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How to study when you are not motivated

by Chetna Vasishth


Ok, I’ll begin by accepting that I also face motivation issues. I need to upload a video every Friday and I should be doing research, speaking to people and preparing my script. Instead, I am online replying to your messages or on a photo editor app or just browsing. There are days when I just keep stressing about how much work I have pending, but I manage to get nothing accomplished on those days.

So, in this article we will look at the five main problems that are responsible for our lack of motivation, and some solutions to these problems.

  1. Problem No. 1 – There is so much to do

There are 250 questions in my question bank, 300 words to learn or this or this long analysis to submit. Where do I begin? There are a few scientifically proven techniques that will help you

  1. Salami slices – In one of our videos, we spoke of how you should eat that frog first thing in the morning. Which means, doing that one big important task first when the mind is fresh, and you get a surge of productivity and motivation. Now, imagine if you were to eat the entire frog in one go, you will choke on it. So, if you have a 1000-word essay to write, then the first thing to do is to break up this task in to several slices.

And especially for work that involves some thinking or creativity, this technique is great since it gives our brain more time to process the task and come up with the most creative or interesting answers.

A tip here is that the thinner the slice, the easier it is to bite into the salami. But this also means that we need to get to the task early.

  1. Swiss Cheese Approach. A good approach for busy days. Let’s say you need to learn 500 words for your SAT exam or you need to master the current affairs for your CLAT exam. Then instead of leaving the whole thing to do at a later date, take out small bits of time every day to learn a few words or grab the top news headlines – in small chunks (maybe between study sessions). This way you will drill holes into the big piece of swiss cheese steadily. Use your flash cards, every time you are taking a break and before you know it, most of the work has already been done.

 

  1. Problem No. 2How does it matter

The root of all demotivation is the feeling that our goals are not close to our heart. Some of our goals are like – I want to be an engineer, or a lawyer or I want a scholarship. But none of these things connect with us at a deeper level and hence we are unable to see how any of our efforts will really matter in the long run.

The important thing is that we all need a purpose greater than ourselves.

At as basic level, our goals are usually around a certain amount of money or standard of living or a specific job. At the next level, it could be that I am working for my family. At the next higher level, we are driven by the world around us, a larger global community.

With each higher level, you’re more resilient and more satisfied.

Think about an air force fighter pilot, a nurse who spends nights looking after patients with communicable diseases or an activist trying to free the oceans of plastic, chances are that none of them is thinking either about their salary or their family’s needs. Their goals are much bigger.

Taking an example from my life, setting up ChetChat meant shooting a new video every week, researching, editing, social media postings and networking was too much work week after week. And it was easy sometimes to just feel like, how does it really matter. If I don’t put up a video this Friday, no one will even notice. But for me this is a passion, and I wanted to make sure that every student gets authentic information for free and is able to take informed career choices without having to rely on agents etc. This keeps me going every day. Sometimes my family and friends joke that they will one day write a book about ‘the life of a youtuber’ and talk about how I am so single minded about this work.

 

  1. Problem No. 3Depression

Feeling worthless, imagining that you are not capable of anything. That everyone else is making it in life and you are just not capable of anything. Low self esteem and lack of self-belief.

This can be the most severe of all problems to deal with, especially during your student years. I made a video about a year ago on my own journey of depression and how I overcame it and here’s what I recommend.

  1. First thing in the morning, sit with a candle and put all your troubles and worries into the flame. Send them to the universe. Free your mind of all these negative and fearful thoughts that speak so loudly in our head that we can’t focus on anything else. Trust in the process, let it go. Que sera sera. And every time your head gets clouded with worrisome thoughts, pick up the candle again and put all your worries into it.
  2. Write a diary every day. Just a few lines, but write one thing good about you. The small and the big things, compliment yourself on the little steps you are taking. Appreciate how far you have come along and remind yourself that you are special.

 

  1. Problem No. 4I am Lazy

Life is comfortable as it is, why put in so much effort.

I’ll tell you a secret – the biggest cause of our laziness is our mobile phone. Try this technique and you will see magical results. Keep your phone away for three hours. Promise yourself you won’t look at it during that period. And notice how productive you suddenly become. Soon you can try this at different points of the day, three hours at a time.

Some proven techniques to get your energy levels up are exercise and drinking a lot of water. First thing in the morning have a few glasses of water and a fruit. This is very important to perk up your brain. Also follow your routine. Sit down to study at the same time every day. Even if you can’t focus, just sit there for at least 20-25 minutes before taking a break. Soon our biorhythm will condition your brain to work.

Just decide, this moment that you are going to be the best at what you do. They say that the biggest enemy of the ‘great’ is the ‘good’. A good life, good grades, good this… break out of mediocrity and aim for excellence. If there is anyone in the world who can do it, then it’s you. And now is the moment when you choose to be great. Go back to the first point of having a purpose greater than yourself and you will be a different person.

 

  1. Problem No. 5I can’t concentrate

So sometimes I find that my concentration span is that of a goldfish. I can sit for hours, re-reading the same piece of text up to five, six, or seven times, without ever once taking in what it says.

Sure, my eyes will be drifting over the words, but my mind will be elsewhere entirely – thinking about a meeting, or how many people watched last evening’s video or if anyone even commented on my recent insta post. And sometimes even if I do manage to remember the general gist of the passage, by the next day any specific details have totally disappeared.

A couple of things you could do are

  1. Break a text down into chunks of one page, star sentence OR or roughly 500 words each, and for each part, write out five questions that you would ask if you were an examiner. Use the QAEE technique that we discussed in a previous video titled ‘How to make the best notes to study’. You could even put your questions on flash cards, and use them to revise from in the future.
  2. Get creative – make acronyms, mind maps, diagrams or tables. Try using online content -maybe a khan academy video or some YouTube tutorial to supplement your learning.
  3. Study in short bursts and take breaks in between. Use our video on a perfect time table to get yourself a good study routine

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