Study for two minutes. Check Instagram. Study for two minutes. Browse Netflix. Study for two minutes. Check email. Study for two minutes. Get lost in TikTok indefinitely.
If this sounds like your typical study session, you’re certainly not alone, but you also need a little help to kick your motivation into high gear, especially if you have a test coming up. Maybe coming here is your next form of procrastination. If so, at least you’re on the right track.
Not every study motivation strategy is going to work for everyone, but there’s something out there that will work for you. We’ve compiled a list of study motivation ideas to try out when you just need to buckle down and get it done.
Browse our ideas below and try a few of them out. Some work well in isolation, some work well combined together, some may work for you today but not tomorrow. If nothing else, at least it’s a good distraction from studying, and you might find something that really helps up your studying game.
Website and app blockers
This is a classic study motivation tool because it literally takes away whatever is distracting you, assuming your distraction is digital. If you need just a little help with your self-control, these are for you. There are quite a few blockers available for your phone and your computer: try Freedom or AppBlock.
All of them work pretty similarly: they block whatever websites or apps you want them to block, for however long you want them blocked. This can work really well if you sound like the person described at the beginning of this article. Take a minute to think what websites or apps tend to suck up most of your time, and block them while you study. If this sounds insanely difficult, start with short blocks of time and work your way up.
The Pomodoro Technique
At its core, the Pomodoro Technique is very simple:
- Study for 25 minutes
- Take a break for 5-10 minutes
- Repeat the cycle 4 times
- Take a longer break
Of course, there are variations of this technique, and you might find that you like shorter study intervals, or maybe you can only repeat the cycle three times until you need a longer break. No matter how you customize it for yourself, when you know the end is in sight and a break is coming up, it makes it easier to study for longer periods of time.
To help keep track of time and make sure you’re not constantly checking the clock, set a timer for both your study sessions and your breaks. You can make the most of your breaks by getting up and doing something physical that gets your blood pumping. If you use your breaks to watch 10 minutes of a TV show, you probably won’t be very motivated to jump back in.
The Pomodoro Technique also works really well in conjunction with website and app blockers. The website blocker FocusMe makes it simple to use along with this technique.
Create your own reward system
Choose something that you really want: a box of cookies, a break to go for a run, a trip to the movies, etc. Whatever it is, use it as a reward for completing a study session. Maybe you buy some cookies but only allow yourself to eat them once you’ve studied for an hour.
Maybe you decide to go see a new movie, but you can only go once you’ve studied for three hours or mastered 20 terms. Maybe you pick up some candy and pop one in your mouth every time you correctly answer a question or complete a practice problem. Maybe you make your favorite snack, but decide that from now until your test, you can only eat this snack while you’re studying.
Creating shorter reward intervals as in the example with the candy after each question might work better at first if you’re really having trouble focusing. Once you get in the groove or start to find a little more motivation, you can work up to more delayed gratification.
To really put the pressure on and encourage yourself to do well, try creating a reward for yourself that you can only receive if you do well on the exam or in the course as a whole. Having your parents get in on this can be helpful, too. Maybe your parents will take you out to your favorite restaurant if you get an A on the exam, or maybe you’ll take a trip to an amusement park if you get a B in the course.
The point is this: in order for a reward system to be effective, it needs to be customized to you. Don’t set up a reward for getting an A if you know that getting an A is next to impossible. Similarly, don’t reward yourself with a trip to the mall if you don’t like shopping or if spending money is going to stress you out.
Schedule your day
When I was in high school, I was always more motivated to get homework and studying done on days I had practice or a game. On days when I had nothing going on after school, it felt like I had unlimited time to get everything done, so it was easier to put it off.
Often, the more free time you have, the easier it becomes to waste your time. When you have a lot going on and know you won’t have much time to get your studying done, it forces you to become laser focused. Schedule a specific time in your day when you’ll sit down to study, actually scheduling it on your calendar makes you less likely to put it off because it becomes a concrete task that must get done.
Believe it or not, you can use procrastination to your advantage. Structured procrastination was first created and explained by Stanford University professor John Perry.
If you tend to procrastinate, you likely do easy or simple tasks while putting off harder, bigger tasks. “The procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important,” Perry explains.
For this technique to work, you’ll need to think of tasks that are more important or difficult than studying and put them at the top of your to do list. Then studying, a task that is also important, becomes an easier task and one that you’re more inclined to do as a way not to do that more important task.
Find the perfect study spot
In college, I often studied in a comfy chair in the lobby of an infrequently used building. I was comfortable, there were minimal distractions, and I was in a place that encouraged me to get my work done. In high school, I loved to study outside in our backyard. I liked that I was able to get outside and get some fresh air after being stuck in school all day.
Choose a spot you absolutely love. Maybe it’s in a favorite chair or lying outside in a hammock. Maybe you even create a cozy space in the corner of your bedroom. Wherever it is, make it your designated study space and use it only for studying. The more you love to be there the better; you’ll be motivated to study so you can go to your favorite spot!
