Finally, we made it! We just crossed the first hurdle in our med-school journey and we are on to the next phase with an entirely different challenge. The hunger and craving for more knowledge are at their peak. The euphoria of being a medical student fuels our spirit; everyone strives to do better than they did in the last session. Most have mentally prepared themselves and mapped out their entire session long before lectures commenced. Now the classes have actually begun, we can see things more clearly. Just a few weeks have passed by and the adrenaline rush that we initially had is slowly fading away. Everything is so much different from what we’ve known for a long time. No more biology, chemistry and physics that we are all used to. Instead, we are faced with new courses, bigger textbooks and more complex terminologies. It’s so bulky that one is not sure of what to read and what not to read. The lecturers aren’t even taking it easy on us at all; how a lecturer can cover more than three bulky topics in a day’s lecture and more than 100 slides in less than an hour is still very shocking. Most of us haven’t completed the last slides before the next one arrives. Everything is beginning to overwhelm us and the workload is ever increasing.
And there’s that feeling, one that you’ve felt before and it’s coming back again. You know you have to study and you want to study but you can’t even think straight. There’s this tiny voice at the back of your mind, the one that is probably reading this to you in your head. It keeps telling you to read, keeps reminding and haunting you when you are doing something else. But sometimes, you just cannot bring yourself to do it. You feel overwhelmed and it doesn’t seem that you will hold out for much longer. It’s like a pattern, you start your study all excited but once the excitement wears off, you’re in the middle of reality, a very harsh reality. Sometimes you can’t even start! And there are those always moving stuff, asking hefty questions, answering all the technical questions and reading ahead of classes. Sometimes they motivate you and other times they make you feel so weak, intimidated and you start questioning your abilities.
Chill! We’ve all been there at a point in our lives. Those feelings will surely come but what matters is what you do in such moments. Do you just close your book and stop reading because you don’t feel like it? What about times when you stare at your books but you can’t read anything even though you are fully aware of the fact that you have to? How do you study when you do not feel like studying? You really want to know how? There are five tested and proven keys that will help you to study when you don’t feel like studying: Examination, Organization, Action, Breaks and Evaluation. Remember, these keys won’t work for you if you just read them; you have to apply them to your study life. Whenever you don’t feel like studying but you know you have to, just remember and apply this mnemonic: Every Other Activity Brings Enjoyment and why not studying too?
Ask yourself questions; why don’t I feel like studying? What exactly is my problem at the moment? It could be that you are bored, hungry, mentally exhausted, discouraged, procrastinating, lazy, burnt-out or you lack motivation. This first step can help you determine your next course of action. Sometimes, your study style and environment can affect you negatively; a change might be the solution that you need. If you are having a burnout or you are mentally exhausted, just rest! If otherwise, you can go further by asking yourself, ‘why do I have to study?’, ‘what is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t study?’ Create a mental picture of your answer, you can also write them down and remind yourself of these things.
Now that you know why you don’t feel like studying but you know you have to study, what you should do next is Organization. You should try organizing yourself, your books and materials. This is very helpful especially in cases where you feel lazy, discouraged, lacking motivation or you are simply procrastinating. Set up small goals that are realistic and achievable based on your capacity. You can decide to finish a particular topic in a day or a slide in two hours of study. Write these goals down and put a time-lapse for each. Ask yourself questions like ‘how much can I cover in 2 hours?’ and not ‘can I cover this in 2 hours?’ as this will make the task look less bulky. Plan your reading time, if you do not have a timetable be sure to make one. You can try spreading your study time throughout the day if possible; this would make your study time look less cumbersome. If you want to study for 3 hours every day, you can decide to make it an hour in the morning, an hour at noon and another at night or an hour in the morning and two hours at night, depending on what suits you. Organize your study materials and focus on one at a time. It is also important to clean your study area and remove all form of distractions.
After making plans and organizing, what next? Action, don’t think about it, just do it. Just pick up the book, just open the slides. In some cases like lack of motivation, diving into it doesn’t really help but you can visualize yourself starting, dissecting and finishing the task. Remember; don’t raise your expectations too high. There are some other things that you can incorporate into your study style that will make studying easier for you:
- Sometimes the reason for not feeling like studying is perceived difficulty or bulkiness. Start with the easiest courses then move into the more difficult ones. Do not linger on the difficult ones for long.
