How to motivate myself to study hard at university

Without principles I would be controlled by temptation.

I'll see a cafe and then I want a coffee, but I've already had two today.

I'll feel my phone vibrate while I'm working, and I'm automatically reaching into my pocket.

My friend will ask me to go out, and I'm instantly imagining the lights and music.

People say ‘mind over matter'. But what if you are so conditioned to react to certain stimuli that even the smallest ‘matter' will overcome the ‘mind'.

The question becomes - how can we stop allowing life to control us and instead take control of our life?

If we want to motivate ourselves to study, we need some guiding principles.

I've found three principles that help me avoid ‘life's temptations' and keep me focused on what's important.

#1 - Create a system that guides you towards your goals

Think of this system like robust lane barriers when you are driving through a dangerous windy road.

  • Find a mentor – this could be a lecturer or someone that can help keep you on track.
  • Create a study plan – this will help you know exactly what you need to study and when.
  • Control your environment – eliminate distractions e.g. phone away during study sessions, avoid noisy areas, live close to campus to make it easy to get there, organize all your study materials, choose a great study group/partner.
  • Increase natural motivation - sleep, diet and exercise will boost your energy levels and make it easier to concentrate on study.

#2 - Learn to tame your wild mind to improve focus

Think of this like tuning your car so it's smoother and easier to drive through the winding road.

  • Use mindfulness techniques for clarity and self-awareness – this will help you to control your thoughts and keep them from becoming distractions. I use the ‘calm' app for 10minutes most mornings.
  • Challenge false beliefs to be more productive – These beliefs could be as simple as thinking that you don't study well in mornings or you can't study when you're tired after exercise. Often these are just in our own head, and the best way to shatter false beliefs is to prove yourself wrong. Study in the morning or study after exercise.
  • Use operant conditioning to change your behavior – Design your own reward system to reinforce your ‘good behaviors' e.g. each study session you finish go buy a coffee. Choose something that will work for you.

#3 - Build internal motivation by having a desirable outcome

Think of this as your destination and the rewards that you attain along the winding road.

  • Focus on your study goals by writing them down – place these somewhere you can see them every day to fixate your mind on them. Break your study down into smaller achievable tasks. Progress, no matter how small is highly motivating.
  • Go one step further and focus on your final outcome – for me it was freedom, a better job, more money, more knowledge – Print off images of your ideal life. These are all the benefits you value.
  • Let music motivate you to the top – Each morning while I walked to University before exams, I listened to my favorite playlist. Just as I arrived on campus ‘Flume – On Top feat T.Shirt' would play through my headphones. What a way to start the day!

The above principles help keep me motivated and focused on what's important.

I hope they help you too.

The Reformed Student

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