The Happy
Side Hustle Planning Kit

    I respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    How To Study When You Feel Unmotivated

    September 20, 2017 Amanda Cross 8 min read
    Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more details. Thanks for supporting the brands that make The Happy Arkansan possible!

    We all have those days.

    The days when we stare at our planner and we can't seem to do one thing.

    The time when we are staring at a blank cursor in a Word document for hours.

    The icky feeling of looming responsibility breathing down our backs.

    Yeah, that's no fun.

    Today on the blog, I am going to share some tips on how to study when you feel unmotivated so that you can push through procrastination and get shit done.

    1. Prioritize & Create A Small To Do List

    The first thing that you should do is prioritize your to-do list.

    Often, when we are unmotivated it's because we are overwhelmed. All of those crazy to-do list tasks that need to be accomplished can weigh heavily on our minds and freeze us into inaction.

    So, instead, I encourage you to take out a sheet of paper, your planner, and a pen. Think about the most pressing tasks that you need to accomplish and create a small to-do list of no more than 5 items. Compress the most important items in your planner on to that sheet of paper and then tick things off one at a time.

    This is helpful because it gives you the most pressing tasks, and you don't have to look at all the things on the horizon as you are studying. Yes, please!

    2. Just Start An Assignment For 5 Minutes

    Another thing that I have noticed is that I get unmotivated sometimes before I even start an assignment. Just thinking about an assignment might freeze me up, and I know that you may feel the same way. So, in my experience, it has helped to at least start an assignment for five minutes.

    This assignment doesn't even have to be the hardest assignment on your to-do list!

    Start that assignment, and see how you feel in five minutes.

    When you do this, it is important that you take the five minutes very seriously. Work hard for the entire time, and don't goof off or get on social media!

    Chances are you will feel much better because you have started the assignment. Also, chances are you won't feel like stopping after the five minutes are up.

    3. Take A Break

    Sometimes we need a good break from our school work, but also social media and anything that could truly distract you for hours.

    Last week I was having an awful time focusing so I went to my room, laid down, put on a podcast, and covered my eyes with a sleeping mask. I didn't fall asleep, though. I listened to the podcast, in the darkness, and cleared my head for a bit.

    This helped me get my focus back and got away from the bright lights of my computer screen for a bit.

    You can choose a similar break, or something completely different.

    I wouldn't take longer than an hour for your break though as you don't want your day to devolve into nothingness, you just want to take some time to chill and collect your thoughts.

    4. Change Up Your Environment

    Sometimes all you need is an environmental change to kickstart your studying.

    It's so easy to sit in your room, on your bed, and “study.” Alas, you have to change it up every blue moon.

    So, I would find a few alternative places other than your favorite study spot across campus, in your living space, or across town.

    When I was in college I liked studying in my room, but if I wanted to change it up I would go to the library, the student union, behind the Starbucks on campus (if it wasn't terribly windy), or in the building where all my classes were at (shout out to all the days spent in Irby Hall!)

    In graduate school, I mostly studied in my apartment, but I would often change up where I studied there. So, sometimes I studied on my bed, at my desk, on the couch in the living room, or at the dining room table. When I was on campus, I would often study in my office, at the library, or in the nontraditional lounge in the student union.

    It's all about finding where you feel most comfortable and switching through your favorite locations until you find the place that makes you the most motivated.

    5. Promise Yourself A Treat

    Your treat doesn't have to be extravagant. but a treat can help motivate you to finish what you are doing.

    I know that we have all seen that picture where a person places gummy bears on each paragraph of a textbook so that for each paragraph they read they get a gummy bear. I don't think you should do that. It would take way too long to set up, and all the gummy bears are probably distracting as you are reading.


    On the other hand, there are many other treats you could give yourself:

    • A mani/pedi once you get through a particularly rough week of school
    • Fro-yo after you spend a Saturday studying for your midterms
    • A snack from the vending machine after you spend hours studying in the library
    • Movie night (out or in) after you finish a big project

    Whatever you decide to do, set it before you start doing the task that way it can help you focus. If you do this, you will always be able to point to the reward you have set up for why you need to get this thing done. Working hard all week will be easy when you know that you are going to treat yourself to a well-deserved mani/pedi that weekend!

