.Start off small with 15 or 20 minute solid study time and build up time every day or few days.
  5. Keep it simple: If you try and do too much at once you are going to fail. To avoid feeling intimidated by your goals break them down into small steps. For example, don’t try and write an essay in two days. If you know you have to write a 2,000 word assignment write 200 words a day for 10 days. If you know that you need to spend more time reading, read 3 pages of a book a day instead of trying to read the whole chapter. Eventually you can start increasing the amount of time you spend doing things.
  6. Healthy eating: Your diet plays an important role in your level of self discipline. Carbohydrates such as fries, white pasta and white rice make you feel tired and sluggish and so instead of studying you will want to sleep. It is essential that you eat foods that are going to give you the energy you need to do be able to study effectively. These foods include:
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Strawberries
  • Shrimp
  • Hummus
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Water
  1. What do you believe about willpower: A study conducted by Stanford University found that the extent of a person’s willpower is determined by their beliefs about it. If you believe that your willpower is limited you won’t get passed those limits. If you believe that your self-control is unlimited you are less likely to exhaust yourself before you have met your goals. After examining yourself, if you find that you hold negative beliefs about willpower and self control you are going to have to work towards removing these subconscious barriers and start believing that you can do anything that you set your mind to accomplish.
  2. Have a Plan B: “Implementation intention” is a technique used by psychologists to boost willpower. This is when you prepare a plan to handle situations that may end up being difficult for you. For example, you might be trying to lose weight and you are trying to eat a healthy diet but you’ve been invited to a party and the food there won’t be so healthy. The idea is that before you get there to tell yourself that instead of feasting on a plate of chips you are going to sip on a glass of water and mingle with the crowd instead. Having a backup plan will keep you focused on the task at hand and give you the self control required to overcome the situation.

Now that you understand the concept of “implementation intention,” let’s see how you can apply it to studying. Let’s say you know that you always decide to go on a 1 hour break that turns into three when you have to study math which is your least favorite subject. Your backup plan can be instead of taking a break change your method of studying. So you can listen to a math tutor instead of reading. This will break up the boredom associated with studying a subject that you don’t like.

Step 2: Define Your Purpose           

Begin with the end goal in mind – what is the reason why you are studying?  Do you want to become the biologist who finds the cure to cancer? Would you like to become a lawyer? What do you want to do in life? Once you know what you are working towards it will inspire you to keep pushing regardless of how you feel.

Everyone who has ever achieved any level of success and made a change in the world all had one thing in common. They knew what their purpose was, and what they wanted and this is what motivated them to keep going regardless of the obstacles they faced.

Being clear about your purpose can’t be over-stated.  Write it down in as much detail as possible.   If you have a clear goal, then your results will tend to be clear – if you do not have a clear well-defined goal the results will tend to be unclear.

That doesn’t mean just because you set a goal you will achieve it.   Setting a goal is step 1 – working toward that goal is the hard part that comes after.

Step 3: Get Into Game Mode

All top athletes are familiar with the term “game mode,” before an important game, they follow a specific routine to motivate them for the task ahead. This routine helps them to get into the right frame regardless of how they are feeling. “Game mode” is not only limited to sports, regardless of the field, all top performers have developed a unique routine to prepare them for what they need to do. This routine allows them to immediately transition into the right frame of mind.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a routine that could get you into the mood to study? Here are some suggestions from some of the most successful athletes in the world:

  • Gretchen Bleiler: Professional snowboarder – Reads an inspirational book before she goes out to play.
  • Curtis Martin: American football player – reads Psalm 91 from the bible before each game.
  • Calvin Johnson: American football player – does yoga before each game.
  • J Griffin: American baseball player – likes to play the guitar before a game.

You can pick one of the suggestions or you can come up with your own routine before you start studying. The idea is to make it a habit so that as soon as you have completed your routine, you are ready to hit the books.

Step 4: Small Actionable Steps

Whether you have to study for an exam or complete an essay, leaving it to the last minute is never a good idea. Any task becomes overwhelming when it appears too big, but Lao Tzu said “A journey of 1000 miles starts with one step.” If you organize your time so that you get a bit done each day you will eventually reach your goal without the pressure of having to get a large amount of work done in a short space of time.

