The best 5 ways to motivate yourself to study

by | Apr 1, 2021

Let’s face it. Studying can be a chore. It’s difficult to stay focused with the number of distractions around us.

I constantly tell myself I’ll study after one last episode or game. This usually drags on until I realize half the day is gone and I still have so much to complete.

This led me to do some intensive research on motivation. I wanted to find out how I could motivate myself.

And today, I’ll be sharing my results – the 5 best ways to motivate yourself to study.

According to educators and psychologists, motivation can be defined as “the processes that initiate and sustain behaviour”.

Motivation can be categorised as:

1.) Extrinsic motivation

This is when we are motivated to complete a task in return for rewards or to avoid punishment.

Some examples are:

  • Working harder to get a higher bonus
  • Reaching school on time to avoid detention

2.) Intrinsic motivation

This motivation stems from our own inherent interests to learn a topic for self-fulfillment, enjoyment or/and to achieve a mastery of the subject.

Students who are intrinsically motivated may eagerly engage in an activity because of personal interest and internal pleasure

Some examples are:

  • Spending time with someone because you enjoy their company
  • Solving puzzles because you enjoy being challenged

Why do I lack the motivation to study?

Now that we better understand intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we can better understand why we lack the motivation to study.

Extrinsic motivation might be good in the short term but eventually wears off.

Most of the time, students with extrinsic motivation study to score good grades for recognition, to further their studies or acquire good job prospects.

Unfortunately, these students also face burnout more often.

Burnout is defined as “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion from work, which results in a lack of motivation, low efficiency, and a helpless feeling.”

2019 research study showed that intrinsically motivated people experienced lower job burnout compared to extrinsically motivated people.

This means that intrinsically motivated students are more likely to have a healthy and sustainable motivation towards studying than extrinsically motivated students.


How can I stay motivated?

Although the motivation to study may rarely arise, it’s not impossible to actively increase motivation.

Here are the 5 strategies you can use to increase both intrinsic & extrinsic motivation.

1.)Make it relevant

Part of why we lack motivation in studying is because we believe it’s not relevant or important.

For instance, math is considered by some to be a boring subject. After all, what relevance do concepts like calculus have in our lives?

If the answer is none, then the student wouldn’t value it.

According to Richard M. Ryan, professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology, he mentioned that a “[lack of motivation] results from not valuing an activity”.

If one does not value what they learn, it’s likely that they will think similarly of other subjects and unlikely that they will enjoy any of them.

In the end, they would also have graduated from school regrettably wasting their years because they have learned nothing useful. 

In essence, we should all want to avoid being that person.

This is where it’s important for us to reflect on the nature of the subject we are studying and its relationship to our lives.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Why should we study what we’re studying?
  • What relevance does it have in the world around us?
  • How can we apply what we’ve learnt in the real world today?
  • Why should we continue to remember what we’ve learned after our exams?
  • What are the jobs that’d require the skills acquired from what we’ve learnt?


When we make these connections between theory and the real world, we start to understand the significance of what we are studying and how we can benefit from it.

We start to value it.

By doing this, we expand our knowledge beyond the classroom, and increase our interest in and intrinsic motivation towards the subject.

2.)Incorporate a reward system

A study schedule organizes your day, week or month and ensures that you have deadlines for assignments.

Moreover, you are able to sort and prioritize work.

This useful tool can be combined with a reward system. For example, after studying for 3 hours, you can allocate 1 hour for any activity that you enjoy.

This is a form of extrinsic motivation as you work for the reward.

If you have trouble focusing, it might be easier to build a study schedule with more frequent but smaller rewards.

For example, you could indulge in a short 5-minute video for every 25 minutes of studying rather than an hour-long video after 3 hours of studying.

We have written an article on a technique, the Pomodoro technique, that can help you with this.

3.)Organize a study group

A survey study on 463 undergraduates wanted to examine various aspects of group study in undergraduates across multiple institutions and demographic categories.

The study showed that “Almost 70% said that being in a study group increased their motivation to study.”

Let’s first look at how extrinsic motivation can be affected.

Naturally, when friends around you are studying, you will feel inclined to study as well. After all, no one wants to be left behind.

Now let’s look at how intrinsic motivation can be affected in study groups.

If your knowledge surrounding academic materials is great, your peers will ask you questions and you will find yourself answering them.

In those moments, wouldn’t it feel fulfilling and satisfying to be able to help your friends?

This feeling then goes on to positively reinforce your behavior, attitude and intrinsic motivation towards studying.

Furthermore, by explaining concepts or ideas, you gain a better grasp of the material which further increases intrinsic motivation to study.

The same study reinforces this as “more than 60% said their level of learning in study groups was somewhat more or a lot more than they learned when studying individually.”

However, I must caveat this by saying that it is important that your study group consists of the right people.

Having the wrong people in the study group could result in an unproductive study session.

4.)Break down assignments

Having a checklist
Sometimes, assignments can seem overwhelming. One way of tackling this is to break it down into smaller, bite-sized chunks.

This is because of Dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gives us feelings of pleasure and happiness.

When we know of the potential rewards, we’re pumped with dopamine even before we complete our tasks.

With micro-tasks to complete, dopamine pushes us to complete it. When that happens, additional dopamine is released which pushes us onto the next task.

However, the more overwhelming the task, the more our expectations change.

We know it would take longer before we can reap the rewards. Dopamine will decrease and our motivation will dwindle.

For instance, if we were given a huge project to complete, we would be less motivated to work on it. But if we were given a huge project divided into phases, we are more likely to be motivated.

After all, it’s simpler to convince ourselves to do a few small tasks rather than one huge task at a time.

5.)Ditch the books and notes

Sometimes, concepts can be overwhelmingly difficult to understand. The materials either do not help or are too dull to be worth a read. The problem is we don’t know what we are studying. That’s why we don’t enjoy it.

That’s where I like to stop looking at my books/notes and look to other sources rich with information on the internet.

Not only can you find an answer to your question but you can also receive it in an engaging and interesting manner!

I often watch Youtube videos explaining concepts or/and find answers from websites and forums like Quora or Reddit.

Most of the time, I gain new insights that manage to pique my interest, keep me fascinated and inspire me to think beyond the curriculum.

These sources do a far better job at cultivating a passion for a subject than reading from the dull books and notes schools provide.

Closing thoughts

Finding the motivation to study can be difficult, especially if you don’t enjoy the subject.

Hence, it is important to surround yourself with like-minded students to help motivate each other and limit distractions.

Implement a reward system in your study schedule, find captivating information from other sources, break assignments into chunks, form study groups and make it relevant.

By utilizing these 5 strategies, it will help boost your motivation to study!