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It is once again the end of another school day.

You have given a lot of your attention and energy in your classes and you feel completely exhausted. Coupled with the lack of sufficient sleep the night before, you wonder whether you have enough energy to even open your eyelids for a few more minutes.

You feel like laying in that comfy bed of yours and chill for the rest of the day but…deep within you, you know that you have tons of work to do and exams to prepare for. 

You start fighting an inner battle to go to your study desk, but your legs feel weak and you succumb to your inner desires to lay on your bed for a while longer. 

A 15 mins break becomes 1 hour and then 3 hours then finally, when you have watched almost all the episodes of your favorite Netflix show, it is night time. 

Does any of this relate to you?

I know that every day it feels like a major battle to fight your way to the study desk. As such, I am here to teach you how to make the battle easier and build some momentum in the process.

There are 6 ways I have tried personally to get the motivation to study. They are my best tips and I would discuss each of their effectiveness with you. 

 

 

Battle Strategy 1: Make A Timetable For The Rest Of The Day

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I know I know…After coming back from a long day of school, you can’t be expected to start studying immediately right?

You must be thinking,” Give me at least a 15 mins break!”

And that is what I am going to do here.

Schedule a break for yourself after reaching home from school. It can be a 5 mins, 15 mins or 30 mins break. Whatever it is, there must be assignments to do after that break, be it ‘completing that essay’ or ‘reading your literature book’ and then some breaks and then more assignments till it is your sleeping time.

Schedule it such that there are no periods of time left without a task/break assigned to it, making your every minute fully planned out (buffers are allowed but should be tagged to a task too). It should look something like the one below:

Timetable 1A: A timetable template I used during my ‘A’ Levels to manage my time.

Timetable 1B: The schedule for one of the days during study week at home. This was one week before an exam so there was a lot of studying packed into a day.

Now, why did I do this?

With no extra time to spare and every time slot of the day planned out, there is pressure to start work immediately after your break to ensure you are able to complete the assignments planned out for the day.

If you lengthen your break, the time to complete assignment 1 will be shortened and may overlap into the time period for assignment 2/break. This may then cause a ripple effect if every previous slot overlaps with the next.

In the end, you may have to shorten your last few breaks or complete your assignments faster, adding to the stress you already have.

Of course, this method works if you dedicate yourself to completing the tasks assigned in your timetable and follow your timetable diligently. 

The use of a study schedule is so important that I have dedicated an article on it. Click here to assess the article – Study Schedule: Why You Need It and How To Create One.

 

Why this strategy works:

  • The stress and fear of a ripple effect helps you overcome procrastination and get you started from your break.

 

Some challenges you will face:

  • The need to dedicate yourself to the timetable and try to complete all the tasks scheduled.
  • The constant need to follow the timetable and prevent the ripple effect makes the strategy both tiring and stressful. As a result, some may give up before their efforts bear fruit.

 

Effectiveness: Excellent!

  • Tough initially but highly rewarding. After some time, you will likely start following the timetable without much thought. Not only does it get easier to complete your tasks on time, you feel happier that you have seized the day to complete many of your tasks.
  • If you find that you can cope easily with a daily timetable, try having a weekly timetable. Through my experiences, I have found that planning a timetable for the week is more effective. Making a weekly timetable means investing more time and effort to plan. As such, you would more likely not want to risk disrupting your whole week’s timetabling effort just for a few more minutes of rest time.

 

 

Battle Strategy 2: Always Start Work At Least 5 Mins Earlier

What I mean is, if you plan to start studying at 5pm, try starting it at 4.55pm or before 4.55pm instead.

It may sound weird to you how this could motivate yourself to study, but it works!

Let me give you a scenario. It is 4.50pm–4.55pm and you have just finished your current Youtube video or Netflix drama. You are searching for your next video and it turns out to be 20 mins long. You did not see the length of the video and proceed to watch it anyway.

After finishing the video, you realize it is at least 10 mins past your expected study time. But then…you see another interesting video.

For me, this is when I start procrastinating a lot.

I start telling myself that since I am already past my study time, one more video will not hurt. So I continue watching and telling myself the same thing till…bam! The time is suddenly 5.30pm.

I am 30 mins past my schedule.

Now, let’s rewind to 4.50pm–4.55pm. You have just finished your current Youtube video or Netflix drama. Then, you see another interesting video.

You have 2 choices: Watch the video or start studying.

