How to Study When You Don’t Feel Like It

Admit it, you’re just as guilty as I am when it comes to studying. Sometimes we just don’t feel like it. But tell me, what does “feeling like it” actually feel like? The truth is that you don’t need to wait for an emotion to get work done. Here’s how to study when you flat out don’t wanna.

The Path of Least Resistance

We are wired to automatically choose the path that leads to minimal emotional & physical threats to the self; it is a basic survival instinct that aims to protect us. Students often find themselves focusing on the distressing elements of studying; thinking about how boring, stressful, long or difficult the tasks ahead might be. The perceived threat should not be in the doing but rather in the slacking, so focus instead on what could happen if you don’t do the work : like having to take a summer class to make up for a failed course. This is known as prevention focus, meaning focusing on avoiding loss. It’s also a perfect example of how accepting somewhat negative emotions and using their energy to serve us in a positive way can be beneficial. A simple exercise that will allow you to do this involves the use of a T chart and you writing the pros of studying on one side, and the cons of not doing the work on the other.

“If it is 5pm on a Monday, then I will study my psychology notes for an hour.”

Minimal Effort & Building Momentum

When you don’t feel like it at all, the hardest thing in the entire world is to START. Once you pass that initial mental/motivational block, the rest will just flow naturally. A trick is to take the smallest possible step forward, like writing your name at the top of a blank page; then a second mini step such as writing the title of the chapter you are about to read. “I’m just going to do this one tiny thing…” Keep repeating this statement as you go along until you no longer remember that you have to say it – that would mean that you’ve gained momentum.

Implement Successful Habits

It is your responsibility to build systems and create successful habit loops (consistent triggers or cues initiating an action) that will make studying or being productive an automatic behavior. Research has found that, in general, more than 80% of our self-talk is negative (excuses, bashing yourself, and self-doubt). A strange thing I want you to understand is that you don’t have to listen to all those voices in your head. You don’t actually need their approval to start something. You are in control of your body, so get it moving even if your thoughts sometimes disagree.

If-Then Plan

When your motivation seems to always be M.I.A. whenever study time comes around, consider using if-then statements to consciously create desired behavioral responses in your daily life. If-then statements have been proven to work in several situations; acting as a roadmap for your brain, they create a link between a cue/trigger and a behavioral response.

A total of 94 different studies looking at the if-then technique found that using it leads to significantly higher success rates in the achievement of any goal you can think of.

“Success doesn’t come to you – you go to it.”

– Marva Collins

The Need to “Feel Like It”

Tell me something, when and who convinced you that you need to wait until you feel like it to study or be productive? How exactly does “feeling like it”….feel like? Can you describe it to me, or to yourself? This belief that most of us have internalized limits our potential, as it is simply an excuse and nothing more. You don’t have to wait to feel motivated, you should get motivated! And whenever you tell yourself “I don’t feel like studying” I would like you to replace that with “I don’t want to study” and see what effect that has on you. The second statement hands the responsibility back to you.

Remember, as Mel Robbin’s said in her The hard truth about making your dreams come true video, you need to learn to parent yourself. Studying, being productive, going to the gym or even doing house chores are decisions – and you always have a choice.