Our best tips for motivation and study

Stuck in a loop of snacking and scrolling? Check out our tips for getting in the zone.

It feels good when you are motivated. Energising even. And it drives us to get things done. But are you struggling for motivation? Stuck in a loop of snacking and scrolling thanks to the Instant Gratification Monkey? (Curious about what the Instant Gratification Monkey is? Watch the YouTube video below to find out!)

Motivation doesn't always come naturally and we all experience times when motivation feels hard to come by, and things seem more challenging and slower than normal.

During these times, we can find it hard to attend classes, complete assignments, or study for tests and exams. Studying can be tough, but here are a few tips that might help.

Reconnect with your 'why'

Think back to why you chose to study in the first place. You could:

  • Write down 3 main reasons why you chose to study the courses you are studying and stick them on your wall.
  • Write a list of your values and remind yourself of them regularly.
  • Imagine your life in your future after you have completed your degree. Keep that future version of yourself in your mind to motivate yourself.

Motivation methods

There are two ways by which people can be motivated to take action to achieve their goals.

Positive motivation

Commonly known as rewards. It is the type of motivation that you use when you know you are going to get a reward in the future if you perform an activity or task. The future can be immediate or in the distant future. It is the expectation of the reward that drives you to perform that activity or task. Visualising the future in which you have received the reward is a great way to positively motivate yourself.

Negative motivation

Commonly known as pain-avoidance. It is the type of motivation that you use when you perform an activity or task in order to avoid getting the pain or punishment that may result from not doing the activity or task. Studying hard so that your parents would not be upset with you is a negative motivation. Negative motivation can work if you have ways to complete the activity or task successfully. If you don’t have any solution at hand, then negatively motivating yourself can cause helplessness and depression.

Both positive and negative motivations can be effective in different situations. Generally, it can be easier to achieve a goal that you are genuinely interested in or enjoy, rather than to avoid a negative outcome.

Act first (and motivation will follow)

Many people think that we need to feel motivated enough before doing something. However, psychological research has shown the converse, and it is the action that leads to motivation, which then leads to more action!

This means that at times we will need to start even if we don’t feel ready, because once that happens, motivation will follow, and then the motivation will enable us to take more action.

Set goals

Starting before you feel motivated is easier said than done. But setting goals can help us generate and keep motivation.

  • Break down big tasks into mini tasks. Break things down so they don't feel so intimidating. Try specific, realistic goals like, instead of telling yourself to “write the essay”, a mini task will be to “review one relevant article and write down two or three points that you will write about in the first paragraph”. Taking one step at a time can help us focus and feel less overwhelmed.
  • Set specific, measurable, and time-limited goals. Being as clear as possible about what you want to achieve can really help with increasing your chances of following through.
  • Be realistic. Making goals as realistically achievable as possible is important because that will stop you from setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • Make a to-do list. It helps to clear the mind so you can get everything out of your head and down on paper. Then prioritise the listed items in order of deadlines or importance. Get the most urgent things done first. Tick completed items as you go.
  • When setting goals, give yourself allocated time periods to work on it. Block out your time in your calendar by hour or half hour and plan what you’re going to do in those periods. This can help you stay on task.

Ace the study space

Set up a zone where you can focus and feel motivated. It might help to separate it from your relaxing space, even if it’s just between a make-shift desk and your bed.

If you want to avoid distractions, let the flatmates know when you’re studying and not free to chat.

You can also consider trying a new study location such as the library, your favourite café, or experiment with different methods such as listening to instrumental music while you are studying.

You also don’t need to do it alone. If you are the kind of person who feels motivated by working with others, then join a study group or surround yourself with supportive friends who encourage (rather than distract) you and keep you on track.

Remember that there are no fixed ways or “the right way” to study. Experiment and see what works for you.

Don't compare yourself to others. Everyone has different schedules and study techniques so find one that works for you.

Study-life balance

Kind of like work-life balance because study is kind of like work, right? If you keep a good study-life balance, you will feel less stress, and less stress leads to better motivation.

  • Celebrate the small wins. Remember those mini goals you set yourself? Plan a small reward for when you have completed a mini task. It can be anything from taking a break to eating a piece of chocolate brownie. Giving yourself a little reward can help keep your spirits up. It can also make it easier for you to get back to study after taking a brief refreshing break. You will also be anticipating your next little reward, so that will help you get the next mini task done!

  • Prioritise self-care. We all know what happens when you forget to plug in your mobile phone to charge and it runs out of battery, right? Well, you can run out of battery charge too. So, take time to recharge. Little breaks give you a chance to refresh and restore motivation. Schedule regular breaks, time to meet friends, exercise, listen to your favourite music, or get enough sleep. You may feel like you don’t have the time to do all that, but you will be surprised how much clearer you can think and work after a restful or fun break. Sometimes this will help motivate you to get your study done when you know you have a planned social activity coming up!

What else can I do?

  • Feeling unmotivated can lead to procrastination. If this is getting in the way, read more about what can help you overcome procrastination herehere, and here.
  • Explore resources on developing your study skills at the Academic Skills Centre. You can also attend workshops or make an appointment with a Learning Advisor.
  • Speaking to a Student Care Advisor can help you develop individualised strategies to address low motivation and procrastination.
  • Use a planning template like the one below. You can find free ones here.



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