Sometimes, finding that elusive study motivation can be hard work. Some days you’ve got it, some days you just haven’t and you don’t know where to start.
If you’re panicking or feeling overwhelmed about that project due soon or upcoming exam, take a deep breath.
You’re going to be OK.
Because this action-packed article is going to show you EXACTLY how to: get your study motivation to show up consistently, get an extra boost when you need one, and keep going when motivation is nowhere in sight.
Welcome to Exam Study Expert’s ULTIMATE GUIDE to student motivation. This isn’t just another set of “common sense” tips that you’ll have forgotten by next week.
Keep reading for 29 proven, science-backed strategies that will improve your motivation and:
- make a meaningful difference to your studies
- take you deep into how motivation works
- help you to find the right study mindset
- show you how to start and keep studying efficiently
- help you to build an effective study routine and avoid procrastination
- make your study environment your greatest ally
- get you the grades you want!
Looking to fix a particular problem? Use these links to get you to the section you need:
Prefer to learn with bite-sized tips? Find your study motivation tips fix right here!
BONUS FREE GIFT! Read to the bottom and collect a special gift from me that will teach you the best possible system for learning information effectively and fast!
Influence your study motivation with “kites and anchors”
Let’s get started with my favourite way to visual all the factors that influence your motivation to study:
I call them “kites and anchors”.
Anchors: (such as a fear of failure) pull your motivation down and kill your drive to succeed.
Kites: (such as making progress with your studying) lift your motivation up and fuel your studies.
Finding the motivation to study relies on winning two battles: shrinking your anchors, and inflating your kites. If you get this right, you’ll be riding a perfect motivational wave.
Throughout this article, I’ll be identifying all the strategies that will help you to cast off your anchors and harness kites!
Part 1: Why study at all?
Do I really need to study?
If your answer is no, you’re likely in one of two camps:
- The ‘I’ve got plenty of time – I can study another day’ camp
Time passes faster than you think, and life gets in the way. So please don’t leave it to chance!
The sooner you start studying, the more time you’ll have for unexpected hurdles. You can space out your study sessions, and make sure you feel prepared come exam day.
- The ‘I know it all (or enough) already’ camp
Let’s face it, you can always do more to make sure you’ve got your exam in the bag – another mock exam, another pass through your flashcards.
If you’re in this camp, maybe it is time to raise your goals and aim for an even higher grade! When preparing more feels like over-preparing, that’s great – it will protect you against the unexpected on exam day!
And if your answer is yes, well done. You’re already on the right path!
So what is the first step?
1. Finding YOUR reasons: clarity and desire
Believe it or not, succeeding in your studies can bring you a lot of reasons to be happy!
So the most important first step you can take is to find your purpose, your internal motivation to study: your reasons “why”.
Why do YOU desire academic success?
Whichever stage of your academic career you’re at right now – high school, college, university (or studying for a different qualification) – finding your “why” is an essential and reliable kite that will keep your motivation soaring.
Do you yearn to:
- Achieve top grades at the end of the year?
- Acquire praise and admiration from others?
- Outdo your peers?
- Live with no regrets?
- Make the most of your self-development?
- Have meaningful career prospects?
Do any of these examples resonate for you? If you’ve got other suggestions, leave them in the comments section below!
Motivation to succeed is often stronger when you have a clear idea about your next steps in life.
Big-picture goal-setting can be scary, but turning fuzzy ideas about your next steps or future career into sharply focused ambition is a vital motivational step every student should take!
So take a deep breath, and start with some brainstorming and research: what do you enjoy doing the most?
2. Making progress is motivating
Often, when you’re in the midst of an essay or revision period, seeing the progress you’re making towards your end-goal can be difficult.
And that makes it tempting to give up.
Because the flip-side of this motivational crisis is that acknowledging your progress is a really reliable kite!
So, make it easier to track your progress with effective short-term goal setting made of milestones and inch-pebbles (see strategy 9).
And make celebrating your progress a regular habit – even a simple gold star chart on the wall can be a great motivational boost!
Remember: you can and will continue to improve as long as you keep working and studying.
In the long term, advancing in your studies will open new doors and offer many opportunities.
Perhaps one day YOU will be at the top of your chosen field, crafting original arguments and uncovering new findings that make progress for all of humanity!
