Personal Growth

Study Motivation: How to Study When You Don’t Want to

We’ve all been there. You’re not sure how to get some study motivation, because you don’t want to study! Studying can easily become overwhelming, and you need a plan in place to make sure that you’re able to study the right way.

Consider this your study motivation: I’ll show you what you need to do to get rid of that unmotivated state of mind, even when you don’t want to study.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to trick your brain into studying in no time.

Plan to Study for Study Motivation

A big component of being able to study is planning it out.

Do you ever make a to-do list, and get pumped up just by looking at it? Planning your study time has that same effect. When you tell yourself “I don’t want to study”, actually planning it out will turn your frown upside down in no time!

Here are a few things to consider when you’re planning to study:

When will you study?

Everyone is different when studying. Some people are more alert in the morning, while others get their best work done at night. You’re no different!

Which one are you? Study during the hours where you’re most alert. Your energy levels will be higher, and your study motivation will be even higher.

If you’re not sure if you’re a morning or night person, here’s a quiz that helps you determine where you stand.

What is due?

To-do list helps with study motivation
I’m a big fan of to-do lists to get my study motivation.

How are you supposed to have study motivation when it seems like everything is due at once? Most of the time, you can prioritize one thing at a time.

Here’s how you can figure out what the heck you’re supposed to be studying:

  • Get a planner, and plan! Go to your class syllabus and jot the important dates down in your planner.
  • Look at what’s coming up. Focus on the next 2 weeks so you know what you’re supposed to be doing first.

The whole trick of studying is compartmentalizing. Focus on a few tasks at once so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed.

RELATED: How to manage exam stress

Figure out your goals.

It can be hard to get study motivation when you feel like your GPA is beyond repair. There’s always room to improve!

Make small goals that you can achieve this semester. When you don’t want to study, you’ll be reminded of your goals!

Examples of small goals include:

  • Going from a C to a B in a class
  • Making the Dean’s list this semester
  • Improving your understanding of a tough concept

How are you supposed to get motivated to study if you don’t have any goals (we have a need for competence, so you need both to succeed)? Solve that problem and make some!

Be consistent.

Consistency is key! Studying for two days before the exam isn’t a long-term plan that will give you good results. The most motivated students study consistently. Work smarter, not harder!

Being consistent in your studies will help you get better grades, too!

It all has to do with your memory.

Your short-term memory can only absorb 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time, so you’re bound to lose lots of information if you cram for an exam.

To work around this, use the chunking study method so you don’t have to learn everything at once (more on this later). Work on spacing up your study sessions in a consistent way!

When you’re forming the habit of spacing out your studying but also doing it often, it won’t feel impossible and you’re able to process more information.

Now that you have everything planned to study, let’s move on to how you should study.

How to Study When You Don’t Want to: The Best Ways to Study

Reading is not studying. You can’t just skim the textbook and expect your brain to retain all that information. Nope, you need to study actively!

Active studying happens when you’re studying with the hopes of making links with the material you’re learning.

This is not:

  • Reading and rereading your book
  • Copying down your notes over and over

Active studying is a deep tissue massage for your brain. You’re making connections with what you already know and what you’re learning right now. Here are a few ways you can do that:


Ah, the part you’ve been waiting for. Chunking refers to scheduling out your study times, and giving yourself breaks to absorb the information. Your short-term memory will have enough time to process the information you’re learning in each study session.

Schedule your study times every day. Being consistent is great, so make sure that you have a designated time each day to study! Since those are your designated study times, you won’t be distracted with other things you need to do. Your brain will be focused on absorbing the information you give it.

Take breaks often. I’m going to go against the popular belief that studying for hours at a time without breaks is good. It’s not. You need a break to process things, and the quality of studying matters more than the time you spend studying. Use the Pomodoro technique to take plenty of breaks and take advantage of the time you spend studying. Your motivation to study will increase if you let yourself take breaks.

Stop memorizing please, my goodness!

A huge pet peeve that I have about the education system is that we do weird things for an A. A great example of that? Memorizing everything, and not bothering to actually understand what we’re studying.

When you’re memorizing something, you don’t understand it. It’s a quick fix to acing a test.

But what if they give you a question that’s not in your notes? I mean, the information is there, but you’ll have to make links with what you learnt to find the answer.

Rote learning, or learning by memorizing, can be good in some cases. It’s good when you need to recall something, like the name of an enzyme or how many bones the human body has.

But what if I asked you how that enzyme works in the human body? You would need to make connections to find the answer.

