Studying at home
Studying at home
Thursday, 12 August 2021
Uncertainty around exams and missing out on experiences has left many young people feeling frustrated. Many students can find themselves procrastinating or losing sight of their end goals.
Take comfort in knowing that learning how to self-direct your study is a skill for life.
Below, find a helpful conversation between Evelyn O’Rourke from RTÉ Radio 1 Drive Time’s Study Hub and Jen Trzeciak, eMental Health Manager at Jigsaw, about ways for students to stay motivated to study in a time of uncertainty around exams and school.
Here are some more strategies to help you stay motivated when studying from home:
Self-guided study is not something that comes naturally to many of us. It is a skill that can take time and practice to develop. Being prepared and having a goal in sight can help.
Without the motivation of an exam coming up, it may feel like studying is a pointless chore. It is the same with going to the gym. Sometimes the hardest part is actually getting up and going. But afterwards, we can feel even better than we thought.
This creates a positive reward cycle. Self-directed learning is similar. It’s about taking ownership, responsibility and most importantly, taking control back.
There are a few different strategies that you can try to help motivate yourself. Have a look through some of our suggestions to make the most of your self-directed learning:
Changing your mindset
A bad experience with a particular subject or lecturer can impact our view of our ability. When we believe we’re not good at something, then we are more likely to believe it’s pointless putting in the effort.
Changing your mindset and the way you approach studying does the opposite. It allows us to believe improvement is possible. Challenge negative thoughts of “I can’t do this, I don’t get it so there’s no point” with “I will continue to try, learn from mistakes, and seek help if I need it”.
A simple strategy to help you change your outlook and keep motivated is to set SMART goals.
Having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish and how to get there reinforces the mindset that it is possible. It gives you a clear plan of action on how you are going to approach study. This can also help with anxiety and procrastination when it comes to self-directed study.
A clear workspace
A messy study space can make it harder to concentrate. This can be the desk that you work at, or the desktop on your computer.
Lots of unnecessary textbooks or open tabs can create distraction. When procrastinating, the smallest things can seem entertaining. Take a few minutes to tidy your environment to better focus on content that you need to be studying.
Apps like Forest can help by blocking your access to social media, and limit your ability to look at non-education websites.
Exercise to help improve productivity
Heading off to do some exercise may seem counterproductive instead of studying. But it can help to improve productivity. Most of the time when we’re unsure of how or where to start, we sit at our desks feeling stuck.
Begin your study session with a walk or a quick YouTube workout. This can help by giving you the feeling you’ve gotten something done.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment will carry over to when you hit the books. Momentum from achievements, regardless of how small, can be a catalyst for study. Plus, we know that exercise can help our mental health too.
Create an online study group
You may find that speaking to your classmates helps you stay motivated. To keep on track, planning an online study group can be helpful too.
You can all choose to cover a specific topic and chat about it together. Or you can pick a theme and work out problems as a group.
Be mindful of how the group dynamic will impact your studies as well. Chatting with others who are stressed can increase our own stress levels.
Make sure you’re comfortable with those on the calls and feel everyone will contribute equally.
Planning a study schedule
Planning and committing
When getting started, it can seem impossible to know where to begin. This feeling can grow into dread or lack of confidence. Manage this by breaking down tasks and planning ahead.
When you plan and write down study goals, you’re committing to the task. Focus on one task at a time as it allows your brain to concentrate better and reduce anxiety.
Use of time
Studying for end of year exams or writing a thesis are big tasks that that seem far away. Understandably, it can be difficult to keep motivated over a long period of time. Figure out how to use your time most effectively.
If you know you work best in short spurts, use that strength to your advantage. Set a timer for 20 minutes and focus on one task for that time, with a five-minute break afterwards. Then recommit to another 20 minutes on a different topic.
Or you may prefer to dedicate a big chunk of time to get a piece of work over the line. You then won’t have to worry about it later.
If you find something just isn’t sinking in or is really hard to find the right words for, make a note of it, and move on. You can always go back and edit later. But keeping yourself moving is a great way to maintain motivation.
Different study approaches
There are many different ways to approach studying. Switching it up by trying different ones can help figure out what works best for you. Some study approaches are:
- Reading over notes
- Making up songs or acronyms as reminders
- Writing out and answering practice questions
- Using mind maps or visuals
- Re-writing and condensing notes to help you review and focus on the important information
- Find ways the topic applies to your own life to make it feel more relatable
- Read to yourself out loud, some people remember easier through sound
- Look at or write a case study to help the topic come to life
- Flashcards can be created using notes or visuals
- Reading over work or notes that your friends did and have a chat about it after
- After reading, writing out the content in your own words, or as you would explain it to a small child. This can simplify topics and make them easier to remember
- Watch YouTube videos, documentaries or listen to podcasts related to the subject.
- Visualisation is a powerful learning tool. It is basically your brain rehearsing completing difficult tasks. This lays down pathways that make it easier to do the task in reality. Visualising yourself studying and doing well on an assignment or exam can help you achieve that goal.
When setting out your study plan, remember to factor in rewards.
An episode of your latest Netflix obsession, snacks, or ordering something online you’ve saved for, can all be rewards for achieving goals. Reminding yourself of your chosen rewards, big or small, can be a useful nudge when you get distracted.
Keeping the end goal in sight is great. But it is equally as important to have short-term goals along the way. Take a moment to ask yourself, would you prefer smaller goals daily, or a bigger goal at the end of the week/month?
Make sure to use breaks and rewards when you are planning how you will study. You got this!