3. To compete, or not to compete?
In my high school years, the desire to outdo my closest academic rivals was a major factor in how I turned my studies around. It may not sound as pure and wholesome as the “pure joy of success”, but boy, did it work for me.
So I know that a little healthy social comparison is a good way to motivate yourself.
However – using competition as a motivator can come with a high psychological cost in the future, as I learnt in discussion with Dr Erika Patall:
- Students who rely on beating their peers as their primary motivation often suffer academically and psychologically later on – as I did during my first year at Cambridge University.
Getting competitive is an unreliable kite. So make sure you have other reasons ‘why’ on your list!
4. Find some enjoyment in your studies
If you’re lucky, you love your subject – and this can be great motivation to get going with your studies!
But not many students feel that way (especially not about all their subjects), and that’s OK.
I know that when you are at an earlier stage in your academic journey and don’t have (much) choice about the subjects you study, finding motivation within the subjects themselves can be difficult.
The good news is that when you start having choice over what subjects you study, you should find your chosen field(s) interesting!
In the meantime, here are some tricks you can use to inspire interest in your subjects:
- Find out what the biggest unanswered mysteries in the field are!
- Make a silly presentation for a friend and aim to find out 5 crazy facts about the subject
- Think about the real-world uses and careers of people who work in this field – are there any you’d never heard of?
- Listen to some captivating YouTube clips or TED talks on advances and discoveries – engage with the enthusiasm!
5. Turn “fear of failure” on its head
Fear of failure is something no-one likes to talk about much.
So let’s tackle this anchor head on.
There’s so much pressure on students to perform (put there by ourselves and/or by others), that at some point most of us find we “feel the fear”.
Being afraid that they’re going to (or even might) fail is a common reason why some people don’t try at all.
And unsurprisingly, studies find that students driven by hope tend to be happier and less stressed than ones driven by fear.
However, for others, fear can be a potent driver, especially when the workload and expectations are at their fiercest.
Fear drove me to half-decent results in my first two years at university: the courses were hard and there was a very real possibility I’d bomb, which scared me – and motivated me to work my socks off!
And you too CAN make fear work as a motivator and not as an anchor:
- When it arrives, take a deep breath, take stock of your goals and to do list, and channel the fear into getting the ball rolling and working hard. It can be astonishingly effective!
If fear makes you feel overwhelmed, head on down to Part 3 for some strategies for overcoming the first step.
Exercises to try today:
Looking for some practical exercises to make the most of these five strategies? Grab a pen and piece of paper and ty these:
- Write out a list of YOUR top 5 reasons why in really big, bold letters!
- Make a “pros and cons table” and write down the good outcomes of studying and bad consequences of avoiding your studies.
- What are you looking forward to doing on the day after your exam? Write it down or print out a picture!
Keep your lists on your desk, or with your notes, to read when you’re feeling unmotivated to remind yourself why!
Part 2: Change your mindset
Another very important part of study motivation is having the right mindset.
When I’m coaching students, I often hear the idea “some people are talented, and some are not”. This is called a “fixed mindset”, and it is a very natural assumption to make.
But it’s not helpful – or right!
What you need to build instead is a “growth mindset”, which puts the emphasis on your ability to change.
It looks like this:
|Fixed mindset:||Growth mindset:|
|I am what I am and I can’t (significantly) change||I believe I can change and improve my skills|
Your brain is very flexible, and good practice (such as studying regularly, in the right way) can make new connections, strengthen existing ones, and even change how the brain looks.
Want an example?
- The brains of taxi drivers in London – who know how to navigate tens of thousands of streets in a sprawling 2000-year-old city without a map or satnav – actually have a bigger area that deals with memory and navigation. Were they born with that? Of course not! It grew and strengthened throughout years of practice.
We know that anyone can learn and improve and grow.
So don’t settle for how good you think you are. Put in some quality work in pursuit of that change. You CAN do, and become, better.
And here’s how: use these next six strategies to cultivate your own growth mindset!
6. Got limiting beliefs? Challenge them!
What is holding me back?
Limiting beliefs – all the niggling little thoughts you have about not really being good enough – are a weighty anchor for your study motivation. Left unchecked, they can even lead you to a struggle with imposter syndrome.