Step 5: Reward Yourself

There is nothing better than treating yourself after you have completed a task. According to scientific research when you reward yourself the brain responds to that positive emotion. After doing this continuously the brain begins to make a connection between pleasure and accomplishing a task.

No matter how big or small the task, give yourself a reward once you have completed it. This might be in the form of watching a 5 minute video clip, taking a snack break or playing a video game. Even the smallest rewards will motivate you to accomplish your study goals.

Here are some tips for rewarding yourself:

  • Set a goal and decide what the reward is going to be for reaching it.
  • Build a relationship between the effort you put in and a positive reward.
  • The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.
  • If you don’t reach the goal, don’t reward yourself.

Step 6: Listen/Watch/Read Something Motivational

There’s nothing better than getting fired up by watching or listening to something that inspires you. You might want to listen to a short clip of a student who was once in your shoes and achieved massive success because they chose to be disciplined and study hard instead of procrastinating. It might be the story of one of your favorite music artists or movie stars and their journey from rags to riches. A powerful speech will give you the motivation you need to keep going.

Step 7: Visualize Yourself Graduating

Athletes have been using visualization techniques for years. Science has proved that if you can see yourself achieving something and feel the emotions of your success you will achieve it. The mind is a very powerful tool, and whatever you think about is recorded by the subconscious mind as reality. In other words the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between real or fake, it simply feeds off what you think which then manifests into reality.

Practice visualizing yourself walking across the stage with your cap and gown. Feel the emotions and live the experience as if it were really happening. This will motivate you to keep going and cause your dream to come to pass. Think about it like this, if you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it.

Step 8: A Study Partner

When you have someone to work with it makes studying a lot easier. Whether it’s one person or a group of people you will motivate and draw energy from one another. A study partner also acts as an accountability partner, so the days when either of you don’t feel like studying you can motivate each other to keep going.  Tips on Forming a Study Group

Step 9: Listen to Music

Music is a powerful way to get motivated, if chosen wisely, it provokes positive emotions that will motivate you to study. The right music will inspire you to take action and energize you to get started. Listening to music is a very simple method of getting you excited about studying, so choose some songs that inspire you, make a play list and listen to them before you study, and when you are taking a break. Stay away from lounge or chill-out music because this will only make you want to relax. You should also stay away from ballads that make you think about your current or ex partner. You will know what kind of music inspires you and what doesn’t.

Step 10: Get Rid of Negative Emotions

Every so often while you are studying you are going to be confronted with negative emotions. You are going to feel disappointment, anxiety and anger. These emotions can drain you of your motivation and diminish your focus and drive. My advice to you is not to waste your emotions, feelings and attitudes on feelings that are not going to benefit you they will only create an obstacle for your success.

Step 11: It Won’t Last Forever

There are going to be days when you feel as if you will never finish school. If you ask your parents or anyone else with an academic qualification they are going to tell you that they felt exactly the same way. You are not going to be a student forever so you might as well give it your best shot so that you don’t look back and regret it in the future.

Take Away

Now get on with it! It is your responsibility to make studying a priority in your life because no one is going to be able to write your exams for you. Think about it like this, the effort that you put in now is a worthwhile investment for your future. If you want to live an abundant life you are going to have to spend some time preparing for it, and that my dear, comes in the form of studying. So here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with a few minutes per day and work your way up as you start building self discipline. For example, you can start with 20 minutes of focused study per day instead of trying to do an hour.
  • Don’t waste time thinking about the alternatives to studying such as going to watch a movie or talking on the phone. The only alternative to not studying is failure.
  • Don’t procrastinate, just get on with it.
  • Focus on the task at hand so you can complete it quickly.
  • Think about the negative consequences of prolonging your studies.
  • If you start feeling tired while you are studying, run up and down the stairs or jump up and down on the spot.

If you are constantly faced with challenges to your motivation it may be that you have yet to develop the required mental willingness to succeed. If this is the case, you will need to search deep within to find out why this is because you are the only person who is responsible for your success.


Get the Book Students are Talking About!

Get Organized – Study Less – Get Better Marks!
… without endless hours of cramming
… without the need for tutoring
… and without sacrificing the things that matter to you!

How to Study Handbook

Written by: Brian Stocker MA, Complete Test Preparation Inc.
Modified: November 1st, 2018 November 1st, 2018
Published: June 20th, 2018

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