It’s that time of year again – you’re far enough into the year that you’ve lost your beginning of the semester motivation, but you haven’t reached the hard-core grind for finals yet. This period, which I would define to be around mid October to the end of November, often challenges my motivation when I need it the most.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a ~master list~ of study habits I refer to when I’m stuck in a motivational rut. This is not meant to be a long to-do list—I’d recommend reading through the whole list and choosing one or two study habits that resonate the most with you.
1. Change up your study environment
During the beginning of the semester, you might find yourself studying in the same couple of locations – which is great at first, but after a while you might find that you aren’t as productive in those study spots as you used to be. One way to find some new motivation is to switch up your study environment – if you’re constantly studying in Starbucks, maybe it’s time to switch to a spot in the library with a similar ambiance. The trick here is to choose a new study spot that has a similar atmosphere to your old ones. If you know that you work best in super quiet spaces, I’d recommend trying to find another super quiet spot to help you get the ~mental reset~ of a new environment while also catering to what you need in a study space.
2. Learn when to prioritize sleep instead of work
This one might be a little hard to hear, but sometimes getting a good night's sleep is more productive than staying up that extra hour. Personally, I am not a functioning human unless I get at least 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night – which is honestly a huge ask for a college student, but I try to prioritize my sleep as much as I can because I cannot focus in classes without it. Once you figure out the minimum hours of sleep you need to function and be present, you’ll be able to determine at what point in the night that you’ll be more productive if you simply just go to bed. If you want to know a little more about this topic, check out our blog post that is specifically about the importance of getting a good night’s worth of sleep before an exam.
3. Make time to study with friends (that you’ll be productive with)
If you’re having trouble staying motivated to do your homework, one great way to keep yourself accountable is to study with your friends or peers. To be frank, this strategy only works for me on occasion, but I have friends who say that they cannot get any work done unless there’s someone else there to keep them accountable. One habit I like to practice when I’m studying with my friends is to work in timed intervals – I usually will set a timer for 30-40 minutes to stay on task, and then afterwards a 10-15 minute timer for a quick break. I have also found that if my friend and I set goals for each interval, we’re more likely to get it done and keep each other on track when we inevitably get a little distracted.
4. Do not study in bed!
You’ve definitely heard this one before, but I’ll say it again – please please stop studying in bed! Speaking from personal experience, it never goes well – there’s not enough space for your papers, it’s so much easier to get distracted by YouTube, Netflix, and social media, and overall it just makes me want to go to bed. In addition to this, studying in a place you associate with sleep can diminish your energy, motivation, and ability to focus.
5. Advocate for your mental health
There may be times in your academic career where your lack of motivation gets the best of you, and your mental health starts to decline in conjunction or in consequence of this. Please do not feel ashamed when this happens and you start to fall behind in your work – instead, try to put some of your energy into clearly communicating with your professors or a mental health counselor on your campus to possibly receive some extensions on your work.
6. Avoid becoming the “Productive Procrastinator”
We’ve all had this happen to us – when a huge assignment comes our way, we suddenly become a baker extraordinaire, the cleanest person in our household, or what we should really call the “productive” procrastinator. Whenever I have a big assignment coming up, I usually resort to this habit of completing easier, somewhat productive tasks instead. This may feel good in the moment, but trust me when I say that it does not feel good at the end of the day when you still have an incredibly important task to do in only 3 hours. Let this be a lesson to you – DO THE BIG ASSIGNMENT FIRST! If it’s too daunting, break it down into smaller tasks, and you can do your smaller, “productive” tasks as breaks from the bigger assignment to help motivate yourself to keep going.
7. Avoid homework tunnel vision at all costs!
I often hear about finding motivation to complete assignments, but not many people discuss the opposite issue, which I have coined as “homework tunnel vision.” Homework tunnel vision occurs when you are so focused on work that you start to neglect everything else in your life – this ranges from small tasks like laundry, cleaning your room, and spending time with friends to more dangerous neglections like eating and sleeping. Although this strategy may be effective for completing an assignment quickly, you should never neglect important tasks like eating/sleeping – you will certainly not be setting yourself up for success after the assignment is complete.
I don’t experience homework tunnel vision often, but when I do, it’s most likely because I’ve put off a big assignment till the last minute and I need to cram to finish it in a day/couple of hours. Regardless of if you tend to do with every assignment or once in a blue moon, I have two tips to help keep you afloat:
⭐ Set timers to take mandatory eating/laundry/social breaks
- To avoid burnout, give yourself a time limit to complete one part of your assignment (I’d recommend a timer of 30-40 minutes) and once that timer has gone off, set another timer (maybe 10-25 minutes depending on the task) to do a task that you’ve been neglecting. Repeat this process until the assignment is done.
- If you don’t work well with timers, I’d incorporate your neglected task into your daily to-do list. This way, instead of having a to-do list that reads “lab report, creative writing draft, math problem set,” your to-do list will look something like: “lab report, lunch, creative writing draft, 30 minute break to shower/clean room, math problem set, dinner.” It always feels good to cross something off your to-do list, so why not make your eating/socializing/cleaning habits something you can satisfyingly cross off at the end of the day?
I hope that my motivation tips were helpful! For more study and lifestyle tips, check out the Class Tracker blog and follow us on Instagram.
Julia is a Class Tracker Ambassador who attends University of Rochester. She is a
health policy major with minors in digital media and photography. Julia’s best known for decorating her planner with different colorful themes each week, visit our Instagram reels page for all her planner tips and spreads.