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Published on May 10, 2021

How To Motivate Yourself To Study When You’re Too Busy With Work

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How To Motivate Yourself To Study When You’re Too Busy With Work

It was just after 5 AM as I gathered my things to head to the gym. As I walked down the hall, I noticed the light on in my daughter Kinsey’s bedroom. She isn’t typically up that early, so I decided to peek inside to see what was going on.

As I opened the door, I saw her sitting in bed with her laptop open and a perplexed look on her face.

“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m doing some last-minute studying before I take my pharmacology exam.”
“Why are you doing it so early?” I questioned.
“I need to get it done before I go to work because I have a full day, and I won’t want to do it later.”

Kinsey is a great student, and she works full-time and goes to school, so I didn’t want to question her actions. Still, as she responded, it hit me. This was one way she kept her motivation to study when she was too busy with work.

I didn’t want to disturb her further, so I slowly closed the door and went on my way, pondering the question on my own, “how does one maintain their motivation to study when they are too busy with work?”

Motivation is an interesting topic that psychologists, sociologists, and scientists of all types have studied for decades. Countless books and articles have been written on the subject and continue to pop up each year. But what motivates us in certain situations? How can we stay motivated when we have so many other things on our minds like work?

To answer these questions, we first need to understand motivation itself. More specifically, the two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

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Intrinsic motivation is an incentive to engage in a specific activity that derives from pleasure in the activity itself rather than because of any external benefits that might be obtained.[1] It sounds like, “I’m going to work hard to get that promotion so I can be more fulfilled at work.”

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is an external incentive to engage in a specific activity, especially motivation arising from the expectation of punishment or reward.[2] It sounds like, “I really want that promotion at work to make more money.”

How we are motivated really comes down to whether the motivation is coming from within us or outside us. We all tend to gravitate toward one more than the other, but this can depend on a specific situation.

Let’s look at the facts from the specific situation in my example and break them down to understand them further.

  • Kinsey works and goes to school like a lot of college students.
  • Kinsey was taking her exam very early in the morning before her usual wake-up time.
  • She was doing the exam before going to work.
  • She had a busy day of work ahead.
  • She acknowledged that she would not want to do it later.

All of the facts above point to a motivated individual. What they don’t tell us specifically is, was she motivated intrinsically or extrinsically? I would lean towards intrinsic as there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reward.

This example provides some less apparent clues to ways that can help others like you. I’ve compiled the secrets inspired by these clues, along with some additional wisdom I’ve learned along the way to help you in maintaining your motivation to study.

Here are 11 tips on how to motivate yourself to study even when you’re too busy with work.

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1. Have a Great mindset

It all starts here, and a positive mindset can go a long way. Believe that you will achieve your goals, and focus on the good things that you have already done. Studies show that being optimistic leads to getting more done and having better overall mental and physical well-being.[3]

2. Visualize Success

Once your mindset is in order, then the next step is to visualize your success. Begin with a clear vision of what you want to achieve and then experience the feeling of having that success. For example, if you know you want to get an A on an exam, break down the steps to learning the material to ensure success.

3. Break Your Goals Into Small Attainable Tasks

Sometimes, a goal can feel too big, like graduating college with straight A’s. Think of the goals you have and break them down into simple, attainable steps instead.

For example, if you know you want to get an A on an exam, start with gathering the right resources to study, and then go further to identify what you need from each resource. Once you drill down far enough, everything becomes attainable.

4. Reward yourself

Rewards help keep you motivated as long as they are healthy. Once you’ve set a goal, establish a small reward for achieving it. Whether it’s an edible treat you love or something bigger like a massage, this type of external motivator can help maintain your motivation and push you closer to your bigger goals.

5. Pomodoro for the Win

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages you to work with the time you have, rather than against it. Break the time you have to study into 25-minute chunks separated by 5-minute breaks. Each interval or Pomodoro helps you resist interruptions and trains your brain to focus. You’ll find that the sense of urgency it creates is a fantastic motivator.

6. Measure Progress

Once you start to accomplish goals and have successful Pomodoro’s, you need to measure it all. If you do not measure and report your progress, then you’re probably not making much progress at all. According to Pearson’s Law, when performance is measured, it improves; when performance is measured and reported, it improves exponentially.

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7. Make It a Competition

Healthy competition is advantageous to keep you moving, and it’s great for building your motivation to study. You can positively compete with others to push each other to succeed. If you don’t have anyone else, then set up a competition with yourself.

For example, see how many Pomodoro’s you can do without breaking focus and looking at your phone. Keep pushing the bar higher, and you will strive to reach it.

