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How To Study When You Don’t Feel Like It

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Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Alexandra Markin

Are you a university student who doesn’t feel like studying? You’re not alone.

Self-discipline is a critical skill all university students need, but it can be especially tough when you’re an online student who’s working on a self-directed course schedule.

Every single student has times when studying is the last thing they want to do. Even the straight A students struggle with this – it’s just part of the higher education experience. However, you need to master how to study when you don’t feel like it in order to be successful in your studies.

The 20 Best Ways to Study When You Don’t Feel Like It

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to make yourself study when you don’t feel like it. Every student is different, so you need to experiment to find what works for you.

Your personal motivational methods may change over time, so take note when you find one or more of these techniques isn’t working as well as it once did.

This post covers 20 of the best ways to study when you don’t feel like it. Take what you need from this list and put it into action!

1. Assess Yourself: Why Don’t You Feel Like Studying?

Are you physically tired? Hungry? Or just unmotivated? Determining the root cause will help you determine how to move forward to study when you don’t feel like it.

Quite often, students procrastinate because of fear. Fear that the subject they’re studying is difficult and they’re afraid of failure or getting a low grade.

It’s well known that daily exercise is critical for mental clarity. However, sometimes I go a bit overboard during my workouts and my body gets so physically tired, to the point of just wanting to climb into bed and watch Amazon Prime. It may sound like a strange reason for not feeling like studying, but understanding YOUR root cause is the key to success.

2. Journal to Identify Your Study Patterns

The next time you unsuccessfully try to study when you don’t feel like it, journal instead. Writing down your thoughts and feelings will help flush out the root cause of why you don’t feel like studying.

Journal prompts could include:

  • Who are you studying with?
  • What is your study environment like?
  • What courses are you taking, and how far along in the syllabus are you?
  • Where is your mindset at?
  • When did the feelings about not studying start?
  • Why you don’t feel like studying. Be specific with your reasons.

Journaling will help you keep track of why and how often this happens.

3. Remind Yourself Why You’re Getting Your Degree

Why are you pursuing a degree in the first place? To improve your happiness in your career? To get promotion opportunities? To make more money? To help others?

Solidify your why.

For example: I’m getting my Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing to excel in my own business and help build my wealth.

Interested in getting your degree online? Read the post How To Choose The Best Online Degree Program.

4. Make a Vision Board

A vision board (also called a dream board or mood board) is simply a visual representation of your goals. It can include both images and/or words to give you daily inspiration and motivation to meet those goals.

Vision boards can be physical (on your wall or in your planner) or digital (on your computer desktop).

vision-board-desktop-wallpaper
The above vision board desktop wallpaper was made using the Canva template “Blue Photo Grids Organizer / Planner Desktop Wallpaper” in 1920px x 1080px and is displayed on a Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with a 15″ screen.

My favourite vision boards are digital because they remind me of my goals every time I open my laptop. Creating a digital vision board is easy, free, and doesn’t require a printer.

Canva is one of the best resources to create a vision board for your desktop wallpaper.

5. Clean and Organize Your Study Space

Clear the clutter, wipe down your surface, and put items in order. Having a clean and organized space will allow you to think more clearly.

Sometimes it helps to get set up and organized the day before you study, so you’re not trying to do everything at once. If you really don’t feel like studying, try cleaning and organizing your study space in preparation for the next day.

Everyone studies productively in different spaces. Many people have a few different study spaces throughout their home. These can include a desk area, couch or even in bed with a lap desk.

6. Complete ONE Small Task to Spark Motivation

Starting with a small task can help get you in the mindset to study. Sometimes you just need to complete one task to build study momentum.

Make a list of small, easy task prompts you can refer back to every time you need to study but don’t feel like it.

Task examples:

  • Reread one chapter of your course notes.
  • Make 5 flashcards.
  • Take notes for one concept section in your textbook (i.e., section 1.5: Object-Oriented Programming)
  • Watch one interactive lecture.
  • Complete one required reading.
  • Create an outline for self-review questions.
  • Gather necessary resources.

You may feel “rushed”, because you have so much to get done. Even if you do, practice this technique: say to yourself “I have all the time I need to complete this one small task” and work until you finish it, no matter how long it takes. Then move onto the next small task and work until it’s done.

It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary.

– Darren Hardy, Author of The Compound Effect, Page 44

7. Watch A Motivational Video Before You Begin

Sometimes nothing is more motivating than lighting a fire within you. The keyword here is ONE motivational video, not ten, although this can be a slippery slope!

My absolute favourite go-to for motivational content is Alux.com. They have a website, YouTube channel and podcast.

Watch the below video if you’re unfamiliar with them to get an idea what their channel is all about.

8. Set a Timer For 30 Minutes and Just Start

This is one of my go-to methods when I need to study but don’t feel like it. Limiting your study session to a short block seems much more doable if you know you only have to study for 30 minutes.

Set a timer for 30 minutes (on your phone, the oven, microwave, etc.), set your phone notifications to silent and place it face down so you aren’t tempted to look at it. If there’s too much temptation to pick up your phone, put it across the room where you can’t reach it.

In your 30 minute study session, include the time it takes to get your textbook out, open necessary files and gather any pens, highlighters or page flags you may need.

After the timer goes off, you may be just motivated enough to keep going! Or, take a 5 minute break, and set the timer for another 25 minutes and move into the Pomodoro Technique!