So try this exercise now (and regularly) to banish those nasty beliefs that are limiting your mindset:
- Step 1: Spend some time writing down all the things you believe about your ability, work ethic, and ability to achieve. Be HONEST.
- Step 2: Unpick those beliefs. Be really critical about everything you’ve written down, and figure out at least ONE good reason why each one of those beliefs is just a myth.
Here’s some examples:
|Limiting belief:||CHALLENGE IT:|
|I’m bad at French|
I’m not one of those people that can work hard
I always make silly mistakes in an exam and undo some of my hard work
|If I practice regularly my brain will change and grow until I’m fluent!|
I can develop a good work ethic with the help of an effective study routine!
Doing mock-exams, making an exam-day game-plan and having exam-day coaching will help me combat this!
- Step 3: Practice letting go of your limiting beliefs every single day. Keep your list with your reasons “why” exercise for additional motivation when needed!
7. Re-programme your self-talk
Learning about the importance of believing in yourself and your ability to grow is great – but do YOU actually do it?
You can reprogramme your attitude towards yourself simply by paying close attention to the language you use to describe yourself and your abilities.
Use the “yet” game to get into a growth mindset – add the word yet to your thoughts.
Tip: Correct yourself in your head or out loud, and have the confidence to correct others too (especially if they’re talking about you!). You might feel silly at first, but it will be worth it!
Adapted from “Carol Dweck Revisits the “Growth Mindset”. Find out more in her book Mindset.*
Before long, you might be surprised to find yourself internalising these beliefs and embracing a new positive attitude!
8. Have you got grit?
What is “grit”? Put simply, the quality effort you put into achieving your goals.
In her book on perseverance* in pursuit of long-term goals – or “grit” – Angela Duckworth shares findings from her research into where success comes from. She explores a huge range of fields: from top corporate salespeople, to spelling bee champions, to exceptional performers at military academy.
Her conclusion: talent isn’t everything. Duckworth finds that talent plays a small role in exceptional performance, but a far more important factor is the ‘grit’ people have in pursuit of their goals.
How can you develop grit? You need to look at four things we have explored:
- Find a greater purpose in what you’re doing (see strategy 1)
- Improve a little bit each day (see strategy 2)
- Develop a fascination with what you’re studying (see strategy 4)
- Don’t accept what you’re given: believe you can change (Part 2)
These four things will help you to put in the effort needed to make a difference to your future.
Here’s how you can put that effort into practice:
9. Setting the right goals for YOU
There’s a knack to setting effective study goals, but it’s pretty easy to master.
Which is great news because having the right long-term and short-term goals for YOU is a vital motivational kite for your studies! Your goals need to pull you forward and not hold you back.
So how do you set the right goals?
They need to be:
- Specific – so you can track your progress and reap the motivational rewards! (see strategy 2)
- Challenging and achievable – stretch yourself but don’t be totally unrealistic
- Within your control – a balance of outcome (end-goal) and process goals works well
Make sure to take into account your track record, history of effort and temperament, to ensure you’re focusing on goal that are challenging but not overwhelming.
Your reasons “why” will likely be the cornerstone of your long-term goals, the big picture undertakings.
It’s also great practice to set yourself short-term goals every day – these ones will be the inch-pebbles and milestones that mark out the map of your long-term goals!
Not sure how your effective goals should look? Here’s some examples:
|INSTEAD OF:||TRY THIS:|
|I’m going to learn 100 words of French today|
I want to finish my literature review for my dissertation
|I’m going to practice French for 2 hours today |
(a more achievable process goal)
I will choose 5 key papers and read them by Friday
(a more specific outcome goal)
Feels less daunting, doesn’t it?
10. Hold yourself accountable…
… especially when it doesn’t come naturally.
Some people really struggle to stay true to their goals: life is just too messy, too interesting, or just too damn fun sometimes. And that creates real barriers to study motivation.
It’s OK, I get it. But what can be done?
You need to ramp up your accountability – raise the stakes so that you stay true to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Accountability will help you progress towards building a work routine and achieving your goals.
Here are some ideas:
- Pair up with a friend: a study buddy is a great choice because you can return the favour!
- Share your immediate goals and check in with them regularly. Pick someone who wants you to succeed for a positive experience!
