William Wadsworth

by William Wadsworth

The Cambridge-educated memory psychologist & study coach on a mission to help YOU ace your exams. Helping half a million students in 175+ countries every year to study smarter, not harder. Supercharge your studies today with our time-saving, grade-boosting “genius” study tips sheet.

Looking for some quick tips to fix your study motivation slump?

Well buckle in because we’ve got 49 top tips, proven and science-backed, ready to fire up your study motivation and keep it soaring.

We’re going to help you find your motivation by:

  • Mastering your study mindset
  • Creating effective study goals and routines
  • Banishing distractions and procrastination
  • Making the most of your study environment
  • Just getting started AND keeping going

These tips are fast, actionable and full of exercises you can try out TODAY.

Ready to supercharge your study motivation? Let’s go!

Looking for more in-depth study motivation strategies? Get your fill with this action-packed article.

Part 1: Tips for influencing your motivational mojo

Let’s get started with some top study motivation tips that are all about visualising the factors that influence you:

1. Pull up your anchors…

My favourite way to visualise motivational factors is called kites and anchors.

Study motivation factors

Anchors pull your motivation down and kill your drive to succeed. Here are some examples:

  • Fear of failure
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Low energy
  • Distractions

Ask: What are my anchors? Write a list and work to minimise them!

2. … and let your kites soar

On the other hand, kites pull your motivation up and get it soaring.

Some kites are unreliable and work best as a short-term fix. Others might be harder to get flying but they’ll serve you great in the long term:

  • A clear “why”
  • Your study environment
  • Habits and study routines
  • Making progress

Ask: What are my best kites? Make sure to nurture them regularly!

3. Everyone needs to study

If you’re asking yourself “Do I really need to study?” then the answer is yes! Always!

You can always do more to prepare for unexpected hurdles and make sure you’ve got your exams and assignments in the bag!

Why not: do another mock exam, or take another pass through your flashcards!

4. Find your “why”

Why do YOU desire academic success?

Finding your purpose – your reasons “why” – is an important motivational tool at every stage of your academic career, and a really reliable kite!

Study motivation tips

Do you want to achieve top grades? Earn praise? Live with no regrets?

Tip: Write out a list of your reasons in really big, bold letters and stick it up somewhere prominent for some great study motivation!

5. Celebrate your progress with a shiny gold star

Here’s one of my favourite study motivation tips for students of all ages:

A gold star chart is a brilliant and entertaining motivational tool. Honest! I’m 30 years old and I still have a gold star chart on the wall to celebrate Exam Study Expert progress and milestones.


Because making progress is a reliable kite. And the best way to see that progress is to track it and celebrate it, regularly!

6. Have alternative ways to win the day

However, if you’re feeling unmotivated because you haven’t made the progress with your studies or revision that you’d like…

… the best way to boost your motivation is to make up for it with something else, such as:

Finally achieving a tricky yoga pose, trying out a new recipe, or even remembering to call your grandparents!

7. To compete or not to compete?

A little healthy social competition with your classmates and academic rivals can be a great motivational tool.

I should know: outdoing my peers was a major factor in my own high school success. But can come with a high psychological cost in the long-term so be careful.

8. Find a way to make it FUN

Another fun study motivation tip is: make it FUN!

Study motivation tips

If you’re struggling to find your subject(s) enjoyable, use these tricks to inspire your interest:

  • Find out what the biggest unanswered mysteries in the field are!
  • Think about the real-world applications: are there any unusual or wacky career paths?
  • Listen to a captivating TED talk on the subject and engage with their enthusiasm

9. Let fear spur you on

Fear of failure is often a reason that students don’t try at all.

Turn that fear upside down and let it drive you forward instead:

Take a deep breath, take stock of your to do list and goals, and channel the fear into getting the ball rolling!

10. Write it down

Top tip: write out all your study motivation exercises by hand. You’re far more likely to engage with and remember what you’re writing than if you type them.

Why not motivate yourself by: making a “pros and cons” table and write out the good outcomes of studying and the bad consequences of avoiding your studies?

The stick it up somewhere noticeable for continual motivation!

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    Part 2: Tips for challenging your study mindset

    Having the right mindset is vital to staying motivated and succeeding in your studies. The first step is to….

    11. Grow into a “growth mindset”

    Growth mindset puts the emphasis on your ability to change.

    Think “I believe I can change and improve my skills” NOT “I am what I am and I can’t change that” (a fixed mindset).