9. Make Your Study Sessions Enjoyable

Make your study space and materials enjoyable so you look forward to your study sessions. Buy coloured page flags, use coloured highlighters and pens, and light some candles!

stabilo-boss-pastel-highlighters
Stabilo Boss Pastel Highlighters are perfect for highlighting in textbooks and bullet journals.

Listening to classical music as a backdrop while you study can also enhance your study session. Make a playlist on Spotify, YouTube or even check out your TV cable package for music channels.

I love to get specific loungewear to study in. Whether it’s a cozy cashmere set, satin pants or soft microfiber, looking and feeling your best while studying is always much more motivating!

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10. Eliminate Distractions

Spend some time targeting what distracts you from studying and make a plan to remove those distractions during your study sessions.

These are some of the most common distractions for online students, and some ways to eliminate them:

  • Turn off the TV when you study.
  • Put your phone on silent.
  • Leave your phone in another room.
  • Change your environment. Pack up and go to a library, café or outdoor space.
  • Log out of Amazon Prime or Netflix.
  • Turn off social media notifications on both your phone and desktop.
  • Close open tabs in your web browser.

Every student is different, so know what distracts you and make a plan to overcome it.

11. Move to a Different Study Location

Sometimes all you need is a physical change of scene other than studying at home day after day. One of the major benefits of being an online student is that you can study anywhere!

Related content: What To Bring To A Library Study Session

Pack up your bag and head to a library, coffee shop, restaurant or just about anywhere you find motivating!

12. Get Some Exercise

Going out for a walk to get some fresh air, doing a yoga video on YouTube or hitting the gym might be just what you need before you sit down and focus. Lack of physical movement throughout the day is a possible reason why you may not feel like studying, especially if you’ve been sitting at your desk at work all day.

Having balance in your life is important to avoid burnout – you can’t study all day, every day. Make exercise an active hobby to help benefit your study sessions.

You don’t have to go overboard – even some light stretches might do the trick.

13. Have a Course Study Schedule

Do you have a detailed study plan in place? If not, make one.

One of the best ways to help you to study when you don’t feel like it is to follow a clear course study schedule.

This will help break down the course material into small sections so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Often, online courses include a suggested course schedule with numbered learning activities. I find checking off one learning activity during each study block extremely motivational.

online-course-schedule
Suggested online course schedule example with numbered learning activities.

14. Seek Out and Participate in Online Learning Communities

Having an online community to reach out to will get you through those times when you need to study but don’t feel like it. You don’t even have to leave the house to be in an online study group!

Where do you find online student communities at your university? Try these tips:

  • Look on Facebook to join a group at your school. Most universities have a Facebook group for their online or distance education students.
  • Follow your university’s social media pages.
  • Find some study pages to follow on Instagram that are motivating to you and interact with their account.

The key here is to actively participate to reap the benefits!

Related Content: How To Deal With A Bad Online Professor

15. Download an App to Help You Stay Focused

Forest is a unique app that helps you stay focused by planting virtual trees you can watch grow on your screen as long as you don’t touch your phone.

Touch your phone however, and watch your tree die. Forest also partners with tree-planting organizations to plant trees in real life, so by using the app you can actually help the environment.

Related content: Do I Need A VPN As An Online Student?

16. Try a Different Study Style

If you typically write notes by hand, try typing them. Try making flashcards for terms if it’s not your norm. Trying a new style of studying may help shake up your routine.

You never know – you may discover a new technique that works really well for you!

17. Remember That Even Online University Is a Networking Opportunity

Your network is your net worth.

The networking opportunities that university offers are golden, especially because online students are often older individuals with real-world experience.

You never know who you will meet in your courses. Even if those people aren’t established right now, they could be a very valuable resource in the future.

Every student should read the book How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie to gain a competitive networking advantage.

Remember: if you don’t do the work, you have nothing to connect with other students about.

18. Relate What You’re Learning to Real Life

This is especially helpful for those prerequisite courses you dread but have to take anyway. Introduction to Statistics is a common required course in business degrees, and although the majority of students struggle with the mathematical concepts, you can’t get away from statistics in the real world.

For example, not long after I finished my Introduction to Statistics course, I sat in on a virtual conference. To my surprise, one of the presenters showed a slide with a correlation graph to explain the relationship between two products. It was very well done, but if I had not taken statistics and had no knowledge of how correlation works, the presentation wouldn’t have been as valuable to me.

I often notice statistics references in my daily life now: in stock market news, references to medical studies, etc.

Find a way to relate the material you’re learning to your real life. Even if you don’t think it’s useful to you today, it will be in the near future.

19. Feed Your Brain

Learning new things actually takes a lot of brain power, which is why it’s important to feed your brain while you study.

Although you should be careful not to constantly munch on junk food, sometimes your favourite sugary, salty or crunchy treat may be what you need to get you started.

Having something in the oven which makes the house smell amazing while you work may be enough of a motivating reward to study while waiting for your food to cook.

And let’s be honest – sometimes a glass of wine before you start studying might be the perfect thing to relax you and make getting started bearable!

20. Reward Yourself

Otherwise known as “bribe yourself,” choosing something that you like for when you’ve completed your study session is motivating for everyone. It could be leaving your place to get a coffee, having a bath, watching a show on Amazon Prime or anything else that makes you happy. And yes, wine counts.

Sometimes, we just need to be rewarded/bribed to get stuff done!

Getting Started Is Always the Hardest Part

Pick one of these techniques today and get back on track with your studies.

Have you tried any of these techniques to help you study when you don’t feel like it? Share what worked for you in the comments – your input could greatly help another student!

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