Flickr user Peter

So you’re finding it difficult to study? Yeah, it can be tough to find that motivation sometimes. There can be so many reasons why. Perhaps there is a new show you’d like to watch. Maybe the weather is good. Or it could simply be that you’re absolutely bored with the subject. And that can really suck.

At the same time, there are plenty of ways to renew your motivation and get yourself going again. Here are some of the strategies I’ve found that help me reboot my motivation and get that additional push when it’s called for.


We’re social creatures. So why not make studying a social affair? Now, there are a lot of different ways to do so. Some people find studying together works quite well, while other people find that this is distracting. I tend towards the latter camp myself.

There is another great way to use social dynamics to help you study, however. And that is to agree that you’ll teach each other part of what you’re supposed to learn. For example, if you have to study a few research papers, then divide those between you and study your half with the intention of informing the other person as to what it’s about, what’s interesting about it and so on.

This works for several reasons.

  1. You have extra motivation—namely that the other person is dependent on you—to actually get the studying done.
  2. You can only teach something that you really understand.
  3. You only have to read half the material.
  4. You have hanging out with the other person to look forward to.

Note, this only works if both of you take the teaching seriously. To help with that, I suggest that you draw up a kind of cheat sheet of what you had to cover, with all the important information on there. That will help make sure the other person understands the material.

Turn it into something

If you’re tired of looking at the words, then why not turn them into something else? Why not turn whatever you’re studying into an art project? Perhaps you can take all the important facts that you’re trying to learn and work them into a picture, a map, or giant mind map. Or you can try to work the information into a rap or a song. This works especially well for somebody who learns visually or orally.

What’s also great is that because you’re not just passively observing the facts but actively working with them and trying to fit them into some overall pattern, they’re far more likely to stick around in your head. After all, there is plenty of evidence which shows that when we make information emotionally relevant to ourselves we remember it better.

In this way, even though it might be time consuming to do something like this, you’ll be able to push on for longer and you’ll be able to save time on the revisions as you’ve already got most of the information down pat. And, of course, it’s a lot more fun. So there is that.

Short bursts

One of the worst things about studying is the fact that it’s such a big mountain to climb. You’re standing at the bottom, see the pile of work you have to get through, feel how hopeless it is and go do something else instead. Now, obviously that’s counter-productive.

The trick, therefore, is to divide the work up into far more manageable chunks. If the chapters are short, for example, then you can agree to study this one chapter before you can give yourself a break and go do something else—be it go for a run, have a coffee, or watch an episode of your favorite show. Otherwise, just set a timer for half an hour.

‘But I have so much studying to do!’ you cry. Yes, you do. The thing is, you’re not a machine. And at least in this way, you finished a chapter more than you started. Besides, there is plenty of evidence that when you’re writing an essay or studying for a subject, taking regular breaks will let you concentrate for longer. So, far from undermining your efforts working in this way can actually help you.

Of course, this will only help if you actually focus on the task at hand and eliminate distraction. So when you go down this route, do actually go down it and for the time you’ve allotted don’t check your phone, or your email, or the internet for anything that isn’t related to what you’re doing.

How to avoid temptation

There is this common belief that we resist temptation using our willpower and that if you can’t, then you’re a weak person. The thing is, the research doesn’t actually agree with that. Those people who are the best at not being tempted by something do so not through their immense mental energy reserves, but by making sure they aren’t tempted in the first place.

These people manage to sidestep temptation by making sure they can’t be tempted. Perhaps they block the internet or specific sites. Or they make it harder to do the things that distract them. In this way, when the automatic pilot that tries to get us to do fun things kicks in, they have enough time to take control back and get back to what they’re trying to do.

This strategy works well, because by not depleting your willpower on resisting temptation, you can instead focus it on getting the work done that you’re supposed to.

Last words

Studying isn’t always fun. Often there are far more interesting things to do out there. But you do have to get through it. For that reason, you need some goods strategies to get and keep yourself going. Here are some of ideas I’ve used. Turn them to your best advantage!

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