8. Find a Mentor

Another way for you to build and maintain your motivation to study is to find a mentor. Having a mentor is a great way to motivate and connect with someone you admire or someone in the field that you are studying. Having a mentor provides a double benefit in that they can provide both assistance and encouragement to you on your road to success.

9. Get an Accountability Buddy

While this is occasionally the role of a mentor, you can also find another person studying the same thing as you as your accountability buddy or partner. With both of you focused on the same outcome, you can share ideas that you may not have thought of and understand the point of view of your friend.

Studies show that publicly committing your goals to someone gives you at least a 65% chance of completing them. Having a specific accountability partner increases your chance of success to 95%.[4]

10. Find “Your” Time

There’s a funny line from an old movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where a student is disrupting class, and the teacher tells him to stop interrupting the class and do what he’s doing on his own time. The student responds, “I’m here, you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time?”

Whether you are studying with a group or solo, you still need to find the time that works best for your needs and your brain. For some, this is first thing in the morning, but for others, it’s after work when they have decompressed. By measuring your success and the efficiency of your Pomodoro’s, you can identify the optimal time for you.

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11. Move

Taking the time to move is critical toward moving towards your goals. It doesn’t matter if you study at a desk, in bed, or on the floor, you still need to move. Take short five-minute breaks after each successful Pomodoro to stand up, stretch, and move your legs around. This increased blood flow will help keep you awake and get oxygen to your brain.

After you’ve completed four consecutive sessions, then it’s time for a more extended 15 to 20-minute break. This break is the optimal time to get some fresh air and brief exercise outside. This short amount of time will make a significant difference in your level of motivation.

Final Thoughts

Any of the above tips on their own can help with building and maintaining motivation when put into action. Find the ones that work for you and make them a habit. Once this is done, you won’t need the level of external motivation as you will be programmed internally for success.

I want to think that I’ve raised Kinsey with some good internal programming and her grades indicate that as well. When she got home from work around 7 PM, she came into my office and asked if she could use it for a while.

I said, “Sure, what do you need to do?”
“Take my pharmacology exam.”
“I thought you took it this morning.”
“I was going to, but the opening time was wrong on the exam, so it didn’t open until noon today instead of midnight.”
“Oh, I get it now. Sure, let me get out, so you have peace and quiet.”

I closed the door and left her in the serenity of my cave, knowing she would get a good grade on her exam. I ended up being right about the grade but not about the source of her motivation to study that morning.

When she emerged from the office about 30 minutes later, she quickly turned on the TV. It all came down to the fact that she didn’t want to miss the season finale of The Batchelor. I guess it was more extrinsic than I thought.

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More Tips on Staying Motivated

Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: intrinsic motivation
[2] American Psychological Association: extrinsic motivation
[3] NCBI: Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being
[4] Entrepreneur: An Accountability Partner Makes You Vastly More Likely to Succeed

More by this author

Rick Ornelas

Rick Ornelas is a professional coach, speaker, and author of 12 Hours of Heaven; Lessons for a Better World. He teaches men and women to unlock their amazing potential and change the world around them.

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Published on September 3, 2021

6 Friday Motivation Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

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6 Friday Motivation Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

You know the feeling—that “I still have another whole work day to get through” feeling? It sucks. The worst part is knowing that you have to get up, get to work, and be productive when you feel checked out, unmotivated, and would rather go back to bed. The trickiest part about it is that even though you may know intellectually that you’re not the only person who has ever felt that way, at the moment, it can feel very lonely.

If you feel the Friday funk and want to shake it off, try these six tips to lift your Friday motivation.

1. Eat a Solid Breakfast and Plan to Eat Lunch

The first thing you can do to lift your Friday motivation is to eat a solid breakfast. We have all heard the phrase, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It turns out that it wasn’t just something our parents were telling us to get us to eat before school. Studies have shown that eating breakfast can help with improved memory, recall, mood, and visual-motor functions.[1]

However, researchers have found evidence that the benefits of the micronutrient boost provided by breakfast do wear off after a while. Just like a car with a full tank of gas that runs out after a long journey, the body needs to be refueled. Therefore, planning to eat breakfast and lunch on a day when you are not feeling your best could give you that extra boost you need to get through the day. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, which can leave you feeling weak and tired.[2] If you are already struggling with feeling motivated, not eating is only going to make you feel more sluggish and less inspired to get anything done.

2. Prioritize What’s Urgent

I have always been a fan of the cheat sheet. No, I’m not a cheater, but I love knowing what needs to be done. No one wants to waste any precious energy trying to figure out what should be done when you are already feeling unmotivated.

