Those long summer days are quickly growing shorter again, and the mornings are getting chilly. Summer was wonderful, but now it’s back to school routines. You welcome it at first, eager for it like an old friend, but you know it won’t be long before the work gets to feel like a grind. How will you build and maintain a strong sense of motivation for study?
Wherever you are on your academic journey, these are important days and you want to do well. Whether you’re in high school and hoping to be accepted to your dream college, or in college and working toward graduation and getting hired to begin that career — here are our 7 tips to maintain focus, energy and motivation this school year:
1. Take care of yourself physically
Your physical well-being plays an enormous role in your ability to consistently perform well and study. Your concentration levels and your attitude are affected by a number of factors:
- Diet. Eat nutritious food at the proper times, and avoid a lot of junk food that’s full of sugar and fat. A sugary drink can give you a short “high” of energy, but it’s followed by a crash. If you keep doing that, it takes a terrible toll on your body.
- Hydration. Your body is 70% water, and every one of your biological systems relies on good hydration. The very best drink for you is straight water.
- Exercise. No matter how much work you have to do, build in time to get up from your desk and move. Even a simple walk for 20 minutes will release endorphins that help you focus and accomplish so much more.
- Fresh air. Not enough is said about the benefits of getting outside. If you’re cooped up in classrooms and at your desk all the time it has a profound psychological effect on your attitude.
- Sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that, from the age of 18 to 25 you need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re under 18, you might even need an extra hour. Try to cheat on this and you’ll pay a price in health and performance.
2. Visualize the future you really want
Here’s a powerful key to staying motivated for study. Spend some time writing down all the hopes you have for the future, and the life you want to live. What’s important and exciting to you? Do you want to travel? Do you want to have an exciting career in a field that fascinates you? Do you want to get hired by a large corporation, or even start your own company? Do you dream of one day having your own home and family, like the one you were raised in? Would you like to drive a particular car and enjoy a good standard of living? How about finding a solution for one of the world’s big problems, and making a difference?
It’s your life, and you can do so much with it. Write all these aspirations down, so that when your motivation for study begins to waver you can go back and read what you’re working to build.
3. Plan your time to be effective
You really need to know yourself well, and the routines that work best for you. We’re all a little different, so experiment with work and study methods until you find what helps you focus and produce results. But here are a few hints that help no matter what systems you choose:
- Keep your work spaces neat and orderly so you can find everything quickly.
- Maintain ONE calendar and enter absolutely everything in it – school, family, personal and work commitments all in one place.
- Prioritize your to-do list weekly and daily. Tackle the most important things first.
- Don’t leave big projects to the last minute. Break them down and plan to accomplish them in steps.
4. Be honest and realistic about multitasking
Scientists now tell us that there’s really no such thing as true “multitasking”. The fact is that people cannot actually focus on two things at once. What you are actually doing is forcing your brain to go back-and-forth between the two tasks, focusing on one and then the other. This does not lend itself to very strong concentration.
The answer is to stay exclusively with one thing at a time. Many students find it helpful to tackle things in blocks. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and focus on one task only. Then take a quick five-minute break before you pick it up again for another 30-minute block, or shift to something else.
In the same way, be very careful about multiple stimuli. Some people say they find it helpful to study with quiet instrumental music in the background, and perhaps that can be helpful. But noise can also quickly distract. Songs that have lyrics can easily divert your attention, and just about nobody does well trying to study with a TV or video playing. Ditch the multi-tasking, and you’ll probably see a huge step forward in your study effectiveness.
5. Break out of the procrastination habit
Procrastination is something most people wrestle with at times, but for some it becomes life-controlling. Some people allow themselves to become “procrastinators” by nature. That’s because procrastinating is habitual; the more you allow yourself to do it, the more ingrained it becomes. The good news is that you can work at replacing it with better habits.
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to eliminate external distractions as much as possible. A lot of things seem easier and more fun than what you need to be doing right now, and it doesn’t take much to distract you. So, keep your work area quiet, and surrounded only by things that relate to what you’re supposed to be working on.
These days, the most constant distraction is the “ping” of a cell phone notifying you of a text message or social media update. That’s why you need to assign set times for catching up with these things, and for the rest of the time turn the phone off completely. Just that one step will set you well on the way to killing procrastination.
6. Get the right people to hold you accountable
It’s hard to say this, but some people will not ever be a positive influence in your life. They may be fun, you may like them and enjoy their company, and that’s fine, but they’re not the ones you need around you constantly to maintain your motivation for study. Find those friends who are also serious about working for the future, and you can encourage and support one another.
When you find the right accountability partners, you can share your dreams for the future and then remind each other of those regularly. There may be times when you can study together too; the right study group can be tremendously helpful.
7. Reward yourself for hitting goals
Incentives are very powerful things for maintaining motivation for study. Set milestones for yourself along the way, and promise yourself little rewards when you reach them. The rewards can be simple pleasures that you enjoy and will look forward to – maybe a favorite smoothie at a café, or a movie, or an hour with a good book. Things that would otherwise be a guilty distraction can become a balanced part of your winning strategy.
Then when you complete every milestone and reach a major finish line, celebrate! The final reward should be the biggest, and something that will really motivate you along the way. A special weekend trip with your family, or those new shoes you really want.
Motivation for study starts NOW!
We’ve given you 7 tips. I really want to encourage you not to put this off and say you’ll get motivated “soon”. Get started right now – the sooner the better. You’ll feel more in control and confident, and you’ll soon be enjoying your best school year ever. That’s going to set you up for great successes in the future.
We wish you all the very best, and if we can help in any way do get in contact with us.