How to find your studying mojo

15 March 2017

With deadlines looming, you may feel like you're falling behind. Here are some ways you can identify your thoughts and gain full focus again.

Girl sitting at desk looking out of window

This is the time of the year when courseworks and dissertations are due and exam time is looming. Sometimes having to do all that studying and catching up with reading feels like a drag. It can be overwhelming because together with the studying can come a wave of questions where you doubt yourself on a personal level with thoughts such as:

  • Do I even understand these readings?
  • Am I going to be able to write something interesting and relevant?
  • Am I going to do the right thing?
  • Am I good enough to do this?
  • Others seem to be more on top of things than I am
  • What if I do badly?

These thoughts are subtle, but can lead to difficult feelings that interfere with motivation. So try out these 10 ways that you could help yourself to generate that motivation!

Acknowledge your resistance and difficult feelings with motivation. It may be helpful to write these feelings or thoughts down and then leave these on the side so you can then study.

Don't run away. Avoiding work can make you feel deflated. This is emotionally more draining than having to go through the frustration of reading for your paper.

Don't blame yourself for procrastinating now and then. Try to become aware of the habit and gently make yourself to go back to the task sooner rather than later. 

Try to understand your studying style better. What will make it easier for you to work? We are all prone to pleasant experiences and it is natural that we tend to avoid uncomfortable, dry chores and duties.  So try to make your study experience as interesting as possible.

Don’t question your abilities. Don’t put yourself down by comparing yourself to others.

Visualise yourself starting. Make yourself sit down and work even if this is for just 20 minutes. See starting as a parallel process like a plane on a runway. You may start slow but you will still take off! 

Focus on the task at hand and prioritise the most important tasks. Avoid multitasking.

Communicate to others any difficulties and/or what you intend to do. This can help you engage with the process and identify the important tasks. Communication / externalisation can help you to commit with immediate goals and you could also find out others points of view and tips. 

Take a time limited approach in which you schedule your tasks.  Ask yourself  ‘how much can I achieve in the next 2 hours?’ instead of ‘Can I complete all tasks?’ In this way you do not get as easily overwhelmed by the volume of study you need to do.  
Remember that studying can be challenging and take you out of your comfort zone. Think about the hiking of  Mountain Kilimanjaro; it is not easy and can even be uncomfortable but the pleasure comes when you begin to see the view from height, feel the fresh air and when you reach the destination you get a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Focus on the outcome and not the struggle to get there!

By Zoi Kontakou, Counselling Psychologist at UCL Student Psychological Services