- Use an app: there are tools available that force you to stick to your plans, or risk a penalty (of your choice)!
- For example, send a cheque to charity every week you fail to get 2000 words of thesis written!
- Apps like Beeminder do a great job of managing your accountability to your goals
- Take it public: use social media to make yourself publicly accountable!
Remember: the key thing is picking a method that you’ll stick to. Make your penalty system meaningful for you. It can be short-term scaffolding (until your exam) or part of your long-term study plan!
11. Don’t expect to feel study motivation all the time
Studying might feel like a marathon (especially if you’re heading towards an exam), but it won’t go on forever! You will find the light at the end of the tunnel, I promise!
If you’re feeling unmotivated, the balance of your kites and anchors isn’t right.
Whilst you nurture that balance, use these simple steps to reset your brain for a quick motivational boost!
- Get out the lists you’ve made so far and re-read them
- Start with your reasons “why” and study goals
- Take a deep breath – why not try out some meditation?
- Take a break – get outside and go for a walk!
- Walking is great for your brain and creates endorphins that will boost your mood and chase away fatigue!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the next section is the perfect place to start!
Exercises to try today:
This section is full of great exercises you can do today to get your motivational kites flying! Here’s a reminder of them:
- Try the three-step task to challenge your limiting beliefs from strategy 6.
- Examine your self-talk – write a list of statements you frequently say or think, and make corrections that remind you of the positives.
- Write down 3 outcome goals and 3 progress goals you want to achieve this week. Make an action plan to help you get there!
Part 3: Techniques to get started
It’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out by mountainous to-do lists, a lack of progress, over-ambitious goals and the looming spectre of failure.
If that’s how you’ve been feeling, take a deep breath because I’ve got some great news.
The hardest part of conquering your mountains and regaining your motivation to study is often the very first step.
I’ve lined up five top motivational strategies based in psychology and learning science, designed to structure your study time and boost your study productivity and focus in just a short space of time.
Sounds perfect, right?
So read on to find the right method that suits you, and get your ball rolling today.
12. Eat your elephants in tiny bites
If your project or revision feels huge and daunting, this one is for you!
Studying well is a long game, and the big picture can sometimes be very big and scary indeed. So big it’s like an elephant.
And as the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”.
So don’t take everything on your shoulders at once. Break it down into small chunks with this easy three-step process:
Keep breaking down your elephant until you have manageable, bite-sized tasks!
Then bite off what you feel you can chew in the next hour, or this afternoon, or today. And no more!
If you’ve started building your study routine, make sure your bites are small and conservative! It’s FAR better to start small and finish early than take on too much on day 1 – you’ll find yourself disheartened and unmotivated to keep going!
13. Eat a frog for a healthy breakfast
Why, I hear you ask, would I eat a frog?
Because it’s a great way to start your day!
The premise is very simple: take your hardest and most important task – the one on your list you are most likely to avoid all day. This is your frog.
Now tackle it FIRST (in the morning, or as soon as you sit down to study).
Get this difficult but priority task out of the way, and rest of your studying for the day will be easy in comparison!
Curious? Lean more in this exciting podcast episode where I chat to Brian Tracy, one of the founding fathers of modern time management, and creator of the ‘eat the frog’ principle!
14. Slip on down “the slide”
If that doesn’t appeal to you – try starting your day with the opposite!
There’s a technique in the psychology of persuasion called “the slide”, used by salesmen all over the world, say, in a car showroom.
They start with something easy and attractive (a free test drive) and progress through stages (a detailed discussion about engine performance) to the end goal (a massive cheque from the customer for a fast car).
You can use “the slide” on yourself to get down to work. Here are the steps I often use myself:
- Start today, not tomorrow: it’s tempting to want to start after a clean break, but nothing beats getting going right now.
- Assemble the things you need: books, paper, stationery, laptop. Don’t go overboard with your organising (no need to alphabetise!), just get prepared.
- Do ‘just a little bit’: set a timer and commit to doing 5 minutes of an easy task.
- Chances are, once you’ve done five minutes you’ll want to do some more!
If this resonates with you, try this fascinating read from an ultimately highly successful academic, who overcame a severe “work problem” by re-building from a 15-minute-a-day work habit!