- Break the entire task into chunks and give yourself breaks in between. Research proves that we study and retain best when we maximize those short frequent burst of energy. Do not study for more than an hour without breaks. You can study for 30 minutes and take a 10 minutes break, depending on what suits you. You can also pick a particular subtopic and set a timer for about 15 minutes. The Pomodoro Technique will increase your productivity.
- Have you noticed that you study best when there’s external pressure such as examination? You can try to create such an atmosphere for yourself by setting deadlines for each task.
- Reward yourself after successfully completing each task or goal. You can play a game, watch a movie, see a friend or do anything you love. You can decide to get yourself a bar of chocolate after completing a bulky chapter. This gives you something nice to look forward to.
- If you pick up your phone or do anything that you love doing, I bet you can spend hours on it without getting tired or bored. If Every Other Activity Brings Enjoyment, why not studying too? You always look forward to something you enjoy. Make studying fun for yourself so it won’t seem like a big and boring activity anymore. Be creative and adventurous, look for more ways to make it fun.
When studying, there are two types of breaks you can give yourself. You might require a long break or just a short one. When taking short breaks in between studying, you can eat a snack (preferably a non-sugary one). You can take a walk or do a physical activity, take your mind off the task for some time. After a long period of study, put your mind and body to rest. Do not overtask or stress yourself as this can lead to burnout. Take time for yourself, watch a movie, see a friend, do what you love doing but give yourself a time frame for all these. You can watch inspirational and motivational movies if you feel that you lack the motivation to continue. Be sure to discipline yourself and do not spend more time than necessary resting and enjoying. Once you feel you’ve had enough rest, you can now back to studying feeling more energized.
Alright, you are done reading for today, how do you make sure you go back to it? You’ve gathered enough motivation for a week and you are back to square one, your drive is now low, what do you do? These tips below are things you should do periodically to ensure that you keep studying:
- After each study session, reflect on how much you have covered. Knowing that you were very productive can make you feel better about the next session.
- Meditate on what you read or studied and try to recollect as much as you can. Studying should be both active and passive.
- External motivation fades with time. Develop a routine or system that runs with a sense of responsibility and dedication. Consistency would make studying part of you and less dependent on your mood.
- Teach someone what you have learnt. This can help you discover your loopholes and make you understand better.
- Have a study group, discuss with others. You can’t know everything on your own, being in the company of others can make you gain more and motivate you to study.
- Do not think much about the result. Focus on studying and not on the examination.
- Discipline yourself, motivate yourself. Each day, remind yourself of the need to study.
- Do not study because you feel like it or not, study because you know you must.
- Be sure to maximize your reading time. Ensure that you are very productive in each session but don’t let that be an excuse to skip the next session or relax too much.
Whenever you don’t feel like studying, always remember this Every Other Activity Brings Enjoyment and why not studying too? Examine your current situation, organize yourself, your study materials and area, take actions with breaks when necessary and evaluate when you are done. In summary, if you’ve examined yourself and you are found in any of these categories listed below, you can simply apply these:
- If you are convinced that it is beyond your abilities; organize yourself (#2), break it into chunks (#3), don’t think about it and just start (#3).
- If the topic or subject is boring; break it into chunks, make it fun and reward yourself (#3).
- If you are waiting for the perfect time to start; organize yourself and study materials (#2), there is no perfect time, just start (#3).
- If the task is so overwhelming; rest (#4), break into chunks and tackle one at a time (#3).
- If you feel sleepy whenever you start reading; change your study environment (#2), make it fun (#3).
- If you lack the motivation and drive; examine yourself (#1), organize yourself and your things (#2), and take action (#3).
- If you are a big-time procrastinator or a lazy student; organize yourself (#2), try the Pomodoro Technique (#3) and just start (#3).
- If you are too tired, you’re having a burnout; take a long break and rest (#4).
- If you are disoriented and you lack focus; organize yourself and your study materials (#2), try the Pomodoro Technique.
- If you find it difficult to understand and retain information; change study pattern and style (#2), take rest and breaks (#4).