    6. Get A New Look

    No, I don't mean get a new wardrobe or get your hair dyed.

    I mean: taking your hair down out of your messy bun, putting actual clothes on instead of an oversized t-shirt and norts, and putting some lipstick on.

    Often, when I feel unmotivated, it's because I look unmotivated. Get your look together, and you can conquer the world. Look sloppy and chances are you will feel sloppy.

    Now, this doesn't mean you have to go get a fancy dress, curl your hair, or do the most. That would take away from your study time too much.

    But, don't underestimate the power of putting a little thought into the way that you look.

    7. Use A Different Study Method

    As you all know, I am obsessed with the pomodoro technique. Heck, I am using it right now as I am writing this blog post!

    If your method of studying isn't working for you, change it up, and find a new way to manage your time and study effectively.

    I like the pomodoro technique because it has a ton of built in break times so I know that I am not always hardcore studying. This method gives me some time to stretch, get food, go to the bathroom, get on social media, etc. without feeling guilty. It also gives me some time to focus on other things so that my way too distracted brain can do something else for a bit.

    Check out this post featuring some different study methods you can try from Her Campus.

    8. Work When You Feel Most Motivated

    We all have that time when we feel most motivated to kick ass and take names.

    It's hard because we all have a different time of the day when that happens, and we don't want to feel like complete slackers if we don't work when most people feel their motivation.

    At the end of the day, we have to work when we feel that we can get the most done. That could be 3 AM for you or 9 PM for you. It doesn't matter, as long as you are getting the proper amount of rest and you are getting your work done.

    If you aren't sure when you get the most work done, try studying at different times. Make sure that you are writing down what you are getting done during those study sessions. Also, study when you feel those tiny sparks of motivation, and write down when those sparks happen. After a while of observing all of this, you should easily be able to tell when you feel most motivated. Then you can work during more of those hours so you get more done.

    9. Make Learning Fun Again

    Learning doesn't have to be a drag, so, make it fun again.

    Maybe you aren't studying well because you are trying to study in a way that doesn't work for you. If you are trying to learn by reading but you are a kinesthetic learner, that won't be beneficial for you.

    Find your learning style so that you can study in a way that works best for you or ask your professor for advice on learning the material in a different way.

    If you do this, you will actually feel motivated to study because it won't be so out of your comfort zone.

    Take this quiz from Education Planner to find your learning style.

    10. Remember Why You Are In School In The First Place

    Last, but certainly not least, remember why you are doing this in the first place. Your answer is hopefully deeper than it's what my parents wanted me to do or I didn't have anything better to do. Even if it is though, we can work with that.

    Create a collage of all the things that made you motivated to do this in the first place.

    If you want to be an educator, some of your whys may sound something like this…

    I want to:

    • Make my parents proud.
    • Help shape the minds of children and help them learn.
    • Have better teachers than I did or I want to be a teacher just like I had when I was younger.
    • Decorate my classroom and make it the best learning environment for my students.
    • Work with other teachers to make the world a better place through education.

    Whatever your “whys” are, take an afternoon to find pictures that represent them. Find a sheet of paper or a poster board and glue those pictures to the board. Then, put that above your desk or somewhere you can find it when you want to add inspiration and motivation to your life again.

    Having your “why” prominently displayed will help give you the kick of motivation that you need to succeed and thrive.


    I hope that this article gave you some motivation and ideas on how to get your motivation back when you just aren't feeling it.

    Motivation isn't always easy to come by, but I am hopeful that this article will help you get back in the motivation mood when you need it most.

    What are your best tips for studying when you feel unmotivated?

    Follow Me:

    No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    About Amanda

    Hey Y’all!
    My name is Amanda Cross, and I am the blogger behind The Happy Arkansan. I am a blogger, freelance writer, and podcaster. When I am not creating content for any of my content online, I can usually be found baking, watching YouTube, or napping. I love helping millennials and young adults navigate the mess that is adult life. Keep reading for my thoughts and experiences.

    Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 457 other subscribers