by Anthony Bianco
You’re a full time student. It can be hard work when you’re trying to juggle all of your lectures, assignments, your social life, and possibly your casual work commitments.
Sometimes, it can become too much and you find it hard to focus on undertaking the important things you need to do to pass. And then all of a sudden, you lose your motivation to keep going. Your exams are not that far away, and you start to stress out that you might not have done enough throughout the semester.
But there are strategies available for you to stay focused and motivated throughout your studies.
Here are our top 10 tips to maintain your motivation when studying - as it could be the difference between passing and failing!
‘Those who fail to plan, plan to fail’.
As with any university degree, you have a lot of subjects you need to review and understand throughout the semester. There are lectures to attend, as well as the completion of assignments which lead up to exams.
Undertaking full time study might feel overwhelming at times, but the key here is to break down your study into small steps and creating a study plan.
Creating a study plan of small steps will help with your time management and dealing with procrastination. When creating the study plan, prioritise the hard, high impact study tasks first, so that you are covering the most important things. Once you identify these hard tasks, consider what the consequences are if you do not complete them.
Set reminders in your calendar of when you are going to undertake those study tasks. People are also different – some prefer studying at night when it is quieter. Others prefer studying in the day when they have more energy. Regardless of when you prefer to study, make sure it’s at the time that suits you.
There are student apps out there to help plan your time and block distractions on social media so that you’re focused on completing those tasks. Keep a time diary handy so you know exactly how long you’ve been working on a study task and that you’re sticking to your study plan.
During exam time, plan out your study based on when your exams are going to occur. If you have access to previous exams, practices going through them in the time limit you’ve been allocated for your real examination.
Finally, if you’re finding it hard to maintain focus and it’s taking a while to build up your motivation, just start and do something - which is better than doing nothing at all. These small actions might just kick start you into something bigger later on.
A problem shared is a problem halved. If you are having trouble focusing on what you need to study throughout the semester, surround yourself with other people from your class so that you motivate each other.
These regular study group catch ups add variety to your study methods, plus they add human interaction to your learning and development.
Study groups are great for testing each other on the different topics in the subjects you are studying, plus this team work will enable you to socialise at the same time.
Richard Branson famously said ‘exercise doesn’t take time, it creates time’. Meaning that doing exercise expels that nervous energy that you’ve been storing up so that it creates a clear head, ready to focus on the study you need to accomplish.
Try and stick to a regular exercise routine and focus on the physical activity that you really enjoy, such as running, riding your bike, weights or anything else that will have your creative juices flowing in no time. See more at our page on exercise.
You need to eat well to create the brain fuel that requires you to maintain concentration for long periods of time. And that’s hard to do if you’re eating low quality, low nutrition food.
Maintaining a healthy diet when you’re studying will help you stay focused and on track with your studies. Keeping your food ‘close to the source’ (i.e. unprocessed food like lean meat, fruit and vegetables) will make you feel great, especially when in combination with regular exercise.
For meal planning ideas, download the "Nutritious meal planning, preparation, and cooking advice for international students" guide developed by the University of Canberra. See more details at our page on diet and nutrition.
Sticking your head in the books or looking at a computer screen all day can become somewhat monotonous. Find other ways to undertake your studies, such as downloading a podcast that’s relevant to your degree and listen to the content rather than reading it.
If applicable, try ‘doing’ instead of ‘reading’. If you’re able to apply the theories you are learning into practice in the real world, then your studies gain a new relevance and you’ll discover the reasons why you are studying your chosen course in the first place.
Another way to add variety is listening to music that can help alter your mood, such as classical music or other music that doesn’t include lyrics or words.
Being stuck in your room for too long with your head buried in your books or computer might give you ‘cabin fever’.
As well as mixing up your study methods, try studying in a different place each day. For example, undertake your study outside in the fresh air in a local park. Otherwise, try the library, or somewhere else so it doesn’t feel like you’re stuck in one place all of the time.
No one is superhuman and can focus non-stop for hours on end. It’s easy to become bored when you’re undertaking a mundane routine. When you feel like your mind is drifting, take a 15 minute break and return to your studies with a fresh start because staring into space won’t help you at all.
Try and keep things sustainable by undertaking short bursts of study. For example, instead of planning a long 4 hour study stint, stagger these in four one hour slots so your mind can stay in peak mental condition.
Once you have completed a hard, major task that you’ve identified in your study plan, reward yourself! That could be a night out with friends, an item you’ve wanted for a long time, or just a simple food treat.
If your plan hasn’t quite come off the way you had planned, don’t dwell on this for too long. Just keep moving towards the direction you want to go. You will get there eventually.
All study and no play is no fun. But all play and no work isn’t ideal either. Make sure you make the time to do the things you enjoy doing outside of studying like catching up with friends, sporting events and other activities throughout the semester.
Set a routine and a plan for both study and fun and this balance will help you manage the ups and downs that are part of normal everyday life so that one part of your life does not dominate the rest of it.
Make sure that you also have a good amount of sleep each night so that you’re not tired and unable to focus on what you need to do. See more at our page on managing exam stress.
There was a very good reason why you chose the course you’re studying at university. Your course, regardless of whether it’s in the arts, science or engineering is a stepping stone to the life and career that you have always wanted.
If you start with the end goal in mind, your ‘why’ will reinforce the reasons why you chose this line of study in the first place – and hence, increase those motivation levels.
Setting regular, short term achievable daily/weekly/monthly/6 monthly/yearly goals will give you the clear direction that you need. Make sure those goals are S.M.A.R.T - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Achieving these goals, one step at a time, all add up to something bigger and will keep you motivated for the long term.
No one is going to find the motivation for you, so you’ll need to go and find it yourself!
Just remember, study is a marathon – not a sprint.
Good luck with your studies!