Use “the slide” to build up your study habit AND motivation.
15. The Pomodoro method
You may have heard of the Pomodoro method.
It’s a popular motivational time management tool that’s great to to get you started with your study sessions.
The Pomodoro method is a powerful technique to avoid distraction and manage your efficiency.
Here’s how it works:
Combine intense 25–35 minute bursts of work (“pomodoros”) into groups, separated by 5-10 minute breaks.
If you can manage the five minutes of studying from strategy 14, could you manage 25 minutes?
The key: setting a timer to ring after your block of work is up is a powerful external motivator to get you working, enhance your concentration, and cut out interruptions!
16. Just start!
If none of these methods are really working for you, the best thing to do is just start.
Doing some revision (even if it’s not the most effective) is better than none at all.
Don’t worry if the work isn’t good quality for now.
Because – like “the slide” – it’s all about building up momentum and getting yourself engaged. Try:
- Finding a good podcast on your subject, or trying the Exam Study Expert podcast
- Why not listen whilst preparing your study environment and supplies?
- Exploring alternative explanations and real-world applications of your subject with videos from TED-Ed or Khan Academy.
- Experimenting with free-writing – writing anything at all without stopping, for 10 minutes.
- Don’t worry about the language, structure, any gaps or proper referencing – you can edit it later!
You can build up to high-yield active revision – and if you’re not sure how, I can help you help you get there with 1-on-1 study coaching.
Exercises to try today:
This section is all about trying out new study methods to find what works for YOU. So get experimenting!
And whilst you do – why not make a list and tick it off as you complete it? It feels great and is sure to boost your motivation!
Part 4: Make it a habit
Building good habits is the key to optimising your study life.
Because habits make behaviour automatic.
An established study routine built on sturdy habits doesn’t require motivation or willpower to stay in motion.
That means that developing good and effective study habits and routines is essential for when your motivation has vanished in a puff of smoke.
Here’s the caveat: there are good study habits and really unhelpful ones.
Building up the good ones requires you to be reflective and flexible: to notice when your habits aren’t working, and make a change so that they help you achieve those important study goals.
Think you can do all that? Great! I believe in you.
These next four strategies will help you cultivate the best habits to keep your motivation soaring.
17. Build a study routine
I’ve got good news.
A study routine is a great kite that will keep your studying going even when your motivation dips.
Sounds like a winner!
But it takes time. And you’ll have to get your time organised on a large-scale to make it work.
I’m not talking about the next hour, but about building up a schedule that accounts for all your time on a weekly or fortnightly basis (which might depend on your school timetable).
Into that schedule, you can plan your study sessions – and (just as importantly) your relaxation time! Make sure to include exercise, rest and socialising – they’re all important for your mental health.
- Start with an empty table that marks out every hour of your days for an entire week.
- Then start blocking in regular commitments, meals and bedtimes.
- Decide how you want to structure your study time. And you’re on your way!
So my advice is: get started NOW. And commit to the change.
I promise you it is perfectly manageable. My own study routine was the cornerstone of my exam term survival and success as a psychology student at Cambridge University.
18. Bundle up with mindless activity
We’re all busy people, I know.
So how can you fit in ALL the studying you need to before your exam?
One idea that can work quite well is to multi-task whilst you revise.
I’m not usually an advocate of multi-tasking – it leaches your focus and distracts you.
So this only works with certain activities – they have to be mindless, and preferably physical. Like going for a walk whilst a family member quizzes you, or going for a jog whilst you listen to a revision guide audiobook.
It’s a great way to bundle studying and exercise or chores, get more done and feel motivated and accomplished. For more about study bundles, head down to strategies 21 and 23.
19. Keep your energy up
Having low energy is an anchor that will always weigh down your motivation and ability to study effectively.
So how can you combat it?
It sounds simple, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but make sure that you:
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night: a key part of effective studying is rest and recovery
- Eat the right foods to boost your brain: for optimal function, your brain needs fatty acids, found in:
- Berries, nuts, and dark chocolate
- Keep hydrated: keep a bottle of water by your desk as you study!
- Get regular exercise: even just going for regular walks can boost your well-being and motivation
The best way to combine these is by taking regular breaks to rest and recharge.
