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Finding the motivation to study

By Danielle Barakat on 20 March 2020NSWblogUKblogMotivationStudy tips

Now more than ever, it’s important to be able to keep the momentum going this year. Whether your school has been shut down and you’re now forced to work from home, or you’re still attending school, many students are feeling overwhelmed and are unsure how to stay motivated throughout this time. The reality is, whether due to COVID-19 or not, every single person will experience these feelings and will find it hard, at some point in the year to maintain motivation to study.

Whether you’re trying to study for your year 9 maths test, your HSC English exam, or trying to stay on top of your course work – it’s important to keep trying to do the best you can.

So, if you’re searching for some encouragement and advice, here are our top tips for finding the motivation to study:

Recognise your lack of motivation

Haven’t you heard that famous saying, that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem in the first place? And whilst we aren’t talking about addiction here, it’s still important to follow suit and to be able to recognise your lack of motivation. A big part of having a successful schooling experience is to have self-awareness, that is being able to look at yourself and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Identifying that you struggle to find motivation will go a long way in helping you get back on track.

But how do you know if you’re lacking motivation?

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • You are only studying for short periods of time before becoming easily distracted,
  • The time that you are studying you don’t get a lot done,
  • You look for any excuse to avoid studying… what’s that, dishes? Sure!
  • You feel anxious or stressed when you think about having to do school work,
  • You would rather sleep than do anything else.

If you have any of these symptoms, then continue reading.

Have a goal

Once you have admitted to yourself that you have a problem, the next step is to redefine your goals so that you feel like you have something to work towards. Your goal may be something small like what you want to achieve by the end of the weekend, or it could be something bigger like wanting to get a certain mark in your exams, or a certain ATAR. Whatever the goal is, write it down and have it somewhere you can see whilst you study.

Every time you sit down to study or finish an assessment remind yourself of that goal and ask yourself: ‘is what I am doing helping me work towards my goal?’ and if it’s not then it’s time to rethink things. Make sure the focus is on that endpoint because it’s what’s going to get you through – just think about how good you will feel when you achieve your goal.

Set yourself limits

Now that you have your goal and you know what you’re working towards, you should also set yourself some limits. Limits help you stay sane and make sure you don’t crash and burn out too early on in the year. Set yourself time limits. If you have read any of my other articles, you’ll know that I am a big fan of the ‘2 hours on 20 mins off’ study routine. But if that doesn’t work for you, then find what does and put yourself into some sort of routine where you’re studying for a certain amount of time, and then taking a well-deserved break.

Taking breaks will not only help your energy and your mood, but it will also impact your motivation and your ability to use your time productively. This also applies to taking breaks on weekends and during school holidays. There is no need to be studying 24/7, so give yourself some time off to re energise for the next week or term.

Look at how far you’ve come

Even if it feels like you’re nowhere near reaching your goal, chances are you’ve done a lot more than you give yourself credit for. You know more now than you did at the beginning of the year and that in itself is great progress. Remind yourself that you are capable of getting through it because you’ve already gotten through that last 5 years of high school. A good dose of perspective will help your mind refocus and will make you feel good about yourself, giving you the motivation to keep up the good work.

Keep track of your progress

This point ties in nicely with the previous one: keeping track of what you’ve completed is an explicit reminder of the fact that you can do it, you can get through exams and that you’re not as bad as you may think. To help you do this, I would recommend keeping a checklist of things you have to do, that way as you go you can tick them off. That sense of accomplishment when you finish will be glorious.

Group study

It always helps having someone in your corner who is going through the same thing you are to remind you that you’re not alone. Studying in a group can be so good for the soul, and can increase your productivity (given you set some strict group study rules).

I know what you’re all thinking, ‘but what about social distancing?’

Group study doesn’t necessarily have to be face to face. Jump onto a Google Hangout, Skype or Zoom and make all your friends join at a set time. Although this isn’t sitting around together in the library, it’s still a good way to force yourself into studying. Knowing that you have to get up tomorrow, get dressed and be on the chat at 9 am for a group study session is a guaranteed way of getting you out of bed. My advice here would be to not use facetime or Snapchat for this. Use something more official like Google so you don’t get easily sidetracked.

Also, make sure your study group sets out a goal you’re going to achieve by the end of the session so that you’re all more encouraged to work hard together. You can even give yourselves a reward for when you finish, just to give you that extra incentive. Encouraging others to stay focused will encourage you to stay focused, and there’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition to get those minds going.


Despite the fact that we are all facing a time of uncertainty, it’s just as important as ever to keep yourself on track as much as you can. The most important thing to remember when trying to study is that if you do the best you can do, then that’s an achievement in itself. No one is expecting you to work hard 24/7, especially over the holidays, so don’t be afraid to follow these tips and do what you need to do to achieve your goal and stay motivated for the rest of the year.

P.S. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed about the situation, please reach out to your teachers, parents, and friends and talk to one another. I’m sure there are others feeling the same way and it’s important that you let others know how you’re going.

→ Written from my ‘working from home’ desk 👩🏻‍💻.

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels.

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