Keep Calm: How to Motivate Yourself to Study (I)

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By Choo Shuen Ming (16A01E), Louisa Li (16A13A), Md Khairillah (16A01B)

In the aftermath of Keep Calm Week, Raffles Press brings to you a special RGC feature on study tips.

The secret of every successful man lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.

Albert Gray, The Common Denominator of Success

Keeping calm and studying in RI aren’t as mutually exclusive as you might think. Studying doesn’t have to be as painful as it is for most students, but if you relate to this, Press brings to you a special RGC feature on some tips to motivate yourself to study.

Protips from the counsellors:

  1. Just get started. Tell yourself that you’ll just do it for 5 minutes, it’ll help you get over the initial inertia, then you’ll find yourself continuing with it. Or, tell yourself you’ll do the easiest part first, like adjusting the margin, changing the font, etc.
  2. Sometimes the problem comes when we over-think things. Focus on the small, achievable tasks, and break them down to make them seem less intimidating. Internal deadlines are another option, but they might not help much; if you were good at self-regulation you probably wouldn’t be procrastinating in the first place.
  3. Fast-forward to the benefits of what you’re doing, then focus on them instead of the difficulties.

    Alternatively, take a look at Shia LaBeouf’s motivational video to kick-start your revision!

  4. Set SMART (Specific, Manageable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound goals) Set mastery-related rather than performance-related goals (“I will understand economics” rather than “I will get an A for economics”).

    Print this out, paste it at your work desk, make it your phone wallpaper, tell yourself this every day. Just do it. Then it gets done!
  5. To make things feel less overwhelming, give yourself a starting and ending time, and divide it into smaller time frames. You can try the Pomodoro technique, where you take breaks after set intervals of work. Research also shows that taking small, effective breaks is the best way to make your work productive!
  6. Can’t bring yourself to study? Try to logically convince yourself to! Consider the consequences if you don’t do it. Is it better to do it now or later? Is it easier to do later? If it’s no, then the logical choice is to do it now. Although it might sound ridiculous, try to self-talk yourself into doing it! Imagine what your parents/future self would say to you, then say it to yourself. Repeatedly.
  7. Still not motivated? Try, which helps motivate people to stick to their tasks and persevere. Set a goal, and set the amount of money you will donate to a charitable cause (to further motivate yourself, you can choose your least favourite cause) if you don’t meet your target. Then publicise your bet! Let all your friends know about it, and perhaps you’ll be more motivated to fulfill your task then.

    Taken from
  8. Still not working? Use your friends! Set up study groups and make appointments with friends to study. Trying to set up a good study habit is like trying to set up any other good habit; doing it with a friend somehow it gets you past the initial hurdle.

Here Press must caution that it is important to find out for yourself what motivates you, and not to take all our suggestions at face value. Ultimately, we all motivate ourselves in different ways. Some of us are motivated by prestige and pride, others by prizes, or perhaps even by people — it’s about figuring out what works for you. While the syllabus and curriculum may remain the same, what we can change are our methods for motivation: and it’s about creating motivation for yourself once you know what works for you. Similarly, if your friends are experiencing motivation issues, find out what motivates them, and create opportunities for them to be motivated. If your friend is motivated by prizes, then you could create games and challenges between one another if that spurs your friend on. Or if your friend needs a study companion, consider helping them out!

However, while you should find what motivates you, sometimes it’s also about just getting down to it. Occasionally, we hold ourselves back with our fear of failure, of taking risks, because we want to protect our image. Our fear of failure makes us self-sabotage and not even begin, so that we can avoid the possibility of failure and maintain our facade of confidence. But by doing that, no one, including yourself, will ever know if you’re truly capable or not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If we want to pursue our passions and accomplish our goals, we must be willing to take that first step, and try. After you’ve read this article, pick up a pen and complete that long overdue Math tutorial. Just go do it.

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