    So don’t settle for how good you think you are – put in some quality work and believe in the flexibility of your brain!

    12. What’s holding you back?

    Have you got limiting beliefs about yourself? If so, challenge them, and cast off that anchor!

    How, you ask? Well…

    Have you ever caught yourself thinking things like “I’m bad at French” or “I always make silly mistakes in exams”?

    Challenge these niggling, negative thoughts by reminding yourself of some facts. If you practice you WILL improve. Regular mock-exams and exam-day coaching WILL help you combat silly mistakes!

    Give it a go!

    13. Play the “yet” game

    This is one of my all-time favourite study motivation tips because it’s so effective at dealing with negative, limiting thoughts:

    Play the “yet” game.

    Never think that you just can’t do something. Only that you can’t do it YET. And then work to get there!

    Study motivation tips

    14. Re-programme your self-talk

    Another great way to tackle negative self-talk and motivate yourself to keep going is to practice positivity.

    Remind yourself of what you CAN do, what you’ve already achieved. Keep a folder of proof!

    Add in some growth mindset facts: your brain will grow and change as you learn. And if you’re still struggling with a task, change up your study techniques.

    15. Visualise success

    Here’s a top motivational study tip:

    To get into the right mindset for exam success, stay motivated and persevere, visualise what you want to achieve.

    Imagine yourself opening your grades and seeing all As. Or getting your assignment back with full marks.

    For a fun exercise, try this: write down (or print out a picture of) what you’re most looking forward to doing on the day after your final exam!

    16. Get “gritty”

    On the topic of perseverance and motivation, here’s how to develop the “grit” you need to reach your long-term goals:

    • Remember talent isn’t everything
    • Put in quality effort to improve a little every day
    • Believe you can change and improve

    Read more about getting “gritty” in Angela Duckworth’s great book*.

    17. Smart goal-setting

    Sure, there’s a knack to setting effective long-term and short-term study goals.

    But you can master it easily if you remember to make your goals specific, achievable and within your control.

    Here’s an example:

    Instead of “Finish literature review”, try “read and analyse three key papers by Friday”.

    Tip: Boost your daily study motivation by setting regular goals, tracking your progress and celebrating your wins!

    18. Stretch the boundaries

    Find the perfect study motivation by setting up some long-term goals that stretch you.

    Make sure to take into account your track record, history of effort and temperament. You want your goals to be challenging, NOT overwhelming.

    And remember – everything you want should be just outside your comfort zone. Otherwise you’d have it already!

    19. Mark out a map with milestones and inch-pebbles

    If your long-term goals get overwhelming and you find your motivation to pursue them dipping, try this:

    Break them down into milestones to achieve each week or month. Then smash those milestones up into tiny inch-pebbles – these will be your daily goals, marking out the map to success!

    Feels less daunting, doesn’t it?

    20. Take the pressure off with a great plan B

    Another top tip for staying motivated in pursuit of your long-term study goals is this: add in a plan B.

    Having a viable alternative destination in mind lets you go ahead and shoot for the moon without the pressure, stress and burnout.

    Ask yourself: what’s my alternative outcome? Put in a little research and find some extra motivational sparks inside the reasons why you’re excited about your plan B too.

    21. Raise the stakes

    Hold yourself accountable to your study goals by raising the stakes in a fun or exciting way.

    Why not:

    • Pair up with a friend to keep each other on track
    • Pick a meaningful penalty (such as a cheque for your favourite charity) if you don’t hit your target
    • Use an app (like Beeminder) to help you stick to your plans or risk that penalty

    This is a great tip for creating a motivational thrill in pursuit of your studies!

    22. Motivational quick fixes

    If your study motivation pot is drained and empty but you need a quick fix for your next study session, try one of these three activities:

    • Read through your reasons “why” and study goals
    • Take a deep breath, or try a quick meditation
    • Take a break, and get outside for a walk

    Part 3: Tips and techniques to get started and motivated

    Sometimes the hardest thing is taking the first step up your mountainous to-do list. Try these techniques for some motivation to start:

    23. Eat your elephants in tiny bites

    If your project is vast and elephant-sized use this study tip to gain the motivation to start tackling it.

    It works just like milestones and inch-pebbles: break it down!

    Motivational tips for students

    Divide up your project into sections – and keep dividing until you have manageable, bite-sized tasks. Then bite off what you can do today and no more!

