Getting that studying motivation can be difficult. You start off on a high, but before long the reality of hard work sinks in.
In this ultimate guide, I show you how to motivate yourself to study by providing you with 25+ inspirational tips and strategies.
No time to waste, here’s my tips on how to get that inspiration every student needs to get motivated to study.
25 Ways to Motivate yourself to Study
1. Watch this YouTube Video on Self-Discipline by Will Smith
For the first 3 points, I want to get you started with some motivational videos to get you into the right headspace to build that study inspiration.
This motivational video gets you to look inwards and think about why it is you should be studying right now.
Here’s some themes Will Smith explores in this motivational video:
At the core of motivation is self-discipline.
Self-discipline is the ability to regulate your own behaviors.
It’s about convincing yourself to do things you don’t want to do because they have some longer-term value.
You need self-discipline as a student.
Self-discipline is the ability to do that studying now even if you don’t want to.
Because you’ve got aspirations to be a better you.
As will Smith argues:
“You cannot win the war against the world if you can’t win the war against your own mind.”
Self-Love is all about doing things to help yourself.
It’s about taking actions for your own good in the long run, sometimes at the sacrifice of the now.
Will Smith refers to students when he talks about Self-Love. He says:
“Self-Love is when you have a test on Monday. And I know you really want to go out with your friends but if you fail that test you’re not going to feel good about yourself. I love you too much to let you go out tonight.”
Will Smith argues that your long-term happiness is determined by your actions today. If you have the self-love and self-discipline to do the hard work now, you’ll be happier in the long run.
Smith also talks about how you need to take responsibility for your own life.
He says it doesn’t help to think about why you’re in the situation you’re in.
If you’re poor, or having to re-do university to change careers, sure that sucks.
But your job is to take responsibility for the future because you can’t do anything about the past.
“Your heart, your life, your happiness, is your responsibility and your responsibility alone.”
You’ve got to do this. No one else can do it for you.
2. Watch this Motivational Speech about your University Degree
In this video, the speaker reminds you that you are the only one who has the power to make change.
It starts with a rough message: stop pitying yourself.
The speaker says tiredness, lack of money, or anything else are excuses. People who have succeeded have gone through the same hurdles.
The difference between success and failure is that people who succeed look inside themselves and find the strength to do the hard work.
The speaker says:
“It’s not going to come to you and fall in your lap. It’s always going to be difficult. If you want it, you’ve got to go get it.”
This video is all about digging deep. Put your head down and grind it out.
Success comes to those who earn it through hard work.
Right now, that hard work for you is to put your head down and study.
Don’t make any excuses for yourself. You can overcome the challenges. Dig deep.
3. Watch this Video about Growth Mindsets
I love the concept of the growth mindset.
What’s it all about?
It’s about believing in yourself. It’s about believing in your ability to learn.
“Failing is just another word for growing. And you keep growing. This is Learning.”
I like this video because it’s compassionate. It knows you are going to struggle and fail. And it’s message is simple: that’s okay.
Just believe in yourself and keep putting one step after another.
If you have the self-concept that you believe you can learn anything with hard work, you’re more likely dig deep and do the hard work needed to learn.
By contrast, if you’ve not got a growth mindset, you’ll blame other things. You’ll stop believing in yourself.
You need to grab hold of your growth mindset and tell yourself: “I can achieve this. I can overcome this struggle. I can ace this exam. I just need to work at it. I need to find ways to achieve it and I’ll get there in the end.”
4. Read this Book: UnF*ck Yourself
I’m suggesting you read Gary John Bishop’s UnF*ck Yourself because it’s a fast, simple read that’ll get you thinking about how to improve your own life.
It’s a simple exercise in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: That is, it gets you to start sorting out your thinking.
Silence the self-defeating monologue.
It’s mean. It isn’t sympathetic. It tells you how the world is: stop thinking negative thoughts.
That negativity, those excuses, are going to bring you down.
You have struggles, and I’m sympathetic to them. But my sympathy isn’t going to solve them. And that’s what this book’s all about.
Fix the things within your power. Believe you’re capable and take the steps towards achieving what you’re capable of achieving.
The book’s by-line tells it the way it is:
“Get out of your head and into your life.”
Stop sitting around. Seriously. Just stop. If there’s more in yourself to put out there in the world, then do it.
Your life is your ultimate masterpiece. Put everything you have into it.
For you, right now, that’s studying. So get the heck off your ass and freaking study!
5. Print out Motivational Quotes and Place them around your Study Space.
The videos I provided at the start of this post are motivational. Their goal is to remind you to dig deep and try your hardest to work through the struggles you’re facing today.