Just get started
No excuses. Just sit down and start studying. Often, the hardest part is starting, so if you simply sit yourself down and start, you might get into a groove. If you think this tip might work for you then go study. Literally right now, stop reading this article and go study!
Form a study group
If you’re a social person, studying can be difficult because you don’t like the solitary silence. It can be motivating to have a group of people to study with. Your study group could even consist of your parents or a friend who isn’t in the same class, they can help quiz you and just keep you company while you study if you go stir crazy being quiet and alone.
You could also get your teacher or professor in on this one. Teachers really do want to help, so they’re not likely to say no if you ask them for help studying. Ask if you and a few friends can come in early, stay late, or hang out during a study hall period to study. Being in the presence of your teacher will help motivate you to actually study, and you have the added bonus of having an expert in the room to help. If you’re putting off studying because the material is confusing and overwhelming, this strategy is bound to help.
When I was a teacher, I never turned down students who asked for extra help or wanted to study in my classroom. When students would form study groups in my classroom, I was right there to answer any questions and make their study session more productive. I also often gave extra tips or explanations I didn’t give during class.
Go to the library or a coffee shop
When you sit down to study and find yourself checking social media, it’s easy to become envious of everyone having a good time. It’s also easy to start thinking you’re the only person in the world studying right now. At a coffee shop or the library, you’ll find a lot of other people who are also reading, studying, and working quietly. Seeing someone else model good study behavior is encouraging.
In college, the library was my go-to study spot when I really just couldn’t find it in myself to study. When I got there and saw everyone else working hard, I felt like I would be a distraction or would feel out of place if I didn’t sit quietly and study, too.
Get lost in music
Put on your favorite music (or some classical music if lyrics distract you) and let the beat of the music keep your study session going strong. Popping in some headphones helps with this, too, you can get lost in the music and in your own world. =
I’m easily distracted when I’m studying or working, so if I can hear a conversation going on or somebody has the TV in, it’s very difficult for me to study. When I pop in some headphones, I quickly forget about all of those distractions and am able to focus on whatever I need to do.
Post some study motivation quotes
Find some quotes that motivate you to study (or make up your own) and post in your room, at your desk, in your study spot, or in your notebook. Here are a few you might find motivating:
- “Work hard in silence. Let your success be your noise.” – Frank Ocean
- “Don’t complain, just work harder.” – Randy Pausch
- “Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.”
- “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
- “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
- “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Create a clean workspace
Having a clean and organized space helps your mind be clear and organized. It might seem strange or silly, but you might find that you can think more clearly when you clear up clutter. If you need to take a break or want to procrastinate for a few more minutes, clean up your workspace.
When your space is cluttered, your mind is subconsciously making mental notes of everything else you need to do and what you need to clean up. Sometimes, I don’t even realize how cluttered my workspace is until I clean it up and can all of a sudden think more clearly.
Cleaning up your workspace could also mean cleaning up your notes. If you took sloppy notes and everything is unorganized and hard to read, you’re not going to want to sit down and decipher what you wrote. That’s asking your brain to do a lot of work before it even gets to the actual studying. Take some time to type or rewrite your notes, and the task of studying won’t feel so overwhelming.
Here are some ways to organize your notes:
- Use a binder to separate and organize worksheets
- Make flashcards
- Organize your notes with a graphic organizer
- Color code your notes with pens or highlighters
Start with something easy
Studying is hard. It’s also boring. That’s exactly why you don’t want to do it. Start with going over terms you already know well or completing a studying task that is easy or even mindless, like organizing your note cards. These simpler tasks can give you the momentum you need to keep going. This can also give you confidence if you’re putting off studying because you don’t think you know anything.
Remember your why
Think about why you need to study and why you want to do well in your course. Do you need to pass to graduate? Is this course in the field you’re looking to go into? Do you love the material even though it’s difficult? Do you want to make your family proud? Do you want to prove to yourself that you can do it?
Whatever your why is, keep coming back to that every time you don’t feel like studying. It can help to post this somewhere where you’ll see it often.
Break it down
Thinking about doing it all at once is overwhelming, and it can give you that feeling where there’s so much to do that you don’t even know where to start. Think about everything you need to do to study and write each piece down. Then, break it down into small chunks you can tackle one at a time. Don’t focus on learning it all right now, just think about what you can do in this moment.
As you complete each task that you’ve broken down, check it off or cross it out. Seeing your list get smaller and smaller is very motivating.
Multitasking doesn’t always work, but it can work well when you combine a mindless activity with studying. If you don’t want to sit still in a quiet room, try going for a walk while reviewing flashcards or riding a stationary bike while reading your textbook. You could even recruit some help from a friend or parent. Shoot some hoops, but have them ask you a question in between each shot, for example.
Sometimes, I used to go stir crazy when I had a lot of tests or exams coming up, so I would take my notes to the gym and look over them while on the treadmill or stationary bike. This made studying a little less boring, and it saved me some time.
Try a few strategies out
With so many strategies and tips, there’s bound to at least one that works for you. Test a few out and see if they make a difference, and remember that many of these strategies work well together. Studying is hard work and it’s not usually fun, but these study motivation techniques can help you get down to it and even make it more bearable.