If you’re unsure how to get yourself into optimal condition to study effectively and ace your exams, I’d love to help. Sign up for a free consultation to learn more.
20. Get app-y about your time-tracking
If you’re not great at time-management, that’s OK.
Maybe you get distracted, or don’t know when to take a break. Or want time for your social life!
A great way to build up a study habit and keep up your motivation is to set up a system using a time-tracking app.
Using external tool shifts the responsibility and lets you focus. I love to use Forest: growing a little tree for every work session I complete feels great.
A time-tracking tool can help with:
- Your accountability for completing tasks
- Your ability to stay on track when using techniques like the Pomodoro method
- Avoiding distractions – and spotting them afterwards.
- Reflecting on your study time, reviewing what went well and making sure any imbalances between subjects won’t get reflected in your grades!
Exercises to try today:
If you’re all fired up to start building your routine and habits, but don’t know where to start, try one of these activities to start getting organised:
- Print out a study calendar and schedule in your study time, fun time and sleep.
- Download and try out a time-tracking app for one week.
- Then review: Did it improve your motivation and productivity?
- Go for a walk with a friend and take turns to quiz each other on your favourite and least favourite subjects!
Part 5: Don’t get distracted
As much as I want you to love your studies, like most students you probably have a decent-sized list of things you’d rather being doing.
Distractions and procrastinations are some of the weightiest anchors for your study motivation.
Think about distraction this way:
We all have a “monkey brain” – the parts of your brain that evolved to crave fun, novelty, and easy rewards. In the modern world, it doesn’t serve you well!
If you’re struggling to get to work because your monkey brain wants to play, shift the power back to your study brain with these three simple steps:
- Sit at a table with a piece of paper (no tech, the risk of distraction is just too high!)
- On the left, write down all the good outcomes you expect if your studies go well.
- On the right, write down all the undesirable consequences of not studying.
- If you’re feeling panicky and anxious, don’t focus on this step, stick to no.2!
This serves two purposes:
- First, visualizing the outcomes of your actions, what you do and don’t want, is really motivating!
- Second, whilst working through your lists, you’ll wake up the “thinking” areas at the front of your brain and you’ll be primed for a great study session!
Curious? You can read more about the psychology behind the monkey brain here and (great for children) here.
Once your monkey brain has been banished, these next four techniques will help you find the willpower to study:
21. Tempt yourself with some “work-fun” bundles
As Mary Poppins sings, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” – and you can make that philosophy work in your favour!
If your heart isn’t in studying, creating an unbreakable “work-fun” bundle rule can be a great source of motivation.
How does it work?
You need a strong temptation, something you really enjoy doing. Pair this up with a study task that you don’t, and make a bargain with yourself – simple!
Remember to make it meaningful so you hold yourself accountable (see strategy 10). And be strict with yourself – don’t indulge without putting in the work first!
|You don’t like:||But you love:||The deal:|
|Practising integration in Maths||Binging your favourite Netflix show||You’re only allowed to indulge in an evening episode if you’ve put in 2 hours of quality integration practice that day. If not, no Netflix!|
Katie Milkman calls this idea ‘temptation bundling’ – and it can work in all areas of your life – doing chores, going to the gym, seeing tedious relatives!
It works because you’re offering yourself rewards and punishments – it’s a kite, but one that can be unreliable long-term. Find out more about the psychology of motivational rewards in this podcast episode.
Have fun, get creative – I’d love to hear what you come up with in the comments section below!
22. Banish distracting technology
If you’re someone who studies with the use of technology – your laptop, or a tablet for example, this one’s for you.
Sure, the internet is a great resource for studying, but distraction is always just one click away.
Sometimes we all need a little help with our self-control.
Here are three options that work great at removing the distractions of notifications and social media.
- Change your social media and Netflix passwords (make it incomprehensible!), write them down on a piece of paper and log out. Then hide that piece of paper FAR away from your desk!
- Put your phone on silent and hide it. It can be pretty liberating!
- Use a “focus app”: they block out access to certain websites and social media AND help with time management.
- Try Freedom, Serene, or RescueTime
23. What’s worse than studying?
We’ve talked about how to make use of the things you’d rather be doing than studying.
But consider this: is there anything you find WORSE than studying? Maybe it’s going to the gym, or doing your chores.