The benefits to understanding the material include:

  • That knowledge being stored in your long-term memory
  • You honing your critical thinking skills and creativity
  • Your brain being challenged
  • The sweet, sweet victory of the pieces all coming together when you finally understand something.

Mind maps

Mind maps for study motivation
Here is a mind map of this entire article! See how easy it is to do?

Mind maps are beautiful. I learnt about this study technique in my third year of university. I can’t believe it took me that long, but a great professor I had turned me into a believer of this study hack (thanks, Colin!).

Mind mapping is a creative way of linking information that you’re studying, by visually putting it all together in, well, a map.

You can vomit all of your ideas together in a random order, and make links between them! This is especially helpful in a class where you feel unorganized.

There are a few guidelines to making a mind map that will make the process a whole lot easier:

  1. Put the main idea or subject in the middle.
  2. Link the themes of the main subject to the middle.
  3. Make more links to the themes for the smaller ideas.

There you have it; your concepts are organized! It’s kind of like a big tree with small branches.

Quiz yourself.

This is what I’m talking about when I say that active learning is the best! Ask yourself questions that you think will be on the test.

You will retain so much more information, trust me.

Organize Your Life for Study Motivation

The environment where you study has a big impact on how much learning you’ll actually get done. Are you distracted? Is there a weird smell? Is it dark? There are tons of little factors that come into play when you want to get down to business.

In this section, you’ll learn about little steps you can take to be organized to study. Study motivation comes easily when you have a nice ambiance!

Fix your space.

When I was renovating my room, I had to study for my high school finals in the basement. The basement. I’m scared of spiders, so it wasn’t the best environment for me to focus!

The place where you decide to study affects how much you can concentrate and relax, both of which are important when you want to study.

Find a quieter area. Everyone tolerates different noise levels, but try to find a space where you can focus if there’s something you’re trying to understand. While studying at a concert isn’t impossible, it can be hard to figure something out with everything that’s going on!

Organize your study area. Goodbye, dust! If you’re like me, papers can quickly pile up on your desk. That can make studying so overwhelming when clutter is everywhere. Wipe down your desk and get rid of anything you don’t need to study, like papers from other classes and that old apple core.

Make your notes Pinterest-worthy.

Have you ever seen those jaw-dropping gorgeous school notes on Pinterest? They’re so organized!

Now, you definitely don’t have to be that organized with your notes, but you should definitely find a note-taking method that suits you. A few popular ones are:

  1. The Cornell Method
  2. The Outlining Method (I do this!)
  3. The Mapping Method (mind maps, which we discussed)
  4. The Charting method (organizing your notes by categories in a chart)

Now that you’ve got your note taking method down, store them in one place. There was always that one kid in school whose locker was full of random single pieces of paper. How are you supposed to get motivated to study if you don’t know where everything is?

All of your notes should be in one or two areas, including:

  • Your notebook
  • Your binder
  • A very reliable laptop or tablet

That’s it. That’s how you save yourself the stress.

I type my notes before an exam. This is an example of the outlining method I use.

Study Motivation Comes With a Healthy Lifestyle

I’m going to be your mother for a second, and remind you that being healthy is important. How are you supposed to focus if you’re running on coffee and 2 hours of sleep? You can’t. Here’s what you need to do.

Focus on food and sleep.

I’m not a fan of pulling all-nighters right before an exam. You need to sleep!

The REM stage of your sleep (which is when you dream) is associated with learning and memory. When do you need that? When you have an exam!

Your reaction time, decision making skills and critical thinking will be lower if you don’t get enough sleep. You also can’t focus on an empty stomach, so food is just as important!

How is your mental health?

You will have a hard time motivating yourself to study if you are suffering from mental health issues, like depression. No matter how hard you try to fight it, you need to address how you’re feeling to move on.

No matter how small you think the issue is, it doesn’t hurt to find a therapist near you. There’s no commitment to keep seeing them, but you might be able to benefit from it.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about therapy

Avoid unnecessary stress.

I’m serious! Any additional stress, other than what you might feel when a test is coming up, should be avoided.

That means that you should distance yourself from people who cause drama, or trying to juggle too many things at once for no reason. No, you don’t need to volunteer 50 hours while being a full-time student.

Prioritize your studies, and you can avoid stress.

Conclusion: Study Motivation Will Come Naturally Soon

It can seem discouraging when you’re not naturally perked up when it comes time to study. You’re not alone in this, especially when you feel overwhelmed.

You can start using these strategies right away, even if you’re in the middle of the school year. Everyone has to start from somewhere.

TELL ME: Which tip are you most excited to use to increase your study motivation?

Peace out!