As a student, you have something of an obligation to yourself to do well and achieve grades that represent your genuine ability. Though we know this, there are times where the work needed to achieve these grades just can't be done, not because it's impossible, but because for one reason or another we just...don't feel like it. knowing this, It's finally time to cover how to study effectively and how to be motivated!
I'd bet, there's somebody in your peer group who always 'appears' to be studying, just like that.
As if there was a switch they could flick the very moment they get home from class and then moments later, they'll be buried in revision notes and chomping through the content.
This is no phenomenon, this is something trained. The cause of inaction is often blamed on a lack of motivation, but, that's because most of us don't understand how motivation is achieved.
The truth is, those people have invested time in improving their study habits. They know how to prepare for exams because they've done it so many times before and they have figured out their own way to improve brainpower.
They get motivated because they know the feeling of success and it's important that you realise that you have every chance of achieving the same kind of recipe for success, it's right there for the taking!
We just have to do a bit of a deep dive into the secrets of how to focus and inspire motivation from starting a task. From this, you will learn how to study faster, easier and smarter to achieve a grade you can be proud of.
If I were to narrow it down (and I have) to 6 reasons why the majority of people can't study, I'd probably blame it on the following.
Have a read-through and see if any of the headings resonate with you. If at the end you feel like you've already conquered what's mentioned, progress to the point on motivation - I hope it's an interesting read for you!
Anyhow, no more delaying your valuable study time, let's rattle through them.
1) Your Study Environment is Whack
Now, this will be different in the 2020/2021 period because of the pandemic, usually, I'd talk about the freedom to go wherever but obviously that's less achievable.
The requirements of a good environment include the idea of having everything you need and not having everything you don't need.
To do this requires that you prepare what you have around you, but also who you have around you.
A distracting item in your surrounding is just as bad as a distracting person, unfortunately for them, these unlucky things/people must bid you adieu for a little bit!
Find a way to get into your own space - alternatively, if you benefit from group study sessions, we'll cover that in a mo.
Close your door, put signs up, headphones in, whatever. Just make sure you effectively blank them out, one way or another.
I've covered working from the home for working professionals previously, which covers a few more 'environment-oriented topics in-depth - be sure to check that out after, to place it here would only mean the repeat of a lengthy post!
But take note of the concept of separating your environments, that's probably the most important.
The other important mention in there would be your Desk Setup, I'm not sure if you've seen the forums online but this has become something of an art.
Having a neat workstation offers a bit of a 'study buff' when you get your butt in that seat, it's an environment ready to go and ready to be engaged with.
I'm sure you're nested within your student accommodation/private student house or even back at home with something like this available. Do yourself due diligence in transforming that room into an atmosphere that is clean, accessible, ordered, and appropriate.
This can exist as the starting point to your revision endeavour, the important point is that you just start creating it and the motivation may follow, even at this early stage!
2) You're Not Equipped
Let's say you've done the above, and you have the environment/workstation ready to go.
Your butt can hit the seat and the feeling of 'drive' should settle in. But, we can hit a roadblock almost immediately if we're not prepared to proceed.
It's important that you collect everything you need ranging from study materials, reference materials, and sustenance!
Have a bottle of water there right at the start and the study materials in front of you, make sure you have a pen that you enjoy writing with, geometry tools if that's what you are studying, etc etc.
The point being that, you can build the biggest charge of motivation ever but if you're too unequipped to follow through with it, it will fade.
To get the ball rolling, you need to have built up the path ahead - this is partially accomplished by being equipped.
Equally, only have what's necessary - be 'lean' about your choice of equipment or you may limbo in the ' oh I'll do this, no I'll do this ' dilemma, which is always unresourceful.
Pick a topic that you need to improve on the most or have the best shot at 'crushing' and allocate resources to that, and that alone - for now.
This book stack image above 'looks' as if it's setting up for a productive session but in reality, it could be a trap, psychologically it could hit you as an 'i've got to get through all of this, *sigh*'
So again, be lean!
