Female college student sitting and studying at a library table with a laptop and open books
Outlier Articles Home

College Success

15 Motivation Tips for Studying

06.19.2023 • 9 min read

Jennifer Rivera

Subject Matter Expert

Learn how to get motivated to study. Get practical tips and read why you should stay consistent.

In This Article

  1. What Is Motivation?

  2. Why Is Motivation Important?

  3. 15 Motivation Tips for Studying

  4. Develop Motivation and Study Inspiration

Finding the motivation to study or complete assignments can be challenging for any college student.

Even when you’re organized, aware of all your responsibilities, and know what you need to do to succeed in college, sometimes you just… don’t feel like doing those things.

So instead, you procrastinate and watch Netflix or play video games.

If that sounds familiar, then you need to develop motivation and gain study inspiration so you can excel in your classes.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what motivation is and how you can develop motivation to make the most of your study time.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation isn’t simply “working hard.” It isn’t a magical switch you can turn on that makes you suddenly want to study.

Creating motivation is much more complicated than many people think.

Motivation is the ability to focus behavior toward a particular goal or task.

Motivation can be intrinsic—doing something based on the pleasure it gives you—or extrinsic—doing something because you will get a reward for doing it or a punishment if you don’t.

Note that motivation can be conscious or unconscious. For example, you don’t always fall asleep because you want to; sometimes you’re motivated to sleep because you just need to!

When students complain of a lack of motivation, what they mean is they can't focus. This is often because they haven’t found the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for that activity.

Why Is Motivation Important?

Motivation plays a role in chores you don’t want to do—and also in hobbies you love to do. Most of the time you’re motivated either by the love of doing something or by the threat of not doing it.

That’s why motivation is essential for students to get things done. Learning to develop motivation as a student is a skill that will serve you well throughout adulthood.

Once you learn to ignore any negative feelings and focus on tasks like a study group, you’ll be well equipped for future boring obligations like taxes and car maintenance.

How To Get Motivated To Study?

You’re not alone. Feeling motivated to study is a huge struggle for many students. Just think about it: studying isn’t something you love, and the threat of not doing it is unclear.

The good news is there are great motivational tips for studying, all based on science, and you can use them to improve your motivation.

While each motivation tip may not work for everyone, if you test out these tips, you will absolutely find something that works for you.

15 Motivation Tips for Studying

No one can flip a switch and make studying more enjoyable. But if you try these study strategies over a period, you’ll develop motivation and find more inspiration to study.

1. Carve Out a Study Routine

One of the best things you can do to get motivated to study is to create habits around studying. This means creating routines, which, according to the Harvard Business Review, is the first step to creating a habit.

A regular study routine is an important step, but be realistic: when can you actually sit down and study?

If you’re an on-campus student, look at the white space in your schedule—that space before, between, and after classes. Make sure there are times when you can realistically study for at least 45 minutes.

If you’re an online student—especially if you work or have kids—think of the spaces in your day. If you don’t see much space, plan where you can make some.

Get creative and carve out a study routine. Ask yourself how you can switch things around. Can someone else watch the kids for a few hours a few times a week? Can you leave for work an hour early and study before work in your vehicle or a coffee shop?

2. Keep a Consistent Study Schedule

Being consistent in your study time isn’t going to be possible 100% of the time, but aim to keep the same schedule as much as you can.

Consistency eliminates decision fatigue. Studies show that our bodies get tired of making decisions. Eventually, you don't care and you make the easiest decision, which may not be the best for your goals.

When your study schedule is predictable, your body will eventually adapt to it. Your mind will need less time to prepare to study, so you’ll develop motivation.

Try to keep the same schedule for each subject too. If you generally have a study time for 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, try to study the same subject, like chemistry, at that time.

The more you make studying a habit, the better.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

All the motivation tips in the world won’t help you if you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep helps you succeed because sleep allows your brain to store information as memories.

Want to make the most of that study session? Cover all the necessary material, then sleep on it. Make sure you sleep at least 7 hours per night and try to stick to a consistent time. A sleep schedule is just as important as a study schedule for motivation.

4. Set Achievable Study Goals

When your goals are small, frequent, and clear, they become more achievable. The more goals you achieve in your study sessions, the better your brain will feel about being there to do what you need to do.

To maximize your time in a study group and develop motivation for homework, you need to have small, specific goals in mind. Your study goals should be based on details you control, not just an overall outcome like “get a good grade.”

Set a goal for every study session. Whether you want to memorize a number of terms or read and understand a specific number of pages, these are goals you control.

If you overwhelm your brain with goals that are too big or not achievable during your study time, you will feel defeated and find it harder to study the next time.

So make your brain happy—give it smaller, easier goals and a positive experience. If you set short-term goals, the long-term goals will follow.

5. Create a Study Environment

You’ve probably noticed these motivational tips for studying all recommend consistency. Your study space is no exception! Make sure your space is:

  • Accessible: Make sure it’s a space you have access to at your regular study time, not one that will get so crowded you have nowhere to sit.

  • Comfortable: It should be comfortable enough for you to study, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep!

  • Single-use: This should be a place you use for studying only, not where you watch TV or sleep.

6. Prepare Your Materials

If your study routine and location are consistent, then you’ll always know what subjects you’re studying the next day. Set yourself up for success by organizing your study materials.

