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How to find motivation and keep it when studying

Woman studying for exams with headphones on

Year 12 exams are here, and your motivation is nowhere to be found. Here are some tips to get it back and get you prepared to take the exams heads on.

It’s nearing exam crunch time. But just when you think you’d be feeling peak motivation you’re exhausted and disillusioned. How do you find the motivation to study? More importantly, how do you keep it?

Remember why you you’re doing this

To get a great ATAR, right? Try and break it down a little more and pinpoint the real-life reasons why you’re doing all this work.

Can you picture yourself in your dream job? Do you need a particular degree to reach that goal? How will it make you feel to get into the university course of your choice? Or maybe imagine the relaxed and happy summer after WACE. Write down your top two or three reasons and look back at them regularly.

Action before motivation

In theory, it seems to make perfect sense: you feel motivated or inspired to tackle a task and then you do it.

Actually, it usually works the other way around. If you’re feeling deflated and inexplicably drawn to playing games / watching TV / cleaning your room, sit down to study for just five minutes. Just five. You’ll often feel encouraged enough to keep going. If you wait for motivation to magically show up, you might be waiting a very long time.

Stop unhelpful thoughts

Have you ever heard the classic example, ‘Don’t think of a pink elephant’? And then all you can do is think of a pink elephant? Rather than telling yourself to stop thinking random or negative thoughts while you’re studying, try this: nominate a time later on as a ‘worry time’. Be specific. For example, 4:45 this afternoon in the garden.

Every time an unhelpful thought pops into your head, acknowledge it but tell yourself you’ll deal with it during worry time. Go and sit down at the designated time, too. You’ll probably find it quite boring.

Sounds ridiculous? The point is not the worry time itself but the fact that you have a way to file away thoughts and concentrate on the task at hand without drifting off or snowballing. Check out the Centre for Clinical Interventions handout for more.

Need some exam prep study tips? Find out more.

Get help with apps

While you do want to avoid distractions such as social media, there are apps out there that can be useful to you during exams. Focus booster can help you stay on track and engaged with the task; Calm and Headspace help calm your mind; GoConqr creates mind maps, flash cards and quizzes; Todait plans your study; and ReachOut WorryTime helps prevent rumination and anxiety.

Start your sessions with an interesting topic

Increase motivation and make your brain happy to get started. Look at your agenda for the session and pick the most interesting subject – even if you haven’t yet studied for the topics before it. You don’t always need to study in a linear fashion; you need to study efficiently.

Don’t read your notes

Say, what? We mean you need to avoid passively reading your notes, and instead actively work with them. Use a technique such as the Cornell Method. While this is ideal to start when you’re first taking the notes, it can still be helpful when studying for exams.

Have you left studying too late? Find out what to do the night before an exam.

Take regular breaks from studying

This is incredibly important. Boost study motivation by switching off and getting away from your revision. Having a TV break might be enticing but use the free time to stretch, get out into nature (even stare at some trees or flowers for a while), go for a walk, take a few deep breaths, sit by the beach, or even meditate. It’s seems counterintuitive, but this self-enforced break will do you and your studies some good.

Final note: what if you fail?

As much as it feels like it will be a disaster if you don’t do as well as you’d hope, it isn’t the end of the world. Take the pressure off yourself and remember there will always be other opportunities and avenues open to you.

Motivate yourself with the goal of a great ATAR. Students who put Murdoch as their first TISC preference and achieve an unadjusted ATAR over 80 could be eligible for a scholarship of up to $3,000*. Find out more.

*T&Cs apply 

Posted on:

22 Oct 2019

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