3) You're Unable to Navigate the Content
This is a big one, one common feeling among many students is the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Content for any topic has to be taught in both breadth and depth to get a real understanding of it, though that's good, it can stimulate a feeling of intimidation.
Ask yourself this, can you (if your educator hasn't done so already) divide the topic/subject into more consumable sections in which to learn.
Whether this is done by creating sections, a mind map, bullet points, or keeping notes in separate folders, try your best to thin out the content.
This is single-handedly one of the most significant changes you can implement to make the work feel more attractive and allow yourself to feel less daunted by what's coming.
The truth is, this intimidation is the feeling that most people experience when they haven't gone through the thick of it and actually, truly, honestly figured out what needs to be done.
It's too common that we hear about how much work is involved from other people or we see the size of a textbook the teacher refers us to and we immediately place a judgment that the workload is insurmountable.
Remember, that's just the beginning of it, the next step is to make it consumable by breaking it up - you can do this by heading to the index and/or just scan through the content to create a sensible way to navigate.
This step is actually your FIRST step of revision after setting up your environment, a list may look something like this!
It's arguable that this 'breaking up the content' step should be during your 'learning' phase (something we touch on below) but it's okay to be done in your 'revision phase' too.
Creating a path to navigate is essential because, without it, you'll quite literally go nowhere.
4) 'Learning' during 'Revision' time
This is a crappy realisation, but oh my is it a common one.
We all remember the first week of term, and we are presently aware of the stress we feel at 3 weeks to the exam but we ask ourselves - "where's the middle bit gone?".
To have such an intense learning career exist at a time when you're young and having to go through so many personal developments, isn't the best of pairings.
But the younger mind is typically more receptive I suppose...
If you begin to see your exams coming on the horizon and you get to revising but quickly realise - I've not actually seen "this" before, you may resonate with the heading above.
This isn't game over though, what this does.. or might do is pulse a sense of urgency in your chest - that's not a bad thing, it's a call to action by your inner self to re-assess your revision path.
It's likely you know a good amount of content but perhaps not enough to revise everything without not uncovering something new, if this is the case - you're going to have to learn it (if it's applicable to your exam, do make sure it is!)
You need to re-assess how you'll navigate your revision periods, and now have to account for the time to learn followed by the time to practice.
The disadvantage here of course is, it'll take longer - but it's possible you'll feel more confident and pick up on things that others may have missed.
If this is you, realise that this doesn't have to be the case if throughout the term you set aside time for learning as you go! The feeling of entering a revision period and purely revising it - because deep down you know it all, is fantastic.
I encourage you to pursue this for next time, the level of confidence earned when you practice and just remember things is very addicting and you begin to 'glow with knowledge'. You can then help others and feel even better - I'd really really recommend this, you'll only need to feel it once to see what I mean.
At this point, we can begin to talk about the exam...please don't flee after reading that!
5) Stronger Together
Whether you're an advocate of headphones-and-go or meet up and try, either technique is a sound one.
Working together does offer some advantages, especially when it comes to practising past papers and comparing answers, we talk more about how to pass an exam in another post.
But we're talking about how to get revision going here, so let's stick with that.
Meeting up with your friends or even just one friend can offer something of a motivation igniter, especially if one of these people is as described at the beginning - just that person who can 'start' with no issues.
Now, in covid, this is far more difficult. If you are able to create a covid safe environment, I'd still recommend this technique though maybe not as close and comfy as the image above.
As before, the environment, being equipped, and navigation of the course material matter in this study technique, but it relies on all of you to keep track of it.
Though, there could be even more distractions lurking, if one person crumbles it's possible that the whole group will follow - try to not let that happen, remind each other what's at stake.
Once you get started as part of the group, it's likely that you will all begin to encourage each other to study by just...studying.
This is because you're surrounded by the very thing you hope to achieve. Equally, if you are the person to begin and get the troops going, you'll feel a responsibility as a leader and push everyone into good habits!
Protip too - if you have access to a whiteboard, this can be a fun tool (though I realise with everything going on that's difficult, I hope zoom can be an option.)