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No matter who you are, there is a high probability that by Friday, on any given week, you have at least one or two items that were supposed to be completed earlier in the week but just didn’t get done. Here is my quick trick for figuring out what’s urgent.

Just ask yourself these three questions:

  • Are there any projects with deadlines that have passed already but are still due?
  • Which of those projects is the most overdue?
  • Of the overdue projects, which will take the least time to make significant progress or complete?

This should help you to easily identify at least one task that you can spend time working on diligently, knowing that you are getting something important done.

3. Tackle the Low-Hanging Fruit

Another way to refresh your Friday motivation is to tackle the low-hanging fruit. There is nothing wrong with doing the easy stuff first. Maybe you are so burned out and the urgent tasks will take too much energy. There is nothing wrong with knocking out the obvious easy things. Emails, filing, data entry, document reconciliation, follow-up calls, editing or revising written work, and research are all low-hanging fruits—these are all straightforward tasks.

Getting these easier tasks done will give you a sense of accomplishment. You can leverage this sense of accomplishment to help you tackle some harder tasks or get all the easy tasks done so the following week, you can dedicate your time to the harder projects.

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4. Give Yourself at Least Two Scheduled Breaks

Give yourself at least two scheduled breaks during the workday. Life is stressful. Feeling like you have to work when you don’t feel up to it is stressful. Let’s not compound it by forcing yourself to sit in front of the computer all day with no breaks. The days of believing that “lunch is for punks and working 80 hours a week is what you should be doing” are fading away—if not already a distant memory for some.

In fact, scientists discovered that, although “taking short breaks throughout the working day may not have as obvious an impact as taking a holiday, research has found significant benefits. Studies have found that breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help to maintain performance throughout the day and reduce the need for a long recovery at the end of the day.”[3]

Before you sit down in front of your desk for the workday, set three alarms—two 20-minute breaks and one lunch break. You aren’t proving anything to anyone by forcing yourself to be miserable in front of your computer. You deserve flexibility and compassion. Let these breaks be a radical act of self-care.

5. Listen to Some Upbeat Tunes

Another way to improve your Friday motivation is to listen to some upbeat tunes. Music is medicine. It is not a mystery that the vibrations of sound can affect our mood. Ancient communities knew this and embraced it through practices like chanting, the use of singing bowls, chimes, bells, and other sound instruments as tools for healing. Practices like Kirtan and Bhakti yoga use chanting to heal and shift energy. The Hindu and Buddhist religions use bells and chimes in many of their spiritual healing rituals. Throughout the modern world, we have adopted the use of signing bowls for energetic healing.

Most people could recall at least one moment in their lives when music or sound has helped shift their mood. Music has been shown to have a direct effect on the listener. Studies show that listening to music while you work can lead to an “increase in both mood and quality of work”.[4]

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If you are feeling super unmotivated, the solution to your problem may be throwing on your favorite album in the background while you try to get a few things done. If you can’t work while listening to music with words and you do not like classical music or traditional jazz, explore genres like Trip hop, house, ambient, Beach House, JamBand. You may also enjoy artists like Bonobo, Thievery Corporation, and Grammatik.

6. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To

As a yogi, I’m all about being present in the moment. But sometimes, the present is a little too intense, and being super present is not going to help to improve your mood. In those moments, tapping into the power of positive anticipation can be your secret weapon because “knowing that something good is coming your way pushes you to accomplish those tasks you may not necessarily want to do.”[5]

We all love to be rewarded, especially when we are doing something we don’t want to do. Giving yourself something to look forward to is the way to guarantee that you will be rewarded for the hard work of getting through the day.

The reward doesn’t have to be immense. It can be something small like getting ice cream, going for a walk, spending time with friends, or vegging out with your phone on do not disturb for a few hours. I used to employ this trick a lot when I was in boarding school. The time between semesters in new England would feel so long especially in the winter that my friends and I would let ourselves get excited about little things like drinking lime rickeys at Brigham’s. Believe it or not, it worked.

Try it the next time you get the hit with the Friday funk. Think about something you can look forward to no matter how small, and notice how it shifts your energy.

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Final Thoughts

As the adage says, “this too shall pass.”

Friday is just a day like every other day before it will end. One thing you can count on is that time waits for no one, so despite how difficult it may feel to get through, know that the time is on your side.

No matter what, Friday will wind on. The best thing you can do to improve your Friday motivation is to make sure that your body has the micronutrients it needs to power through the day, identify what’s urgent, tackle low hanging fruit, give yourself time away from the desk, throw on your favorite tunes, and think about the fact that you have the entire weekend to look forward to.

You got this!

More Tips on How to Improve Your Friday Motivation

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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Reference

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