But you can’t watch videos five or ten times a day. It’s just not practical.
Something that’s both motivational and practical is to select some quotes that you find inspiring.
Motivational quotes for studying might include:
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier
Or how about this one:
“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” – George Lorimer
I recommend placing these quotes in visible places around your study space.
Some visible places to put your motivational quotes include:
- On your pin board;
- On your study desk;
- On your computer desktop screen
6. Remind yourself of your Long-Term Goals
You need to know where you’re going.
Do you know why you’re sitting at the computer right now, planning to study?
What was the reason you started down the path of getting this qualification you’re studying for?
It might have been:
- For a job you’re passionate about
- To get enough money to care for your family
- To prove something to yourself
- To gather enough knowledge to start a business in your topic
…Or, any other reason!
You need to dig these goals back up when you’re at a low point and lacking motivation to study.
Write them down all over again.
In the video above, the speaker talks about creating A Vision. He says he creates his vision and then he has it handy at his desk:
“I put [my goal] on one piece of paper, I put it on my desk and I review it twice a day.”
Having that long-term goal statement sitting there on your desk visible every single day keeps it close to your heart.
It reminds you that your actions are intentional.
There’s a reason behind your study session today. It’s just one of those steps towards that long-term goal.
7. Look on a Job Search Website for your Dream Job to Motivate You
If you want to envision that long-term goal even more, you might want to do some research into it.
Actually look at it!
Most students’ long-term goals is to break into a certain career.
So, why not go onto a job search website and look at that job you want?
What does it say on there to motivate you?
Take a look at:
- The salary. Does it inspire you? Hopefully it does!
- The list of minimum requirements for the position. What are they?
When you look at the minimum requirements, you’ll probably see your degree name there: “Must have an M.Sc …” It might even say “Experience required.”
But if you can see that you’re on your way right now to being able to tick off that one key requirement for the job, it might give you some more motivation.
That action of looking at the specifications for the dream job might just remind you why you’re here, today, studying your heart out.
You’ll get there one day.
But today, you study.
8. Create a List of your Medium-Term Goals.
To get to your long-term goal (say, to get that dream job), you need to set yourself a list of stepping stones to get there.
Your stepping stones might be:
- Grow my GPA this Semester to 3.0
- Get a GPA of 3.3 next Semester
…Or, anything you think is achievable with a little hard work.
These medium-term goals appear achievable than the longer-term career goal.
These goals are on the horizon.
And the best thing about these goals is you can take actions today to achieve them.
Because in reality, there’s nothing you can do right now that will tangibly make that dream job land on your lap. It’s over the horizon. You’ve set your ship in the right direction, but you can’t apply for that job today.
So what can you do in the medium-term? What’s within your power? How can you set your ship in the right direction?
These medium-term goals are more achievable, so they’re more actionable.
But they’re still not enough. Once you’ve set that list of medium-term goals, let’s break them down even more.
You need to break down your list of goals so much that you have a goal today that you can achieve.
That’s why you need to write down one short-term goal for today that will be a step towards your medium-term goals.
9. Write down one Short-Term Goal for Today.
It’s hard to see how your study session today might lead to achieving your goal in the long-term future.
But every single action counts.
To prevent overwhelm, I acknowledge that what I’m doing today may only be a miniscule step towards my big life goal.
So, I break down all of my actions into small, actionable, bite-size chunks that I can achieve on a daily basis.
It feels impossible to achieve something massive. But you can achieve a whole lot of small things that build up to that one huge goal that you want to achieve.
So, what I recommend to my students who lack motivation is this:
Write down on a piece of paper one positive thing you want achieved by the end of the day.
It might be to finish taking notes on that one chapter you’re studying.
It might be to complete three practice quizzes to prepare for your test.
Sure, it doesn’t sound like much. But it gives you something to work towards today. It focuses your mind.
And 30 days of minor achievements will eventually lead to a medium-sized achievement. It might bump your GPA up just enough to get over a hurdle, improve your CV, and get you closer to that dream job.
So set yourself one actionable goal for today. Then go out there and do the grind to make today worthwhile.
Go Deeper: 101 Short-Term Goals for Students
10. Write a letter from your future self
Now that you know your goals, visualize yourself at that point when you’ve achieved them.
What will you look back at? What will you be proud of? What hurdles will you have overcome?
You can do a small exercise that’s personal, private, and that you can keep to yourself.
Take out a pen and paper and write a letter from your future self. Put yourself in the shoes of the future version of you who’s made it to the place you want to be.
Write down a letter looking back at the path to get there. What will your future self want to say to you?