6) The Lie about Motivation
Here's the big finale, the revelation of a lifetime - if you haven't heard it already ( and I selfishly hope you haven't, I want you to have the eureka moment! )
Motivation is not something you have BEFORE you start, it's something that's earned on the back of being productive.
A popular saying is that ' productivity breeds productivity ', and it's incredibly true, but you've got to start somewhere right?
Right, that's exactly the point, you've got to start!
Think back to the last time you were productive with one task in particular, after completing it, did you feel a certain 'motivational wave' to continue the productivity streak?
Perhaps all you did was deposit money into the bank, get a haircut, clean your bedroom, or tackled just 1 practice short question for your class - yet in response, you were motivated to do something more
The reason for this is that motivation is something earned, too often do we wait for the 'buzz' of motivation to surface without provocation.
You need to provoke this response and engage in patterns to allow it to the surface. A good way of thinking about this is if you were to watch a really good and dramatic movie or movie clip - the ones that hype you up or engage you with music and busy scenes!
You engage with the clip and over time it becomes more compelling and enticing because you find out more, and, in response, want to pursue more (i.e watch the movie). Of course, it's far easier to do something like this than to revise but there's a parallel, you must commit to starting.
As a more relevant example let's just say you have a bank of 20 questions to do, you've talked about it with your friends and everyone feels the same about doing 'all of these 20 questions'
I invite you to think differently, consider just doing 1, the very first, or the easiest.
Forget about the remainder and tell yourself to read and then attempt the first one, it's with this you engage with the material and provide an opportunity for motivation to grow. Be sure to have a pen and paper in front of you so when the motivation does come you are already prepared to move forward and your flow isn't interrupted right at the start.
Typically, the first bit of any exercise is the easiest, and therefore you're likely to succeed at it. Once you note down the perfect answer and tell your mind that ' yup, that's secured as an easy few marks ' your brain should be interested in securing a few more marks, this can only be done by reading the next question and so on.
As the minutes' clock buy, a motivational response will surface, simply because you started, regardless of how you 'felt' initially.
So the bottom line is, all you need to do is start, the beginning is the most difficult and yet the most important.
If you are one of those who have all of the above set out and ready to go, you just need to begin... after you force yourself to begin and go down that road (which you've prepared above) you'll start to entirely feel different about it.
Maybe you'll read something and think to your self "I don't quite understand that" and it troubles you to the point you research it and *bam!*, you're in the revision phase, motivated to discover answers.
Here's a motivational quote for studying for you, if you haven't read it before:
"Successful people do what they need to do, whether they feel like it, or not"
Read that last bit again, "whether they feel like it, or not". It doesn't matter how you feel, it only matters what you do, and once you're doing what you'd like to do, you will begin to feel how you'd like to feel.
All you have to do is to begin and have room to manoeuvre once you do (the navigation part)
That's it on the motivation lie, I hope you can see the significance of it!
But I will mention something more...
You are totally capable of this, regardless of who you are you absolutely have the power to work toward a better future for yourself.
The action of revising is to better your grades and take those into the world as a mark of your ability, I promise you that after this is all over and if you do not end up revising - you will feel awful for it, don't fall into setting yourself up for regret.
So, let's get the ball rolling now - make a quick list of what you're going to do after reading this and after closing all of those unnecessary tabs on your browser or phone.
Start simple, you can complete minimal tasks that are totally unrelated to studying and work up to things that are more appropriate, or just read that very first question.
When you do that question, be sure to have a pen and paper out - set yourself up with whatever you need to move forward should a force in your consciousness surface and push you toward an answer. Remember, we must allow movement forward after the starting point.
This is where I'll stop writing because it's possible this very post may be delaying your start, so I'll wrap it up!
I wish you the best of luck with your exams, tests, assignments, or whatever else requires preparation - they all deserve your utmost attention.
This year has been something of an anomaly to many and the stress caused and effects may be totally unfamiliar, but your education remains yours.
Learning institutions will take this all into consideration, so show them your ability to weather such a shake-up, you and I both know your ability is there, only a 'feeling' is holding you back.
Beat the inertia, and the motivation rush will follow...
All the best!
Thanks for reading