How to be more motivated and study effectively

Hello everyone,

I am in year 10 in the UK and studying for my GCSEs. Quite often lately I have been feeling unmotivated when it comes to doing the work, so today I thought I would talk about some of the things that I do to feel more motivated and study effectively.

First of all you need to evaluate why you are feeling unmotivated, is it because the work is too hard/easy, you don’t like your subjects or you simply don’t feel like it? I know that as part of GCSEs you have to do a range of subjects, some of which you might not like. However, I think that motivation is to do with your mindset, if you think about how unmotivated you are then of course you are going to feel that way. You may have negative thoughts about how capable you are of achieving your work (for example, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I am not clever enough’), try and think positively about yourself, and the subjects you might not like and accept that you are clever enough, and you are capable of working hard and seeing results. I meditate using the app Headspace which I would highly recommend, they talk through a technique called ‘noting’ where you acknowledge the thought and return to the task you are doing – you might be thinking ‘this work is hard I can’t do it’ but if you acknowledge that thought and carry on or replace it with a more positive thought this will really help you.

It may also be helpful to think about the goals you are working towards. The work you are doing today is a step towards those goals. I don’t know what I want to do when I am older but I know that the work that I am putting in today is helping me to get closer to doing whatever I decide to do as a career.

Here are my suggestions to help you feel more motivated:

1. Prepare the night before

Lay out your work that you want to get done the day before. I plan my outfit as well so it is one less thing to think about. I find dressing well improves my focus so when I work I am not in pyjamas I am dressed properly.

2. Have a structured routine

Having a routine for your day helps to waste less time. Wake up early enough to not be rushing about and expose yourself to light quickly, don’t lie in the dark as this will make you more tired. Open the window for fresh air or wash your face with cold water to wake up and make your bed as this sets you up for the day.

3. Start easy and work up

Start with reading a book for a few minutes and think about its meaning or with one of your favourite subjects as this makes it easier to get going.

4. Make your space a nice place to work

Make sure you have a suitable space to work, preferably at a desk and make it an enjoyable place to spend time. You can buy a nice set of stationary to inspire you to work. I have a framed picture and quotes on a pin board to help me feel motivated, and I sometimes light a candle too but make sure your space is well-lit as dim lighting can make you feel tired.

5. Organise

Keep your workspace and the room you work in organised. You may want to organise in terms of colour as this is more visually pleasing (e.g. have your textbooks in colour order). Throw out all of the paper you don’t need, I use Google Drive which is a great way to keep documents organised online. Eliminating clutter will clear your mind for working, I like being tidy and enjoy the Marie Kondo way of tidying – I recommend her Netflix show ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’.

“Tidy space, tidy mind”

6. Make productivity visible

I make productivity visible by using two filing boxes – one with textbooks and work that I want to complete that day and the other empty. When I have finished with one subject I put the textbook and work I have done into the empty box. The more work you complete the more productive you feel. It is a visual way of showing how fast you are working.

I use these boxes from Ikea.

7. Use a timer and take breaks

I use the ‘Be focused – Focus timer’ on my laptop to work in blocks. I use the ‘Pomodoro method’ of working for 25 minutes and then have a 5 minute break – I think this works best for me but you can increase the time if you want to, or start off with shorter work intervals and increasing as you get into doing the work. This allows you to focus on one task for a set amount of time. Go outside or move away from your work area during your break.

8. Write a to do list

Some people find to do lists stressful but for others it may be helpful. You might want to have a couple of to do lists – a long one of all of the things you want to do for different subjects (e.g. for Religious Studies: I want to learn five Biblical quotes on divorce/Jesus’ death/miracles etc), and then each week pick a few things from this list that you want to complete.

9. Healthy eating and drink water

Keep a water bottle on your desk to make sure that you drink enough water. Try having fruit in your water – you can mix up combinations and also remember to eat healthy snacks throughout the day. Start the day with a good breakfast and have nice, healthy meals to look forward to (you may want to make lunch in the morning – such as a pasta salad). It is really important to be feeding your body the right foods to help your brain.

10. Limit distractions

When you are working put your phone and all other devices that you are not using in another room. Tell your family/friends that you are working, this means you can get on without distractions.

11. Find things you are interested in

In the subjects that you are less keen on, try and find some things that you are interested in within that topic and expand on those with more research, link what you have learnt to other topics within that subject as this will expand your knowledge.

12. Spend time with others

It is important to spend time with others when you are not working. You can teach others about what you have studied, this will also help you to remember and understand information – if you feel as if you can’t explain part of something, then you don’t fully understand it and that shows that you need to go over it again. Get others to ask you questions from textbooks/flashcards to test your knowledge. I make presentations on certain topics to show to my mum as it is a change from writing down notes and you can be more creative and become better at presenting.

13. Watch study videos or time-lapse your work

If you find studying videos helpful then there are lots available on Youtube. If not, try time-lapsing your own work and watching it back. I find that this helps me feel more motivated.

14. Treat yourself

Have things to look forward to, even if at the end of the day you just take 15 minutes to do something you enjoy or at the weekend make plans for something fun so you can look forward to it. Make sure that you reward yourself if you have worked hard.

15. Write down what you have learnt at the end of the day

At the end of the day write some notes on the things you learnt so you refresh the topics – this will make them stick more, and gives you a review of the things that you don’t remember.

16. Have a healthy work-life balance

Make sure you have a time where you stop working, for me this is 5pm as I like to spend the evening with my family. Don’t dwell on work during your breaks and when you have finished for the day. Spend time off-screen and do what makes you happy and relaxed to wind down in the evening. Have some days work-free where you can pursue hobbies and spend time with others.

I suffer from anxiety, particularly around exams which can limit my productivity levels – if you suffer with stress or anxiety, focus on small amounts of work and appreciate that you do the best you can. From when I was young I was quite bright so people expect me to get good exam results, this is added pressure that I don’t need, so forget what other people think, forget about how other people are doing and focus on yourself. If you do badly in ‘important’ exams then you can retake them, and there are always more options. Try and remember that exams are not the end of the world. Think about the progress you have made, how much you have learnt in the past month, I have learnt so many new things.

I hope you found this post helpful,