Why not find motivation by making studying into procrastination from that something worse?
If you’re a serial procrastinator (who just might be reading this article to avoid actual studying?) – try this technique. Because, believe it or not, you can use your tendency to procrastinate in your favour.
- Write that undesirable task at the top of your list and make it the most important thing to do today.
- Let it motivate you to do other (still useful) things, and you’ll find the thought of studying for a few hours sounds GREAT.
This is called “structured procrastination”, a technique invented by Professor John Perry.
What are you procrastinating from? I’m sure we’re all curious – tell us in the comments section below!
24. Buddy up to study
If you struggle to feel motivated when studying on your own, a good place to look for that extra kick is with your friends and classmates.
Because if you promise to study with someone else, you have to turn up AND actually work. Think of it like group sports and exercises classes!
Studying with others can be a perfect motivational win in many ways:
- It improves your accountability (see strategy 10)
- AND a communal study environment has a really beneficial atmosphere (see strategy 25)
You can plan group revision activities and projects, give mini-presentations and help each other with your problems.
Make it a regular event, and your study routine will be feeling much more structured immediately.
Can’t meet up in person? No problem, why not set up a virtual study group?
Exercises to try today:
Procrastination is a pain when you’ve got studying to acheive, but you CAN beat the urge. Try these activities:
- Make a list of rewards and indulgences that motivate you, from small to big. How could you use them?
- Get in touch with friends from your course and set up a study session together.
- Remember – you’re holding each other accountable for the work that gets done
- Add in a group reward afterwards, and you’ll be combining strategies like a motivation pro!
- Try putting your phone aside for 1 hour (set a timer!) and see how liberated from distractions you feel
Part 6: Make your environment your ally
Finally, we’re going to revamp your study space and make it your motivational ally.
Having the right environment is a major kite for your motivation.
It might take a little trial and error but finding the right study environment will get you straight into “study mindset” for every session.
If you’re lucky you’ve got access to some great study spots in your school, college or university.
Or perhaps you’re stuck at home right now, have no space of your own, and are looking for a way to avoid Netflix?
Don’t worry – I’ve got your back, and we’ll soon have you set up and focused.
25. Communal study space vibes
In my experience, the best place to study (and find your motivation) is somewhere excuses and distractions can’t touch you:
The library, your college study room, even a studious coffee shop – anywhere you’ll be surrounded by people studying hard.
For me, just getting myself there almost guaranteed I would get some quality work done!
An intense, studious atmosphere is great for motivating you to fit in and get your head down. Feeling peer pressure to study can be a great help – and it will be much easier to focus and avoid distractions.
Not to mention the practical benefits of being in a library if you need access to books for your studies.
If you’re not keen on communal study spaces, why not:
- Ease yourself in with regular visits, just to acclimate?
- Study to the sounds of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford to tap into that library soundscape!
26. Set your study space to neutral
If you can’t get out to a study spot, or prefer to work in the comfort of your own home, this is the strategy for you.
Having a dedicated study space is the best way to get into the right mindset. Somewhere that immediately switches off your “monkey brain” and turns on your “thinking brain”.
Maybe all that is available is the corner of the kitchen table, whilst younger siblings chatter loudly – and that’s OK!
Because this strategy is all creating a little space with what you’ve got available.
- It’s based on the sayings “a tidy room is a tidy mind” and “everything in its place”.
Or as I like to think of it: how I make my mind feel calm, organised and READY for work, is by making my environment reflect that.
So take a look at your immediate environment right now:
- Get rid of everything that won’t help you study – clear your workspace to empty, neutral.
- Then add in the things you need to study (laptop, books, stationery), and nothing else.
Your environment should be looking clean and organised.
And your mind should be feeling calmer and prepared to get started.
Feeling that study motivation?
27. Study to a soundtrack
So you’ve got an organised study space, but maybe the atmosphere still isn’t studious (siblings still being noisy?). What you need now is a way to block out aural distractions.
And a great way to do that is by listening to music.
When I’m doing talks in schools, I often get asked the question “can I listen to music when I’m studying, or will it just distract me?”
Lots of people recommend studying in silence, but I disagree.
If you’re careful about the music you choose, it can be both a great motivator and a perfect way to block out distractions and narrow your focus onto your studying.