    24. Eat a frog for a healthy breakfast

    Start your day by eating a frog, and you’ll know that the worst thing you need to do all day is DONE.

    Getting your hardest and most important task out the way first is a great motivator.

    The rest of your studies or revision will look easy in comparison, and you’ll have the energy to fly through your day.

    25. Slip on down “the slide”

    This is a favourite study motivation tip of mine:

    Use the psychology of persuasion on yourself to get down to work today.

    Start with something easy and attractive (assembling your stationery), do “just a little bit” (5 minutes of an easy task) and let the momentum carry you through to your end-goal.

    Why not get yourself engaged with an episode of the Exam Study Expert podcast or a Ted-Ed video, then do 30 minutes of retrieval practice?

    Curious? Read more about starting small here.

    26. Line up your “pomodoros”

    Use the Pomodoro method to stay on track, manage your efficiency and avoid distractions.

    Combine 20-25 minute study sessions (“pomodoros”) and 5-10 minute breaks in groups like this:

    Remember to add in a timer: it’s a powerful external motivator!

    27. Just start!

    If it will take less than 5 minutes to do that task on your to-do list, do it right now.

    You’ll get the ball rolling and feel the motivation to continue pouring in.

    28. Free-write to start right (now)

    Experiment with free-writing: writing anything AT ALL, for just 10 minutes with no stopping.

    Don’t worry if it’s not good quality writing: that’s not the point.

    In fact, don’t worry about the language, grammar, structure or referencing at all. Just write (and edit later)!

    Part 4: Tips to make your study motivation a habit

    Building up good study habits is the key to optimising your study motivation: use these tips to stay on track.

    29. Get stretchy

    There are good study habits and really unhelpful ones.

    Make sure you’re building up good ones by staying stretchy:

    Being regularly reflective and flexible about your habits is the best way to notice when they’re not helpful.

    30. Build a killer routine

    A study routine is the perfect tool to keep you going when your motivation dips.

    Start by setting out a weekly/fortnightly schedule that accounts for all of your time – study sessions, relaxation, commitments, even sleep!

    Then commit to following it!

    31. Bundle up with mindless activity

    Fit in some extra studying sessions by combining revision with a mindless, physical task.

    Why not: go for a walk with a friend and quiz each other, or go jogging and listen to a revision guide audiobook?

    You’ll get the benefits of exercise AND feel motivated and accomplished.

    32. Get app-y about time-tracking

    Using an external tool to manage your time let’s you focus on, well, staying focused.

    A time-tracking app can help you to develop accountability, use techniques like the Pomodoro method, avoid distractions and review your study sessions.

    Try: growing yourself a little study forest with Forest for feel good motivation to finish every study session!

    33. Are you getting enough sleep?

    Here’s a simple, but effective tip: low energy is a weighty anchor to your study motivation, so keep yours up with sleep.

    Regular sleep is vital for reducing stress, studying effectively, boosting your memory and improving your overall health.

    To ensure you get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, make your bedtime regular and have unwind beforehand.

    34. Make hydration a habit

    If you struggle to remember to stay hydrated whilst studying, make sure you always have a big bottle of water on hand.

    Sipping from it regularly will boost your energy and improve your concentration – great for your motivation!

    35. Brain foods: your friends

    Eat the right foods to boost your brain: for optimal function, your brain needs fatty acids, found in:

    • Berries
    • Nuts
    • Dark chocolate

    Sounds like the perfect study session snack to keep your energy kite flying high! Why not combine it with one of your regular breaks for a dual motivational booster?

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      Part 5: Tips to keep you from getting distracted

      Like most students, there’s probably a whole list of things you’d rather do than study. Use these next study motivation tips to minimise your procrastination and distraction anchors:

      36. Evolution and monkey brains

      We all have a “monkey brain”* that evolved to crave fun, and when it comes to studying, it’s not your friend!

      Shift the power to your study brain by:

      • Visualising the positive outcomes of studying
      • Acknowledging the undesirable consequences of giving into your monkey brain!

      37. Tempt yourself with “work-fun” bundles

      Channel your inner Mary Poppins by creating unbreakable “work-fun” bundles.

      Pick a strong temptation (something meaningful!) and pair it up with a regular, unenjoyable study task. Make yourself a deal: no studying, no tempting fun-time.

      Keep yourself accountable, and you’ll soon find that a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down!

      38. Distraction-proof your technology

      Sure, the internet is a great resource for research and revision, but distraction is always just one click away!