Your future self might:
- Congratulate you on overcoming certain hurdles;
- Let you know how hard it is, but also that it feels worth it in the end;
- Tell you to forgive yourself for your failures;
- Tell you to have self-belief;
- Give you some tough love. ‘Future you’ might say: “Get off your backside and start studying!”
Have a think about what letter you think that future version of you will write, and have a go at writing that letter.
It might just motivate you to dig deep today.
11. Write a Letter to your Future Self
Now that you’ve completed your letter from your future self, come back to today.
What do you want to tell your future version of you? Maybe you’ll make them some promises. Let them know that what you’re doing today is for them.
You might talk about how much you want what you’re working towards. You might tell your future self to celebrate on your behalf. You could say:
“I can’t celebrate today. I’m denying myself some pleasures because I want a greater happiness for myself tomorrow. So, please celebrate your success with the family and enjoy the delayed gratification. I did this for you!”
Writing this letter is your chance to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s your chance to directly think about how your sacrifices will be for the good of yourself in the future.
This is an exercise in self-love and self-discipline. You’re telling yourself clearly why you need to be disciplined today.
12. Find a Goal Setting Study Partner
If possible, set those short-term goals (from Point 10) with a study partner.
There’s nothing more powerful than a study partner whose motivations and goals match your own.
Together, you can pull each other forward and apply accountability to one another.
The ideal goal setting study partner is another person studying the same course as you. Ideally, you’ll be in the same lectures and seminars as one another and aiming for the same grade as one another.
As a pair, you can work together and put your minds together to work towards your goals.
Here’s some ways to find a study partner:
- I’d start by inviting my personal friends to study with you on a regular basis.
- Add people in your course on your social media pages. This way, you’ll be able to message them on occasion and build relationships.
- Identify people in your class with similar mindsets and start to befriend them.
- Use your course’s Facebook pace (if it has one!) to put a call out for people to join your study group.
Here’s some ways to utilize your study partner:
- Agree to compare notes directly after lectures. Comparing notes allows you to see how other people have interpreted the information presented in class.
- Set up regular formal study sessions at your house, the library or a local café
- Offer to edit one another’s work.
Be aware that you need to find people who are on the same level as you – you don’t want people who are wanting to use you for information but not support you in return.
13. Create a To-Do List
Whether working with partners or alone, each study session should begin with a to-do list.
The to-do list should include points from Step 9, where I encouraged you to set super short-term micro goals. These are goals that are achievable in just one day.
Having a To-Do list gives you another level of accountability to yourself.
You’ve noted down exactly what you expect yourself to do for the day – and now you have to follow it through.
Make sure your daily to-do list is reasonable. The tasks need to be 100% achievable in one day, so long as you put the effort into it.
Next, sort the to-do list based on priority:
- What is the most important study task to complete today?
- What is the hardest task?
You should prioritize these two types of tasks. Finish the most important and hardest tasks first, when you’re most fresh.
There’s an app for that.
A great app for creating and managing to do lists is ToDoist.
The reason I love ToDoist is that I can link it up to my accountability app in Step 16, where I can wager money on whether I have achieved the goals I’ve set in my ToDoist app.
14. Use the Reddit Accountability Thread
Accountability is one of the greatest motivators.
I’ve just asked you to create a To-Do list (see point 13). This is a great step towards accountability to yourself. Now you have actionable goals and targets that should be achieved by the end of your study session.
Now you need to take that To-Do list and make yourself accountable to others.
Recently I came across a great idea on Reddit. It’s a daily accountability thread.
At the start of each day people post the things they need to get achieved for the day.
As they complete a task, they log back on and cross out each point on the accountability thread.
This does a few great things.
I’ve found accountability threads:
- Give you a sense of community. There are people there encouraging you each day and congratulating you on your small successes.
- Give you social accountability. You feel like you want to achieve these goals because there are people out there who will see if you fail.
15. Put some Skin in the Game
To take your study accountability to the next level, you need to put some skin in the game.
How do you do this?
Put some money on the line.
Get in touch with someone you trust. It could be that study partner you have, a spouse, a friend, or a parent.
Then, give them $100. No questions asked. And tell them:
“If I don’t achieve my goal for today, you can keep my $100.”
Suddenly, studying got a whole lot more serious.
If you don’t want to lose $100, you better get to the library, put your head down, and start studying!
There’s an app for that.
Don’t have anyone who’s willing to mind your $100 for you?
Try out one of the accountability apps out there on the market that are happy to hold your money for you. Here’s a few of them:
StickK allows you to wager money that you only get back if you achieve your goals.
But the great catch is this: if you don’t achieve your goals, the money goes to an ‘anti-Charity’.
What’s an anti-Charity?