In my case, I feel that it is significantly easier to start work now as compared to if I started work after my schedule.

I start thinking that I can start my work early and end it early so that I can go for a longer break afterward. The idea of a longer break later tempts me and motivates me to start studying now.

 

Why this strategy works:

  • It is significantly easier to start studying now that there is a motivator: a longer break later on. This is your motivation to study.

 

Some challenges you will face:

  • There may be times when you are left with the final most exciting episode of a show, or left hanging on a show as exciting as Money Heist that you can’t bear to stop watching. These are the times where you need to fight the urge to continue watching.

 

Effectiveness: Excellent!

  • Although 5 mins seems insignificant, I feel that it makes a lot of difference. On one hand, if you start early, you gain an incentive that motivates yourself to study by looking forward to your next long break. On the other hand, if you start later, you end up watching more and more videos all while telling yourself “This will be my last video.” This huge difference in results is exactly why you should implement this strategy to see a significant decrease in time wastage and procrastination.

 

 

Battle Strategy 3: Have A Goal Or Something That Can Motivate You!

“If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.”

– Lou Holtz

Goals are incredibly powerful and important in how you make decisions and what results you will be able to achieve.

Having goals is like having a map. You know where you are heading, and this gives you zest, motivation, and a reason to get up in the morning.

You become more alive.

Your goal might be to get straight As for your examinations, become a doctor, or get into the school of your dreams.

My goal was to become a doctor and only those who scored at least 87.5/90 rank points for the ‘A’ Level Examinations could get shortlisted for the interview. The benchmark was high and the competition was intense.

Being more motivated to become a doctor after my job shadowing at the National University Hospital (NUH), I gave my 100% effort every day to study.

The goal to become a doctor pushed me hard.

The expectations that I had set for myself were high. The dream of becoming a doctor was constantly on my mind.

And…at last, when I received my A level grades, all my blood, sweat, and tears paid off: I met the requirements to be shortlisted for the Medicine interview!

Goals are not the only motivator you can leverage on. Having something to look forward to, can also spur you to study harder.

In my case, I was extremely excited to be going for two overseas school trips during JC1. With that enthusiasm in me, I imagined a situation where I scored very well for my examinations and could take a well-deserved break by going for the two overseas trips.

Coincidentally, both overseas trips were after my mid-year and end of year examinations respectively. As a result, I felt super motivated to study hard and achieve good grades.

I definitely did not want to get undesirable results and feel a sense of guilt and regret throughout any of the overseas trips.

Some other things you can look forward to are a meeting with your friends or a movie with your family. By arranging these events after a study session, you will feel motivated to study because you would like to get things done as soon as possible so that you can go out to have fun.

Moreover, the feeling of being productive adds to your happiness! You have worked hard, so you can play hard without feeling guilty.

 

Why this strategy works:

  • Future enjoyment, be it from achieving your dreams, getting what you want, or spending time with your friends, is highly effective in spurring you on.

 

Some challenges you will face:

  • Sometimes the excitement overwhelms you until you are unable to focus on your studies. It happens…e.g. thinking about what to eat, what movie to watch etc.

 

Effectiveness: Excellent!

  • This strategy can be immensely effective if you leverage on future enjoyments without getting distracted from them.
  • Try to refrain from setting goals that are too far away into the future (e.g. I want to buy a Ferrari) as your motivation may run out before you reach your goal.

 

 

Battle Strategy 4: Optimize Your Environment

Another strategy to find the motivation to study is to create a special environment that is conducive to getting things done.

This environment will be one that your brain associates with studying. As soon as you approach your study table and sit on the chair, something in your brain clicks. You automatically get into the routine of studying and your concentration intensifies to prepare for a productive study session.

Why?

This is because your brain automatically recognizes the place and as such, changes your current state to suit the purpose of that place: study.

So, how do you go about optimizing your environment?

 

With the constant notifications coming in from friends and family, the constant urge to surf the web for entertainment, and the constant urge to play your mobile games, it is insanely difficult for you to concentrate on your studies.

Thus, I feel that the best way to reduce technological distractions is to put them far from your study area, outside your room or outside your study environment where you can neither see it nor hear it. Another way is to switch it off and put it in your bag.

Make it simple for yourself: only have the necessary books and stationery on your table and nothing else.

Optimal study space

“But…I need my laptop/mobile phone for my studies. How do I go about removing technological distractions?” you may ask.

This may be the case for project-based work or just work that requires access to Google Drive, etc.

