Procrastination is a funny process. One of the biggest conundrums is knowing how crucial studying is, but deciding to do other unnecessary tasks.

We decide to watch TV and promise to only allocate 1 hour; then we scroll through Instagram and fall into the “dark hole” of mindless searching. Suddenly, it’s 10pm and you haven’t even opened a book yet.

We all know academic success requires studying, but getting motivated is hard to do.

Follow these 11 tips on how to get motivated and improve your study habits.

1. Figure out your learning style

Thinking about all your studying material can become quite overwhelming. Once you start to see studying as a marathon and not a race, the process becomes less dreadful.

Try a few of these methods to get you started:

Visual: Sketching your notes on paper with diagrams to help you visually remember your information.

Auditory: Bring a tape recorder to class to record your lecture and listen back during study sessions. This will help you associate your professor’s voice to the material which can help your muscle memory retain more information.

Reading and Writing: The biggest benefit of reading is being able to write down notes from the text. Combining visual and writing skills together will help reinforce your memory to maintain the information more efficiently. Plus, writing is an important skill for many reasons, so it helps to exercise it once in a while!

2. Create a study space

I’m sure you are familiar with the term, sanctuary. Find yourself a study space that optimizes your motivation to successfully master that study guide, or review the course videos.

Here are some places that you could try:

Library: Almost all, if not most, provide private study rooms you can book for a few hours. I highly recommend this option for any student looking for complete silence. The library atmosphere is an ideal place to improve your study habits.

Local coffee shop: The best of both worlds — you will get the ambience of coffee (and caffeine) along with food for fuel. Coffee shops are the ideal location for a student who needs concentration but works best with some background noise.

Home office: The most classic of all — studying in your home office. When you want to improve your study habits, it’s the best way to ditch your bed and still change your scenery without leaving your house. This will give you more time to study, and focus on your tasks.

3. Eliminate distractions

Anything that leaves you singing along, finishing the sentences of TV show lines, or “liking” too many photos on Instagram is a distraction waiting to happen, and make it a lot harder to improve your study habits.

Social media: Browsing through social media can be tempting — delete the apps from your phone (temporarily of course) so you won’t be trigged to scroll mindlessly.

Streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney and other streaming services seem to be releasing a new series or film every day, and we know how tempting it is to watch ‘just one episode’. Before you know it, you’ve watched 3 seasons of Modern Family in one sitting! Follow the steps above and visit a library or coffee shop to deter you from watching TV.

Cell phone: Set your cell phone to Do Not Disturb. This feature will allow you to focus without the distraction of notifications buzzing on your home screen.

Emails: Unless you’re waiting for urgent messages to come through, turn off the email notification feature on your phone or laptop.

There are plenty of distractions just waiting to get in your way, so consider writing a list and figuring out how to minimise their impact. Even having a dog in your studying zone can be distracting, especially if they’re needy!

4. Make a plan

One easy way to improve your study habits is to make a plan, and figure out what you want to achieve.

If you have a study guide, make flashcards of the main points to remember the material. If you have reading material that needs to be studied, make a timeline of when each packet or chapter needs to be completed.

If you have a series of chapters you need to study, (e.g. chapters 15-20) assign a new chapter each day. By doing this, you’ll be able to focus on one chapter at a time and absorb more information, rather than trying to cram it all in.

Making a plan will limit your amount of stress, and make studying a bit more enjoyable, which is crucial if you want to improve your study habits.

5. Set SMART goals 

Setting goals is a crucial part of staying successful, which is why you need to set SMART goals. So how do you do it?

Specific: Specifically focusing on one task and honing in on the details for one specific outcome.

Example: I want to read chapters 15-20 by Monday, no later than 2pm, so I can begin reading chapters 21-25 by next week.

Measurable: Tangible goals to track your progress over a length of time, and to witness your achievements flourish!

Example: If I study hard, and avoid distractions, I will get an “A” on this exam.

Attainable: Setting goals that are challenging, but easy enough to achieve without feeling stressed, or overwhelmed.

Example: I’m going to assign a new chapter each day to successfully be prepared for the upcoming exam.

Relevant: Setting relevant and realistic goals that are easy to attain without causing strain or worry.  

Example: I am going to listen to a Podcast that is relevant to the subject I am studying to pass this exam.

Timely: Set a timeframe around your deadline to keep the project moving at a consistent rate. Goal settings are best when they have a “start” and “end” date.

Example: I will begin reading chapters 15-20 by 10am and finish by 2pm in order to take the pre-test exam.

The trick is simple: set goals, and make them SMART to give yourself the best chance to succeed.

6. Listen to instrumental music

The only time necessary to utilize your phone (since you temporarily deleted your social media apps) is when listening to Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora.

We highly recommend listening to classical music, since it’s proven to activate both your brain’s hemispheres. By doing this, the brain absorbs information better by maximizing learning and memory. Avoid listening to lyrical music as the words can be a distraction.

7. Take regular breaks

This is where you can now check your social media, watch a little TV, or take a walk with your dog. Again, follow the above study habits first before proceeding to take a break — fit short breaks in between your timeline to stay accountable for your time.

Taking regular breaks is actually beneficial for your mental and physical well-being, and can help improve your study habits overall. You’re giving your brain time to rest, and time to remember the information that you studied.

To avoid overly long breaks, set an alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time to get back to studying.

8. Collaborate with classmates

Stay inspired by connecting with classmates who are also studying for their exams. This will encourage you to remain ambitious, and absorb other ways to learn.

You can also form a study group with other students in your class whether it’s over Zoom or in-person. Be mindful of keeping the group to a minimum of 3-4 people to maintain focus while studying. When you surround yourself with other students who want to achieve, this will improve your study habits by putting you in the same mindset.

Whenever you feel discouraged or lost, you can reach out to your study group for guidance and accountability.

9. Ask your teachers for help

There are NO stupid questions. There’s this misconception that once students reach undergraduate status, they can no longer ask for help. That is not true, and you should always ask for help when you are lost or confused about what you’re being taught.

If you can, schedule a session with your course’s Teaching Assistant (TA) or lecturer. The teaching staff won’t know you’re struggling unless you ask for help! Make the effort as soon as possible to avoid jeopardizing your grade.

As well as digging deeper into the study material, they can also give you tips on how to improve your study habits. They’ve probably been working in academia for decades, so it’s likely they’ll have a few tricks up their sleeves!

10. Improve your study habits with rewards

You’ve earned it! Studying all day can be a drain, and you did such a good job taking the time to set ground rules and improve your study habits.

The same way it’s important for your brain to rest, is the same way it’s psychologically important for you to treat yourself. Associating studying with rewards for handwork disciplines the brain to not feel like studying is boring or dreadful.

Now, these rewards don’t have to be “over the top,” but small gifts along the way. You can buy yourself lunch on your study break, a sweet treat to keep you going, or allow yourself a few hours of guilt-free screen time.

11. Balance your studies and personal life

Try and only keep school and studying separate from your personal life in order to help yourself not feel drained. You need to keep a healthy balance between the two in order to continue to feel motivated. Like they say, “A little too much of something good can still be bad.”

As previously mentioned, set goals, and timelines to help yourself stay accountable, and finish once completed. This will help you to still achieve your outcomes and improve your study habits, all without feeling overwhelmed.

Find time to spend moments with your friends and family and that will create a healthier, and happier academic environment.

If you also have a full-time job, the tips above can help you balance studying and working at the same time.