It’s a charity that you really, really don’t like.
So StickK gives you the option of donating money to a charity you hate like:
- A pro-Choice charity;
- A pro-Life charity;
- A pro-Gun control charity;
- A Gun rights charity;
- A political party whose views are opposite yours.
This gives an extra incentive to motivate yourself to study.
Beeminder is similar to StickK but you can link it up to ToDoist, a to-do list app. So, it checks whether you achieved your goals by looking across at your app and checking what you’ve ticked off the to-do list for the day.
16. Try to Beat your Previous Study Records
If you’re a competitive person, this is the strategy for you.
To make this study motivation strategy work, you need to keep clear track of how much or how long you studied for the hour, day or week.
Then, you need to set yourself the goal of beating your previous day’s study record.
- Between 10am and 11am you managed to study for 35 minutes, and spent 25 minutes procrastinating;
- Between 11am and 12 noon you should aim to study for 40 minutes and procrastinate for no more than 20 minutes.
This works on a daily and weekly basis as well.
17. Remove Technology Distractions
This point is crucial.
If you want to maintain motivation for the duration of your study sessions, you’ll need to cull all distractions.
If you’re anything like me, or just about any millennial, you’re addicted to technology.
Time to break the habit.
At least, it’s time to break the habit while you’re studying.
Here’s two ways to remove technological distractions.
1. Ditch your phone.
Store your phone in a room separate to your study space. Leave it in your bedroom while you’re in your study.
If you’re studying in a library, place your phone in your backpack and turn it onto Airplane mode.
The less accessible your phone, the better.
We have a tendency to reflexively turn to our phones and start scrolling through them when we’re bored. We don’t even know we’re doing it until it’s happening!
You need to take control over your self-discipline again. To start, it’s time to ditch your phone whenever you’re studying.
2. Use website blockers on your computer.
Next, download website blocker extensions into your web browser.
Website blockers allow you to select certain websites to be blocked from access for a dedicated amount of time.
You can input the amount of time you want to study into the apps and select the websites you want to block.
Brainstorm all websites you use to procrastinate and list them in your website blocker app. These include any websites you reflexively turn to when procrastinating. Also include any news websites or sites such as BuzzFeed that you regularly procrastinate on.
Here are some examples:
Lastly, you’re probably wondering what some good website blocker software might be.
Here are a few that you could try out:
- FocusMe. This app also includes a task scheduler and a break reminder to help increase productivity.
- StayFocusd. It’s for Chrome. This one is a nice, simple, clean extension for you to use. It allows you to block all websites or only ones on your block list for a dedicated amount of time.
- Freedom. For both PC and Mac. The cool thing about freedom is that you can link up your devices to block social media on your phone and computer simultaneously.
- OneFocus. A cool thing about OneFocus is that it allows you to set a level of strictness. This means you can set it so you can just set a friendly reminder when you try to access a site, or you can totally block it. It’s a bit on the expensive side at US$9.99.
- LeechBlock. I’ve added this one to the list because it’s a dedicated Firefox plugin. It has many of the same features as the others, although I like that you can set up to 6 ‘blocks’ of time in advance. Set password blocks on sites you reflexively use to make it that little bit harder to access them.
18. Make your Study Space a Dedicated Space.
One of the best ways to achieve self-discipline when studying is to get yourself ‘in the headspace’ when it’s time to study.
To get in the headspace, I recommend having a study area that you exclusively use for studying.
This will mean your don’t use your study space for anything else. Not for reading, sleeping, eating or cooking.
If your study space is only used for study, you’ll tell yourself
“I’m here now to study. That’s what being in this room is for.”
In my current house, I, unfortunately, don’t have a dedicated study space. There isn’t room for it.
That’s why I use public spaces as study spaces. Here are my favorite dedicated study spaces:
- The café: There’s one café that I go to regularly to study. It’s literally my ‘study café’.
- The library: Libraries are purpose-built study spaces. Use them!
If you want to read more about how to find a good dedicated study space, read my post: 21+ best study spaces.
19. Prioritize University.
This is really at the heart of the issue.
If you don’t make the university a priority in your life, you’ll constantly slip into unmotivated slumps.
Your studies should be a part of your identity. For the next 2, 3 or 4 years you will be a ‘student’. This means you’ll be someone who takes learning seriously, puts this huge life project front and center in your life, and makes time for it.
In fact, you shouldn’t just ‘make time for’ studies.
Studies should be a central part of your day. You should put it before other hobbies. You need to be in the headspace that says:
“Studying is an important part of my life and who I am.”
Why? Well, because you’re a person who wants to achieve your goals. This is your priority. Make it a priority and keep in there.