The night before each study session, make sure you have all your notebooks, books, and online materials you need to study your designated subjects. When everything is at hand, it’s easy to start studying as soon as you sit down.

Otherwise, you can waste time and energy looking for worksheets or emailing your teacher for access to online materials.

7. Get Your Playlist Ready

If you’re a fan of studying while listening to music, the best thing you can do is set up a study playlist. You can create different playlists for different days or even subjects.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing music to motivate you for studying:

  • No lyrics: Music with words can interfere with memorization or comprehension. Even if you don’t really listen to the words in your music, your brain will still listen subconsciously.

  • Choose something you enjoy: If you like Top 40 music with lyrics, find instrumental versions to keep both your brain and your mood happy.

  • Keep it consistent: Have a “study” playlist or a “Chemistry” playlist or a “Tuesday” playlist. This is yet another cue for your brain that it’s time to study, which will keep your motivation going!

8. Keep Study Goals in Sight

When you set your goals for each study session, write them on a sticky note or whiteboard. Put them near your table or computer.

Got a final exam to prep for? Make a plan to study.

When you hit a goal, give yourself a check mark, cross it out, or even put a star next to it. Give yourself that moment to feel accomplished and rewarded!

Since rewards fuel extrinsic motivation, having a visible reward in sight will help you develop motivation for the tasks before you.

9. Use a Timer

It’s unrealistic to sit down and try to study for 8 hours straight. That’s where your time management skills come in handy. Try using a timer to structure your study time.

One of the best ways to break up a large study session is the Pomodoro technique. This involves using a timer to work straight for an amount of time, like 25 minutes, and then taking a 5-minute break.

After 4 rounds of this, you would take a longer break, around 20 minutes. This breaks up your study time into smaller, manageable sections. You will accomplish a lot overall without burning yourself out.

During your long break, make sure you stand up and take a short walk to get your blood flowing.

10. Don’t Change Your Mind

So it’s Tuesday. You’re supposed to study chemistry, and you put your goals into your weekly schedule.

But honestly…you don’t feel like it. And there’s that Spanish test next week. Maybe you should study for that instead.

Don’t do it.

You scheduled your study time in advance. You thought about what you needed to study for and when. Trust the schedule, and trust the process.

If you let your emotions sway your schedule, your brain can easily get distracted making numerous unnecessary decisions. This will kill the motivation you’re trying to build.

Keep with your schedule!

11. Keep Fueled and Hydrated

Nothing will destroy your motivation to study more than hunger and thirst. You’ll get frustrated, angry, and then pack up and go eat something that probably isn’t good for you.

Instead, prep your snacks or meals ahead of time. Then you can stay hydrated and fueled without food interfering with your motivation.

12. Don’t Give Up

Even when you follow the steps and plan in advance, things will go wrong.

That’s okay. If you have a solid foundation, it will be easier to hop back onto your schedule.

Prepare for changes by being flexible. Spend time early in the semester writing a plan of what you will do when your schedule has to change. When your “what now” plan is already in your pocket, you can stay motivated and have the study encouragement you need for any situation.

13. Reward Yourself

It’s great to give yourself mini celebrations like checkmarks and gold stars each day, but sometimes you should give yourself bigger rewards.

Feed your motivation with external rewards that will inspire you to stay on task: maybe a special treat, a new book, or a night at the movies. Choose whatever feels rewarding to you.

  • Keep it on budget. You can’t treat yourself to spring break in Mexico because you passed a 10-point quiz. Creating a college budget helps you find ways to enjoy yourself without breaking the bank.

  • Keep it meaningful. Don’t treat yourself to a cappuccino if you get one every day anyway. Consider what would feel like a special treat to reward your hard work.

  • Don’t use time off from studying as a reward. That will simply encourage you to stop studying, which is the opposite of the goal you’re trying to accomplish—develop motivation for studying.

14. When You Shouldn't Study

Sometimes when you get into the zone or get nervous, you might end up studying long past your scheduled study time, or studying when you should be doing other things like cleaning or working.

Studying when you shouldn’t can burn you out and make it hard to motivate yourself for your scheduled study sessions. So relax when it’s time to relax. It’s OK to watch Netflix occasionally, just not during study time.

15. Optimize and Adjust

The more you get into the groove of your study schedule (we’re talking after a few weeks, not hours), you can adapt it to better fit your needs.

Maybe you need to find a place to study that has more light or is closer to an outlet. Perhaps your sleep schedule needs updating. Or maybe you actually do study chemistry better at 2 p.m. than 10 a.m.

Tweak your routine as needed, but don’t make your study decisions on a whim. Decide when you map out your study plan for the week.

Develop Motivation and Study Inspiration

Developing your motivation is easy when you follow these steps and remain consistent.

Consistency is the key to staying motivated for studying. Being consistent will help you throughout your life and in your career long after you graduate. Being able to work on your own and motivate yourself will get you on the path to a high-paying job where independent work is required. You’ll be more likely to hit your career goals.

Whether you’re going to college right out of high school or going back to school in your 30s, it can be hard to find motivation to study. By incorporating these motivational tips for studying into your life now, you will bring more ease into your life for years to come.

Degrees+: Discover Online College Unlike Anything You’ve Experienced

Outlier (winner of TIME Best Inventions 2020) and Golden Gate University (#1 school for working professionals) have redesigned the experience of earning a college degree to minimize cost and maximize outcomes. Explore a revolutionary way to earn your college degree: