Studying can be a struggle. Finding the motivation can be challenging especially if the only cheer squad you have is yourself. Everyone can get side tracked, put things off, lose interest and the saying 'I will do it tomorrow' becomes a daily routine.
If this sounds like you, try using the following techniques instead.
Every night before going to bed, you need to have the feeling, “I already know tomorrow is study day”
This is the feeling you want to have. You want to be mentally committed to your study outcomes. You want to have everything set up the night before so that you’ve completely removed all friction and decision-making when you get up the next morning.
Instead, you want to wake up and have immediate energy because you know exactly what you’re going to do, and you’ve laid it all out from the night before.
The Simple Science Of Behaviour Change
According to Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg, “Design trumps willpower.” What he means by this is, human behavior generally defaults to what is most convenient.
If there is junk food in your fridge, you’re probably going to eat it.
However, if there is junk food sitting right on top of your kitchen counter or table — out in the open — your chances of eating it skyrocket.
When something is easy and convenient, we often act without thinking very deeply about our behaviour. We default to the situation at hand.
You can leverage this to your benefit.
By simply placing your books next to the computer, your chances of studying increase dramatically.
Most people don’t study despite believing they should, simply because there is too much decision fatigue involved in doing so. In other words, there is friction to making the actual decision, and if there is friction, you probably won’t do it, let alone make a habit out of it.
In the case of studying, what is that “friction”?
Having to find your books - Put the books on the table - Open the books - Find the correct page and chapter - Open the book - and then… start studying
All of those micro-actions may only take a minute or so to execute, but they are actually incredibly taxing to a person’s willpower over time.
If instead, you simply had to walk into the room and saw the book, with the chapter open already waiting for you on the table, you’d almost instinctively sit down and start studying.
Often, the decision is already made based on the situation at hand. The night before when you put the books on the table, you made the decision. That decision is now influencing your immediate behaviour.
Make All Decisions The Night Before
Decision fatigue is the scientific term for willpower, and what it really means is that you haven’t actually made a decision. The reason people’s willpower becomes exhausted and depleted over time is that they are weighing in their mind what they want to do. In other words, they haven’t actually decided yet. They’re still thinking about it.
Do I study today? Or not today?
Do I wake up an hour early? Or hit the snooze button?
In these scenarios, the person is juggling back-and-forth. They don’t actually know what they’re going to do.
Are they going to study or not? Who knows.
Are they going to wake up early? Who knows.
They certainly don’t know.
And this is why willpower gets exhausted.
The opposite of decision fatigue is simply to make a decision. When you make a decision, that means you “cut off” alternative options.
The worst time to attempt making a decision is while laying in bed, cozy and semi-unconscious. In such a situation, if you haven’t already decided what you were going to do, and set up conditions to make it happen, then you actually don’t know what you’re going to do.
And this is where decision fatigue sets in. This is why being consistent and powerful and motivated can seem so random and inconsistent.
Make Decisions the Night Before
The most fundamental thing you can do in your evening routine is deciding what you’re going to do the next morning. Harvard psychologist, Ellen Langer, calls this a “cognitive commitment.”
This means you actually write it down. You write down when you’re going to wake up. And you write down the top 1–3 things you intend to study in the morning.
However, writing down what you plan to do isn’t truly a commitment.
In order to ensure you succeed, you need to remove ALL FRICTION. In other words, you need to set everything up the night before, so that when you wake up, you literally have nothing to do but get up and get studying.
If you plan to study, then have all your books, material and information already laid out, next to the computer, with the computer already on. You can even have your coffee cup out with coffee and sugar next to it. Your whole morning routine laid out and ready to go.
Because if you haven’t removed all micro-decisions, which act as friction and decision fatigue, then your chances of getting out of bed are far less likely.
Because you have several things you need to do.
You haven’t removed the friction by simply setting up the environment so that it’s convenient and practically subconscious.
According to entrepreneurial and business expert Eben Pagan, most people approach their desired outcomes ineffectively. When they want a specific outcome, they directly approach that outcome in a brute-force manner, which generally leads to failure and giving up.
Creating conditions so something will happen by itself is very different from trying to make the thing happen.
Pagan calls this concept “inevitability thinking,” which he defines as “Thinking and acting as if what you are doing is a forgone conclusion because you set up the conditions for it to happen.”
A key question when you desire a specific outcome, according to Pagan, is to ask: “I want to have this particular outcome happen. What do I have to do so that it’s inevitable?”
Asking this question changes how you look at the goal you’re trying to achieve or problem you’re trying to solve. You immediately begin thinking of “conditions” that need to be set up for study success.
Putting It All Together
Having an amazing morning routine is one of the best things you can do for studying.
If you get really good at morning routines, you’ll experience a huge shift in your academic life.
You begin to see success with your studies more because you tune your brain in to notice things you couldn’t see before. Your eyes can only see what your brain is looking for. Hence, most people’s brains are far less effective than they could be because their brain is simply on autopilot, responding to whatever is happening in their environment.
The reverse of this is to spend your downtime, which is usually in your evening, taking 10 minutes to decide what you’re going to do the next morning and putting everything in place.
Decide what time you’re going to wake up and set the alarm for that time (but put your phone or alarm clock in a different room so you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off). Set up everything that needs to be set up so that you don’t have to waste mental energy during your morning. If you aren’t motivated to wake up in the morning, it’s because you failed the set up the night before.
When you begin making true decisions, then you stop dealing with decision fatigue. You start simply operating how you want to operate. You stop living your life in a constant state of wondering, “When am I going to study?”
By making the decision, you start making huge progress because you become consistent. You do what you said you would do.