Placing gummy bears or chocolates at the end of every paragraph of your textbook doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to motivating yourself for a heavy study session. For one thing, it’s not sustainable, not to mention terribly unhealthy. Motivation needs to be strong enough to push you through when you feel like giving up.

I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve when it comes to this. Let’s start with the first one:

Shorten Your Study Periods.

Haaaaaaaaallelujah! By shortening your study periods and increasing the frequency, it’s much easier to keep yourself motivated and maximise your concentration while you’re at it. The Pomodoro technique is literally the best tool I’ve found so far, and has gone a long way in helping me stay focused and highly motivated to study (I go into detail about the technique in this post).

Create Achievable Milestones

Goals or milestones are extremely powerful motivational tools. However, they need to be specific and measurable in order for them to work.

  • Set macro and micro goals, and rewards to go along with them

Break up your study goals into smaller, achievable milestones. Start with macro goals. For example, “Within 4 weeks, I need to cover x amount of material.” Then switch over to your micro goals, which involves what you need to cover today or even in the next 2 hours. 

The big question here is, how do you keep yourself motivated to achieve these goals?

This is the fun part. Set up rewards! You’ll need to set up small and large-scale rewards for this to work (you can apply this to anything, not just studying):

  • Set up mini-rewards for everyday studying. In my case, I usually reward myself with 5 minutes of playing the guitar after a solid Pomodoro session, which lasts just 25 minutes. At the end of the day, perhaps you could reward yourself with a good movie, or hang out with friends.
  • Next, set up a large reward that you can work towards. For me, I had worked over the summer and saved up enough cash to travel to New Zealand, so I made this my reward for working consistently throughout the semester. This had a powerful motivating effect, because each time I felt like giving up, knowing that I had something amazing to look forward to kept me going.
  • Plan for your rewards, but hold yourself accountable. If you don’t hit your goal, don’t reward yourself.

Set up high stakes and leverage your fear of loss

Use the power of fear if rewards don’t work for you. People tend to work much harder in order to prevent losing something, compared to the amount of effort they would invest in order to gain something.

Tim Ferriss gives an example of this in one of his talks, but he used weight loss as an example. If you have trouble sticking to your goal of weight loss, take pictures of yourself in your underclothes and give them to someone you trust and tell them to post it on the internet if you don’t achieve your goal. This might sound extreme, but if you were in that position, you’d definitely find a way to lose that weight.

Of course, you don’t have to go to these lengths, but something similar could work. For example, if you can’t motivate yourself to study, you could give a sum of money to your parents and only ask for it to be returned if you achieve your goal, or else they could spend it on themselves.

TL;DR

  • To motivate yourself use these tricks:
    1. Shorten your study sessions and increase the frequency. The Pomodoro technique is perfect for this.
    2. Set up mini-rewards for everyday study sessions and one large-scale reward to work towards.
      • Mini rewards could include listening to music, an entertaining video, a healthy snack, etc. Larger rewards could be a road trip, a vacation, or something else that you really want. This is very important to keep you going.
    3. Use the power of fear. Setting up stakes can keep you motivated.
      1. If you make a bet, losing that bet could entail you having to do something embarrassing in public if you don’t achieve your goal for instance.

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