Everyone is different, so you’ll need to chose music that works for you. I recommend something familiar (it’s less distracting), that makes you feel happy (to boost your study motivation).
Make the most of MY study soundtracks with these perfect study playlists, featuring a collection lofi, rock, jazz, classical and electronic music – and more!
28. Find the perfect motivational quote
A great way to add that additional motivational boost to your study environment is with a motivational quote (or two!).
Find a quote that speaks to you, write or print it out (nice and big!) and place it somewhere nearby – inside the cover of your notes, or right in your eyeline when you look up.
When you’re feeling unmotivated, it could be just the kick to you need!
Personally, I love this one:
If we wait for the moment when absolutely everything is ready, we shall never beginIvan Turgenev, Russian novelist and playwright
Maybe this isn’t the quote for you, but don’t worry! I’ve compiled all the best inspirational and motivational quotes to get you fired up and feeling studious!
29. Make some mental space
Your physical study space might be ready to get started, but have you taken the time to consider your mental space?
Getting into the right mindset (see section 2) isn’t the only important factor!
As a student, with all the pressure that entails, you need to take care of your mental health whist studying.
Create some mental space for yourself to unwind and de-stress, sharpen your concentration and improve your memory.
Luckily, we live in a great time for mental health research and resources, backed up by robust science. So why not build some of the following into your routine?
- Meditation: cope with study nerves and stress, and improve your focus
- For more brilliant benefits of meditation and mindfulness for students, try this article and not one, but two podcast episodes featuring Claire Kelly and Rachael Williams!
- Journaling: Remember how we discussed free-writing in strategy 16? Getting your thoughts out onto paper regularly is a great and cathartic way to relieve your study worries and frustrations.
- Take a break from studying: go for a walk, admire a tree, do some yoga – let the study brain switch off every now and then! It will boost your motivation when you come back!
Exercises to try today:
Hopefully your study environment is now primed to help you stay motivated. Have you ticked off these activities?
- Find a motivational quote that inspires you and put it up on the wall, or next to your list of “whys”.
- Attempt a 10 minute meditation before you start studying to get focused.
- Try the Calm or Headspace** app for some brief mindfulness practice sessions: learn all about the Headspace app in my thorough, honest review!
- Browse my collection of study playlists and find one that suits your tastes. Put it on during your next study session. Were you feeling more motivated and in the zone?
My top recommendation: l can wholeheartedly recommend Headspace as a great tool for students (and teachers!), packed full of dedicated content to help you focus on your studies and then get a great night’s sleep. 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.**
Let’s get started!
You’re ready – trust me!
Let’s recap what you’ve accomplished by following these 29 study motivation boosting strategies! You’ve:
- Found your reasons “why”
- Formulated your goals and shed your limiting beliefs
- Discovered how to get stared AND keep your momentum going
- Banished all your distractions
- Prepared an encouraging study environment
- Got the tools and methods you need, and you’ve done the exercises!
I can help no further, it’s time to go. As Turgenev reminded us – don’t wait. Do it RIGHT NOW:
Start with just 5 minutes if you have to, though I’ll be even more proud if you can give me 45.
Once you’re done, let me know how it went in the comments. What are your study motivation issues? How are you going to solve them?
Claim your FREE GIFT:
Congratulations! You made it!
And now you can claim your free gift: the 8-page colour guide that teaches you the TOTAL Exam Study Expert system for memorising information effectively and fast. I believe there is no better method!
Based on the exact learning strategy I used at Cambridge University, this ultimate system integrates two major pillars of learning science, and will give YOU the tools you need to succeed in your studies.
It’s available as a welcome treat to the Exam Study Expert email list, a weekly email PACKED with information to help you succeed in your studies. Sign up with the box below!
Looking for yet more science-backed strategies to help you achieve top grades in your exams? You can find them ALL in my book on the subject, Outsmart Your Exams! You won’t be disappointed, it’s awesome and action-packed!
Until next time friends, wishing you the absolute best of luck with your study motivation!
*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.
FIRST, I AM GOING TO START WITH 5-5 MINUTES’ STUDY
Good luck with it, Ashima! We’ll be rooting for you. 🙂
So helpful! Monkey brain gets in the way of my study motivation for sure.