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Study/Motivation Tips for Real People


You know the “study tips” I’m talking about.

“wake up at 6AM!” “meditate!” “journal freely!” “study in little chunks! reward yourself!” “make your notes pretty!” and, of course, the sixty thousand pictures of Starbucks cups and cute handwriting and fancy planners/pens and pastels and cute lil plants and organized desks.

If you’ve ever looked at those and been in the pit of despair because you’re actually a wreck, let me just say from one Human Disaster to another: ain’t nobody got time for that.

There are people who are helped by these tips, who find them useful, who have their lives tucked into cute binders with expensive highlighters and good photo lighting. Those people are, to a certain extent, to be feared and admired and respected for their study skills. But we can’t all be that lucky. Some of us just...aren’t productive at 6AM. Some of us need to work on our time management. Some of us will eat that candy reward before we actually finish doing the thing to earn it because what even is self control in the face of chocolate. (The rewards thing is one that will never, ever work for me; I can talk myself out of my own rules and conditions in a heartbeat.)

Some of us have to resort to more messy, down-to-earth, aesthetic-less tactics in order to get that schoolwork/homework/writing/studying done.

Some of us have to be a lil bit brutal in the fight against ourselves, and that’s okay. We just won’t get as many Instagram photos out of it. (sorry.) I’m no expert, and I’m still trying to figure it out every single day, but here are some of the things I’ve found effective this school year in my pursuit to actually, you know, get some studying done every so often.

1. knock out the easy stuff first.

This is a little bit of a cheat, but it can work. If the thought of studying makes you want to become a jobless hermit and you would rather look at Pinterest for the rest of the day...close the computer for a second and knock out the easiest thing on your list. Maybe it’s reading the shortest chapter, or going through some flashcards, or answering one question (or the shortest sheet of questions). Whatever it is, do the easy things first, the things that don’t take a lot of willpower and time. Guess what? You’ve now done something. Which is better than having done nothing. And now, maybe, you’re feeling a little warmed up instead of despairing as you tackle the bigger stuff. You’re working your way up instead of burning yourself out right away.

2. lists. alllll the lists.

Again, deceptively easy and deceptively effective, and it kind of ties in with the first thing. List everything you have to do. Everythinggg. “get water” “sit down” “get a pencil/pen” “figure out the rest of this checklist” “snack” and so on. Sometimes getting started is the daunting thing, looking at the hours ahead and everything you have to do, and approaching it as a series of smaller things with clear and definite goals can be very helpful.

3. cry

(i’m kidding, but you were hopeful for a second there, weren’t you.) This is, however, sometimes a good solution to your problems. #solidlifeadvice

4. enlist the help of an annoying friend.

Hopefully a well-loved friend also, but someone with the capacity to be...really motivating in a certain way. You know the friend. Someone who can yell at you in all caps until you actually get off your butt and get the work done. A bit like having a life coach, or an accountability partner, only you’ve given this one the permission to shamelessly bully you until you start studying. In the same vein, getting a friend to get together and study with you on a regular and scheduled basis is a great plan, providing you’re motivating each other to study and not distracting each other with cat videos. (Which I have never done. Ever. In my life.)

5. multitask but like, in a fun way.

This one, of course, is only useful if you’re like me and you can multitask, or doing two things at once it’s useful to you. In my adventures with laziness, I’ve stumbled across the magical fact that I function best when I have two things to focus on, or something to keep the constantly-moving part of my brain occupied for long enough for me to get some studying in. You can make multitasking fun! Music is the obvious one here, and podcasts are great also — they can be inspiring or cool stories, keep you motivated, and provide some entertainment when you feel bored enough to stab yourself with a dull spoon or something. (Would not recommend.) If you’re really, truly horrible and a wee bit desperate, you can not-at-all-follow-in-my-footsteps and do whatever you can do while watching something on Netflix. Not the best tactic, I know, but it helps to have something on in the background while I fill out busywork or easy things. (Would not recommend for those things that your grade definitely depends on or things that require all your focus, like math, but hey, if you’re really truly desperate and just need to slog through, it can be a lifesaver.) This falls into the category of “it’s not the best, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”

There are endless other little tactics I use, but not all of them will work for everyone. In fact, maybe only one of these ideas works for you, and that’s okay. We’re all messy and have our own study tactics; it’s up to you to experiment and find what works for you. We can’t all nail studying. Sometimes, more often than others, we just have to do what it takes to survive, even if that involves 3AM and energy drinks. (Again, not healthy, but occasionally necessary.)

You don’t need to wake up at 6 and meditate for five hours and eat natural oatmeal for breakfast in order to study effectively.

You just have to find what works for you, even if that isn’t always pretty.

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