Four people studying together

Staying Motivated and Self Disciplined While Studying

Finding it hard to concentrate on studying? You’re not alone.

It can be difficult to get on with it when there are so many distractions around us. Most students would rather be meeting friends, doing fun activities or watching Netflix, but unfortunately these things won’t help you to achieve your qualifications.

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions…

So…oh, one moment, my phone just buzzed. Won’t be a second…there we go…sorted. Now, what were we talking about again? Ah…yes, distractions. 

The fact is, our brains want to be stimulated by other things, especially when we focus on one activity for too long or if we find what we are doing boring. There are steps we can take to prevent this from happening though.

Putting your phone on silent and keeping it far away while studying can greatly decrease the likelihood that you will cave in to your desire to contact people, scroll through social media and watch videos. This will also make it less likely that you will drop studying to meet up with a friend if they ask you if you’re free. Sometimes this may not be possible, especially if you are expecting an important call, but doing this when you can will greatly increase your concentration. Turning off any other distractions, such as the TV can also help. 

Music

Songs with lyrics aren’t ideal while studying. This is because our brains start to concentrate on the words, which can get mixed up with whatever you are reading. 

However, music is helpful in many ways while studying. Sitting in silence can be very off putting for many people, especially those who tend to overthink. Music can also drown out any annoying background noises.

Calm instrumental music is the best option. It is less distracting and helps you to relax while studying.

Schedule Study Time

Scheduling when and for how long you study can be very helpful, especially if you tend to procrastinate. It also gets your brain into a routine and helps you fit other activities into your day.

Actually creating a schedule, rather than just doing it mentally, will stop you from forgetting it. It’s also best to have the schedule somewhere you will see it. This could be on your phone home screen if it’s virtual or on your bedroom wall if it’s physical. 

A calendar surrounded by pens

Make Studying Enjoyable

Let’s face it, studying can be a drag. This is, of course, the main reason that students struggle to stick to it.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. There are plenty of ways that you can make studying more mentally stimulating. This includes recognising your learning styles. There are seven of these styles:

The styles may be named something else in different places, but the descriptions are the same. You may not always be able to use your preferred learning styles, but using them when you can will greatly improve your information retention and mental stamina while studying. If you’re not sure which styles best describe you, you can take quizzes online to get a better idea.

Stay Healthy

The brain is the most powerful and complex organ in the human body. Unsurprisingly, lots of factors can affect how efficiently it works.

When talking about studying, food is often overlooked. Regularly eating enough full meals each day can massively impact how well your brain functions. A brain running with little energy is like a car running on little petrol, it’s going to struggle and eventually stop working. Making sure to stay hydrated throughout the day is also important. Your body is 70% water and the brain can actually shrink in volume slightly when you are dehydrated.

Not getting enough sleep is also detrimental to our brain’s ability to concentrate and work correctly. Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re feeling tired when you get up, try going to bed earlier. Not using your phone right before bed or using a blue light filter can help you to get to sleep faster, as blue light keeps us awake.

Mental health also should not be ignored. Negative emotions can seriously impact your ability to concentrate and stay motivated. If you’re struggling, especially if you feel highly anxious or depressed, please tell someone. Your school, college or university will have support they can put in place and your doctor can help you find more. For more information and support, see below:

A cardboard cutout of a head featuring a 'mental health' graphic

Reward Yourself

The long term rewards from studying successfully are obvious. Getting a qualification, achieving higher grades which in turn helps you get a career you want.

However, these rewards seem so far away that it’s hard to feel motivated. Short term rewards are the answer.

After each successful study session, reward yourself with something you enjoy. Keep it realistic and simple so that you are not left disappointed. It could be something like watching your favourite TV show, eating a snack or going out to a cafe. Once your brain starts associating the rewards with completing the activity (in this case studying), it’ll be much easier to stick it out.

Still Struggling?

There are many factors to consider when someone is finding it hard to study. Not all students who don’t study enough are lazy or don’t care. It isn’t black and white.

Be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up over it won’t help. If you’re still struggling, talk to an advisor at your school, college or university. Good luck!

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