20. Use Rewards and Treats to Motivate yourself.
Rewards are powerful motivators. They train you to delay gratification in order to get something important done.
Delayed gratification is at the heart of the motivation formula.
Start simple with this one.
If you’re literally struggling so hard that you can’t make it through one page of reading without getting distracted, then start with a reward per page.
But, your reward needs to be proportionate.
For example, if you’re rewarding yourself per page, your reward might be something really small like a piece of candy once you’ve finished one page.
Then, build yourself up to one candy per 2 pages, then maybe a larger candy per chapter.
Something I like about the use of a reward system is that it gives you that first little kick-start to start studying, which could really snowball.
You might force yourself to do that first few minutes of study for a small reward. But then, your next 5 minutes will be that little bit easier.
Your rewards kick-start momentum.
21. Reward yourself with that Gift you’ve been wanting for Months.
Once you’ve got in place some short-term rewards, it’s time to think of a longer-term reward to work toward.
This is something you might only have the chance to reward yourself with once per semester. It’s something that you really want but have also been denying yourself.
Maybe it’s an expensive item that you’ve been eyeing off online but haven’t pressed the ‘buy’ button on yet.
It could be a watch, a new phone, or something for your car.
A larger reward needs to be attached to a meaningful medium-term goal.
Your medium-term goal might be the attainment of a certain grade or raising your overall GPA to a certain average.
The reward needs to be hard to obtain, though. It needs to be something that you will be genuinely proud of achieving. It needs to be a reward that you think it just a little too far out of reach, but that you’ll shoot for anyway.
It also needs to be something that you’re genuinely willing to deny yourself if you don’t reach the goal. If you just throw in the towel and buy the reward even if you don’t make it to the goal, then what’s the point?
And when you don’t achieve that goal, then set a new one. In fact, if you’re constantly meeting and exceeding the goals you’ve set for yourself, they’re probably too easy. So set a lofty goal, fail, and then set another one.
Keep on striving.
22. Get an Online Coach
There’s an app for that.
Online coaches are personal trainers and motivators there to show you how to motivate yourself to study. They will keep you on track for achieving your goals on a medium- to long- term basis.
This blog post has hopefully handed you some motivation. But I can’t be there on a daily or weekly basis checking-in on you.
So reading this blog post just isn’t enough. You need to take another step to get on (and stay on) your path to long-term study motivation.
A cheap option for personalized, ongoing support is an online coach.
From $15 per week, you can get someone who can coach you and motivate you on how to gain and sustain good study habits.
I recommend the study coach website coach.me.
Your coach will provide chat and messaging support as well as daily check-ins to make sure you’re sticking to your goals.
The coaches also have a range of strategies to help you prioritize certain parts of your life and weed out all of those distractions that you need gone.
Take a look at coach.me’s list of coaches where you can browse for one that looks right for you.
Give it a go with their free trial before committing to a coach.
23. Make Routine your Friend
You need to wake up knowing exactly what your study goals will be for the day.
If you’re reading this post and you’ve picked up some good ideas that you want to put in place, this tip is the one that’s going to seal the deal for you.
Write down right now your to-do list for tomorrow.
From today onward, you need to have a to-do list written before you go to bed every night.
If you wake up and you need to brainstorm what you’re going to do for the day, you’ve already started the day on the wrong foot.
You need to wake up and know exactly the path that is laid out for you for the day.
Or else, you’ll have to dig deep in the morning and muster the motivation to start studying. You don’t want to be in that situation.
Studying from the beginning of the day needs to be a routine. It needs to be automatic.
To make organization and routine your friend, you need to have a plan laid out for the next day, before the day begins.
24. Make Momentum your Friend
Once you’ve gotten day one of your new study life complete, you need to make Day 2 equally as successful.
The risk you run is that your motivation will wane after the first day or two of a new study routine.
To turn study motivation (short-term inspiration) into study routine (long-term habit), you need to embrace and capitalize on the momentum you got in day 1.
The first week might be tough, but once you’ve gotten a study routine in place, you’ll start feeling more on top of your student life.
You’ll start achieving things like:
- Completing weekly readings and study tasks ahead of time;
- Doing additional extracurricular studies to get higher grades;
- Mentoring and motivating friends to follow you on the path to top grades
25. Come Back to this Post Regularly
If this post on how to motivate yourself to study got you a little more motivated and back on track, I’d encourage you to bookmark it.
Every now and then, come back and watch the videos from the first few points in this post.
Those videos will be your reminder and kick-start to ensure you keep up the momentum that you’ll need in order to be a long-term motivated, inspired and confident student.
Good luck getting motivated!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]