It’s that time of year again when finals are looming large on the horizon. As you near the finish line you may find your motivation lagging. When the load of papers, projects and tests begins to feel like an insurmountable obstacle, try these suggested techniques for spicing up your study time and adding fresh zeal into learning.
Construct a Spacious Study Plan. If you wait until you feel “in the mood” to study, that moment may never come! You’ll end up feeling boxed in and pressured by the ticking clock. However, if you give yourself enough time to study—starting the review process weeks or even days ahead (instead of the night before)—you will actually allow yourself more flexibility in how the study time goes down. Fight the urge to procrastinate! This will only lead to stress and frustration. Instead, be intentional and plan out spaces of time dedicated to writing, project prep and study. If you plan far enough ahead, these won’t have to be long blocks of time—but set your guidelines and stick to them. Intersperse the heavy study times with lighter activities such as a social outing, an hour here and there for exercise or 15-minute increments of a hobby that brings refreshment.
Compete Against Yourself. I am of the opinion that you can make a game out of anything—even if you’re by yourself. So look for ways to turn your study time into a sport! Whether that means creating your own do-it-yourself tests and trying to beat your previous “score,” making your own illustrated “flashcards,” or using an app like Quizlet to test your knowledge on different subjects, there are tons of ways to build competition into your study time. Maybe your “game” is to time yourself for how long you can stay engaged with your notes before getting distracted. Keep track of your “record” for the longest stretch of concentration and reward yourself when you reach your desired goal for “length of focused study time.” If you study best with friends, consider making quizzes for each other or inventing your own interactive review game.
Create an Element of Surprise. Here’s another “game” to mix things up: on small strips of paper, jot down your study tasks in small, bite-size pieces. For example, one strip might say “Study for Physiology test for 30 minutes.” Another might say, “Write outline for World History paper.” A third strip might say, “Insert graphs into final project for Economics” or “Review flashcards for Latin final.” You get the idea. When all your necessary goals are on paper, put your paper slips into a hat and draw them out one at a time, completing your work in whatever random order fate assigns. It will keep you guessing at what comes next. (Hint: to make the “game” a bit more exciting, add in some fun things like: “Take an ice cream break,” or “Jog around the block” just so you know you can look forward to some built-in downtime).
Craft a Reward System. Ideally, learning would be its own reward. Think about the end goal–like the career you’re pursuing, degree you’re achieving or. at the bare minimal, the relief you’ll enjoy when this class is over! However, when intrinsic motivation falls short, it’s ok to create a “reward system” based on factors that are a bit more extrinsic. For example—maybe a piece of chocolate for every hour of studying is just the reward needed to keep you zeroed in on your work. A longer-term reward might be watching an hour of Netflix when you finish your term paper. Or perhaps the “dangling carrot” you need is a tangible reward when the semester is finally complete—like splurging on a massage or attending a concert with friends. Try to make the size of the reward fit the difficulty of the task, and write down your goals and agreed upon “prizes” for when you achieve each one. Sometimes the hoops are more fun to jump through when there’s something waiting on the other side.