Lacking the uuumph to bust out that text book on The Unabridged History of Colloids? Does the idea of studying “Innovations in 19th Century Grouting Techniques” leave you less than enthused? Fear not, grasshopper. Here are some slick tips to overcome your motivational malaise.

  1. Take the long view – Step back to get the broad perspective and analyze the end purpose. Where does this study session fit into your life goals? For example, you might say to yourself, “I’m studying this to get an A on that next exam so I can become the world’s greatest puppeteer and avenge Jim Henson’s nasty comments about my father’s ventriloquism talents. Curse you, Jim Henson! Curse you!”
  2. Commit to 5 minutes – Promise yourself you’ll work for at least five minutes. Tell yourself, “Self, if you give this a solid five minutes of your best effort studying, you can then quit guilt free.” Often, intellectual inertia will keep you going for much longer. This one works really well for me.
  3. Eliminate the irritants – What is it that’s nagging at you and keeping you from working? Worried about whether or not that check cleared? Anxious about Who Will Be Kicked Off the Island Next? So go check your bank account or watch the end of the next episode. If you can’t do it right then, write it down on your todo list. With that pressing problem no longer weighing on your mind, you’ll be able to get to work.
  4. Argue with yourself – “Self, you’re such an idiot! You’re going to blow this assignment!” Sometimes we talk ourselves into such an inner state of dread and fear of failure that we give up before we get started. Who wants to start on something that they’re sure they’ll flub? Argue with yourself! “Wait a sec. I’m not an idiot. Didn’t I get an A on that Bovine Phlebotomy quiz last week? Mom doesn’t think I’m dumb. My girlfriend thinks I’m the cat’s pajamas. My other girlfriend thinks I’m spam on a stick. I can do this assignment! No problem.”
  5. Use the Buddy System – Find someone who give you a kick in the seat of the pants when you can’t get going. Drill sergeants, coaches, and some varieties of mother are very good for this purpose. Tell that special hard-driving someone that you have set a study goal for yourself. Ask them to give you their best tongue-lashing if you weasel out of this study session. This also works splendidly with imaginary friends (you heard me right). Imagine someone who really gets you going giving you a rousing pep-talk. I personally imagine a room full of study groupies giving me a standing O. Weird but effective. Mmmmm. Study groupies.

There they are, folks. Five fast tips to motivate the mopish, pep up the pooped, and step up your studies. The next time is maddeningly missing try using the buddy system or committing to five. Have your own favorite motivation trick? Let us know in the comments.

Updated from March, 2009 post

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.


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