When I was a student, believe me when I say I was in awe at classmates who could study for 8 hours straight. How did they stay motivated? How do their minds stay focused? Was it through sheer grit and determination, and was I just not disciplined enough?
Let’s face it. Most of us don’t like to study. The process of studying for exams is usually thought of as stressful, overwhelming, and boring (unless, of course, you have an exciting IP English tuition class to look forward to each week!). However, for students who still want to get good grades, studying is a necessary task. This is especially true for students in top schools and IP schools, where the academics demands is even higher.
It wasn’t until I was in university that I realised: not everyone works (or studies) the same way. I was discovering methods that helped me work efficiently – even if I didn’t sit at my desk for 8 hours straight. And, guess what? These methods didn’t make me hate what I was studying. Yay.
Do a Google search, and you’ll find plenty of suggestions on how best to study. But spoiler alert – there’s no one size fits all. Below, I’ll share some of the more significant and helpful methods for me, but what matters is for you to understand yourself, try them out, and find what works for you.
Use a time management technique
How do you plan out your study day? Do you sit down at your desk after breakfast and think, “Alright, I’m going to study until lunch time, have lunch, then study until dinner time”?
Nothing wrong with that. But in reality, few people can focus for such long stretch of hours at a time. Even if you force yourself to continue studying, your productivity and mental focus will plummet significantly after a certain point.
The solution? Reflect and find out about your own attention span: How long can you realistically work productively for?
Then, device a time management technique to help you keep on task. Here are two approaches you can take to manage your time for study sessions.
One popular method is the Pomodoro Method. It involves working for 25 minutes at a time, then taking a 5 minute break after every block of time. After maybe 3 or 4 blocks, you can give yourself a longer break. This simple method is highly customisable, but the key is to keep the work chunks manageable so you can strike a balance between getting things done, and staying refreshed.
Delegate your time according to your energy level
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Not all hours of the day are the same, especially when you compare 1 hour of after-lunch food coma to 1 hour after you wake up refreshed from a nap.
When you can understand your own capabilities, you can delegate your time to study activities according to your energy level. For example, if you find a topic like differentiation and its applications difficult, allocate time to tackle it when you are most alert. During down-times, arrange to do subjects that you enjoy, review parts that you already studied, or simply take a break.
Rewards and motivation
Why do you study? If a sense of duty and ‘just because’ is enough to keep you going, good for you! But for those of us who are motivated by a sense of purpose – you have to find that purpose which keeps you going.
This is the ‘big purpose’ of why you study, and it should come from within you. Do you want to study for a better future? To develop your mind? To get into a certain school or course? All these are legitimate and good intrinsic motivations to study, and keeping these in mind will make you persevere even during difficult days.
If you are currently finding it difficult to find meaning in studying, try speaking to adults or older students to find out what motivated them during their time studying. Once you find your ‘why’, write it down and look at it often to be reminded of it, especially on days you find it hard to open your books.
We can also be motivated by external factors, such as being rewarded by our parents when we get good grades. While these can be effective motivators, beware that they do not make you lose sight of your intrinsic motivation.
That said, extrinsic motivators are useful as short-term rewards. For example, you can allow yourself a little reward like eating a snack or playing two rounds of a mobile phone game after completing one section of studying. Once you complete your day’s study schedule, you can treat yourself to an episode of your favourite show!
If you’re someone who is motivated by success stories of people like you, here are some by our very own students!