      Banish the distractions by:

      • Muting all notifications – or go one step further: putting your phone on silent and hiding it!
      • Changing your Netflix and social media passwords to something incomprehensible (write it down and hide it!) and logging out
      • Using a “focus app” (such as Freedom or Serene) to block access to certain websites and social media

      39. Keep a distractions list

      motivational tips for study

      If your mind is full of distracting thoughts buzzing around whilst you study, keep a distractions list.

      Simply write them down to get them out of your head. You’ll soon find your mind is clear and you can focus on your studies again!

      40. What’s worse than studying?

      If you’re a serial procrastinator, you can use that tendency in your favour!

      Make studying into procrastination from something worse with the technique “structured procrastination”.

      Write that task (going to the gym, doing your chores) at the top of your list as the most important to do. Then let it motivate you to do some studying instead!

      41. Buddy up to study

      study motivation tip

      A great tip is to find an extra motivational kick by studying with your friends and classmates.

      Having a study buddy (even a whole group) means you have to turn up and actually work: it’s an accountability no-brainer!

      Make the most of the beneficial atmosphere by scheduling regular group study sessions into your routine.

      Part 6: Tips to make your environment your study motivation ally

      Having the right study environment is a major kite for your motivation and mindset. So wherever you are, use these next tips to get set up and focused today!

      42. Communal study space vibes

      Get out of your room and study somewhere where other people are studying: the library, a studious coffee shop …

      An intense, studious atmosphere (and a little peer pressure to fit in) is a great motivator to get into the zone.

      And if that’s not physically possible for you…

      43. Study soundscapes

      Study to the sounds of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

      Let the library soundscape transport you to a world of intense, studious concentration.

      Trust me, a little aural stimulation is great for getting into the right mindset for some motivated studying.

      44. Find your study soundtrack

      Listening to music can also help you concentrate by blocking out aural distractions (noisy siblings, anyone?).

      Find a playlist that suits you: make it something familiar (less distracting), that makes you happy (to boost your study motivation) – it’s one of my favourite fun tips!

      45. Set your study space to neutral

      A dedicated study space is a winning tool to get you motivated and in the right mindset (no more monkey brain!).

      You don’t need a fancy desk – a corner of the kitchen table will do. Simply create a little space:

      • Clear the workspace to neutral: empty and distraction-free
      • Add in only the things you need to study: laptop, books, stationery

      Your space should be the reflection of your mind: calm, organised and ready to study.

      46. Motivational quotes

      Fire up your study motivation meter with an inspirational quote (or two).

      Choose a quote that resonates with you. Write it out big and BOLD. We’re aiming for noticeable!

      Stick it up in your dedicated study space or paste it in the front of your notebook and let it drive you onwards!

      47. Make some mental space

      A healthy mental space is just as important as your physical study space.

      So make sure you take care of yourself with regular reflection, unwinding and de-stressing.

      Journaling can be a great, cathartic way to relieve study worries and stress – let it all out and let it go to stay motivated for tomorrow.

      48. Meditate, feel great

      Exercise your concentration muscle with some meditation and mindfulness.

      It’s great for making mental space, improving your focus and coping with study nerves and stress.

      Try starting with a deep breath and a short 10-minute mediation exercise (with Calm or Headspace**). Build it into your study routine to reap regular benefits!

      My top recommendation: I can wholeheartedly recommend Headspace as a great tool for students (and teachers!), as it is packed full of dedicated content to help you focus on your studies and sleep well. So I’m thrilled that Exam Study Expert and Headspace now have a partnership. You can click here to get started with Headspace for free (hooray!). Plus, you can learn all about the Headspace app in my thorough, honest review!**

      49. Take regular breaks

      Our final study motivation tip is an important one:

      Make time for breaks from studying. Regular rest and relaxation is essential to boost motivation and look after your mental health.

      Why not: go for a walk, admire a tree or do some yoga to let go of any tension!

      Let’s DO this!

      We’re certainly feeling it, are you?

      I hope these tips have given you the study motivation boost you needed to build some great study habits and ace your exams!

      What’s your favourite study motivation tip? Let us know in the comments below!

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        *As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you. I make these recommendations based on personal experience and because I think they are genuinely helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I receive.

        **I may get compensated if you use Headspace, but this has no bearing on my decision to recommend it to you. In fact, I had been personally using and enthusiastically recommending Headspace for 3-4 years before we started our commercial partnership.

        William Wadsworth
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