By: Jessica L.

With the new school year comes new stresses. Gone are the lazy days of summer. The question is: How do you deal with the pressures of another school year when faced with lack of motivation? This article walks you through Understanding Procrastination, Romanticizing Learning, School Tips, and Study Methods.

Understanding Procrastination

Students struggling to meet expectations from parents or society are well-versed in the idea of procrastination being derived from laziness or lack of time management. However, this is a common misconception seeing as researchers have found that procrastination tends to occur most on projects one cares most about. With this being said, it is still a destructive behavior that can be attributed toward lack of motivation and self discipline. 

Time management continues to be a struggle for students as they are pressured to join more and more extracurriculars in order to get into good colleges. Those who have not been managing busy schedules for a majority of their life are struggling to “find time” to do their schoolwork. This mindset of “finding time” needs to be changed to “making time.” As pressure to add more on an increasingly crowded plate persists, prioritizing is a key skill which goes hand in hand with time management. Each time a new activity is added into your life, make a list of all your priorities (eg. school, clubs, sports, family time, hobbies, sleep) and put them in order. Use this as your guideline for what gets dropped first when life gets too much to handle.

One of the most vital things you can do this is to find your ‘why.’ Are you studying to meet expectations? To achieve a dream? A fact of life is you are not always going to be motivated, so you have to find ways to work when you do not want to or do not have the energy to. Self-discipline, when used properly, will always be there to pull you out of a slump. If you have a three-page assignment due in three days, use your self-discipline to will yourself to do one page each night, rather than to wait until the third day in hopes of finally feeling motivated. With this being said, you should not give in to hustle culture and put yourself in a constant state of burn-out by pushing yourself past your limit. 

Once you understand how to get yourself to study, then you can move onto how to get yourself to enjoy studying.

Romanticizing Learning

Let us be honest, school and those who enjoy their education have been assigned many negative connotations and stereotypes by society as a whole. While this can be disheartening, in order to enjoy school, you must rewrite the narrative. First of all, good education is a privilege that many kids in all parts of the world and country do not have access to. Second of all, many students would agree the worst part of school is homework, not the learning itself. With the acknowledgement of these facts, you can move past the stigmatization of school, so you can romanticize your education.

In order to enjoy studying, it is important to incorporate aspects that bring you enjoyment. In preparation for a good school year, one must put much planning into choosing their supplies. Consider having a color theme or maybe getting extra supplies like flashcards and highlighters so that you will be motivated to go all out with studying rather than to do the bare minimum. 

Frankly, studying is not always going to be enjoyable. Regardless, it is an important task which can be made bearable with the right adjustments. In order to set the mood for a study session, one must appeal to the 5 senses. 

  • Sight- make sure the lighting in your room is not too dim 

  • Sound- play some music (for many it helps for it to be without lyrics, but only you know what works for best yourself)

  • Smell- light a candle 

  • Taste- (for those of us who don’t have braces) chewing gum and (for those who do have braces) hot drinks have been proven to improve concentration and memory retention 

  • Touch- sit at a desk to improve focus (sitting in your bed has the tendency to make one feel sleepy)

School Tips

As a student going into her junior year in the top 2% of her grade, I feel warranted to impart some of my wisdom. A belief that I stand by is that learning takes place in the classroom. During the eight hours which I am at school, I am completely present in the learning environment. My time-management strategy is to get as much school work done during school hours (including breaks and lunch) as possible so as to limit the amount of homework I have. In this way, I would get the same amount of work done as someone who messes around during school hours and does their schoolwork at home, but I would have less stress than them. Life is all about balance.

One of the biggest mistakes I have made in previous years was not being an attentive student. As a result, any questions I had would go unanswered because I never asked them. If you don’t feel comfortable verbally asking a teacher, especially in front of the class, then you should at the very least do a quick internet search. The important thing is you understand the material. A tip for those who tend to have a lot of questions is to sit near the teachers desk so that it will save you from A) having to ask across a class of peers or B) a lot of walking. Also, sitting near the front of the classroom helps to eliminate distractions. 

Study Methods

In order to figure out which study method will help you best, you must first know your learning style. Similar to how love languages help us understand how to best meet our emotional needs, learning styles help us understand how to best meet our academic needs. There are several online tests that measure which is your learning style. A vast majority are a combination of multiple styles, so do not eliminate any of the below methods because they do not match the style given to you by an online test.

Visual learners like to make connections. Methods that are best suited for them are mind maps, diagrams, graphic organizers, charts, and color-codes. Sketch notes, a system of note taking which uses images, symbols, and shorthand, are typically best suited for these learners. The Loci Memory Palace is a system which is designed for memorizing a list of items in a specific order

Auditory learners best remember knowledge that has been told to them or said aloud by them. Methods that are best suited for them are videos, acronyms, mnemonics, and songs/rhymes. It is very important for auditory learners to be present in class as much as possible because they will remember hearing their teacher tell them directions rather than reading them. Having a study group is helpful for auditory learners because they get to explain and hear concepts being explained directly to them. The Feynman Technique involves teaching the topic to someone else to evaluate your understanding of a concept. 

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing or through movement. Methods that are best suited for them are highlighting and rewriting notes. It might be helpful for them to study standing up or doing some other small movement. It is very important for kinesthetic learners to be present in class as much as possible because they will get the most out of actively participating in discussions, labs, and simulations done during class. Flashcards are an engaging study technique for kinesthetic learners. The Leitner System involves sorting flashcards into three boxes - one for those you don’t know at all, one for those you are iffy about, and one for those you know extremely well. 

My final study tips deal with how to hold yourself accountable. The Pomodoro Technique, in which you study for twenty-five minutes then take a five break, is renowned for improving memory retention and time-management. This technique can be altered by changing the length of each segment. One key takeaway from this technique, even if you do not end up using it, is the idea of a reward system. Sometimes the satisfaction of knowing you will get a good grade in the long run is not enough, so it is always a good idea to have a reward to trigger the instant gratification mechanism in your brain. This mechanism is, essentially, what makes you have the tendency to gravitate toward your phone rather than your school work. Speaking of phones, my final tip is to either put your phone on Do Not Disturb or download a study app to limit temptations.

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