Let’s go about addressing this.

If you are using a laptop, try disabling notifications for social media, messaging apps, games, and basically anything that will distract you from your work.

You can use apps like SelfControl (MacOS) or Cold Turkey (MacOS and Windows).

Similarly, for a mobile phone, you can use apps like AppBlock (Android) or Flipd (Both iOS and Android) to block apps, websites, emails, notifications, and more.

 

The noisier your environment is, the more difficult it will be to concentrate and complete assignments. Noise can constantly interrupt your thoughts and hinder you from making any progress.

 

Some students love to listen to music while studying. They find that it helps them concentrate better. If that is you, you should listen to music.

However, everyone is different and some feel that music is encouraging or even quickening their thought process while others constantly feel that music is interrupting it. If you are unsure, try both and decide which one helps you to study.

 

  • By optimizing your environment, you are ensuring that your attention is solely focused on your task at hand and nothing else.

 

  • Some aspects of your environment cannot be changed easily, especially during HBL e.g. your house may be quite noisy at times.

 

  • Changing some environmental factors can be difficult. E.g. you cannot possibly ask your family members to stop talking while you are studying. However, you can adapt to the environment. Can you close your room door to reduce the noise? Can you schedule your study session to when your house is most quiet? Try analyzing your environment and find solutions to them.

 

 

“Self-discipline is what separates the winners and the losers.”

— Thomas Peterffy

This is probably one of the most arduous, yet more rewarding strategies you can adopt.

With self-discipline, it is easier to motivate yourself to study even when you feel uncomfortable. With self-discipline, it is easier to put down your Xbox controller and start studying. Gradually, you will be able to set yourself up to study regardless of the situation.

Self-discipline can be built up in a myriad of ways. Some of the more effective ways which I have tried are seen below:

1) Don’t wait for it to ‘feel right.’

If you are waiting for the moment to come when you are ‘in the zone’ or ‘study mood,’ you will probably need to wait a long time. Try forcing yourself to study even when you are not in the mood and you will find that your ‘study mood’ occurs more regularly and easily. ?

2) Give yourself breaks and rewards.

By treating yourself ?, you are signaling to your brain that self-discipline will reap rewards. As a result, you become in greater control of yourself and be able to study when you need to.

If you would like to learn more about how to build your self-discipline, click here to learn 5 ways to do so.

 

  • It just does! Having greater control over yourself allows you to shift your mindset to study when it is time to do so.

 

  • It takes a long time and a lot of willpower to consistently choose the uncomfortable choice over the comfortable one.

 

  • I feel that the first 4 strategies are more powerful than this because the other 4 strategies can impact how you study immediately but self-discipline is a skill that needs to be trained and will only show results in the long run.
  • It is mentally draining and not easy. It is better to use the other 4 strategies in tandem with this strategy instead of this strategy alone.

 

 

Battle Strategy 6: Create New and Healthier Habits For Studying

There are healthy and unhealthy habits. If you are able to demolish unhealthy habits and create new healthy ones, you will be able to optimize your life to a whole new level.

This strategy is easier and more effective than battle strategy 5 because once they are established, they do not require any willpower to execute (essentially running on auto-pilot). 

Here’s the short version of the steps to take to create new and healthier habits:

  1. Whenever you find that you are procrastinating, ignore your brain’s excuses to continue watching your Youtube videos or playing games etc.
  2. Tell yourself that you need to embrace the change in order to build healthier habits of studying.
  3. Then, continuously execute your healthier actions in order to build them into a habit. 

To learn how to build habits that last, here is an article I have written on the 10 steps to build habits that last!

 

Summary

To summarize the 6 battle strategies mentioned, they are:

  1. Make a timetable for the rest of the day
  2. Always start work at least 5 minutes earlier.
  3. Have a goal or something that can spur you on!
  4. Optimize your environment
  5. Build self-discipline
  6. Create new and healthier habits for studying

 

Utilizing one or more of one of the strategies listed above will make it much easier for you to start studying. However, you have to take the first step — start applying the strategies, and to do so, you need to have faith in yourself.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” You may at times feel like giving up, or perhaps feel that the path in front of you is blurry, but believe yourself and move forward one step at a time. You will achieve the grades you desire if you take the first step and work hard consistently!

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clovischowjh

A former 'A' Level student heading into university next year, is passionate to help others excel in school! He regularly shares tips and strategies on various aspects of school, focusing mainly on studying, time management, and organizing.

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