How to keep studying when you really don't feel like it

Whether you’re preparing for ACCA, CIMA, ICAS or doing any additional training or studying whilst working – our Marketing Executive Fiona has some wise words:

In some careers, notably finance, you are required to sit qualifications to progress. Other times it may be a supporting course to gain confidence in your day job. Or maybe you want to change your career altogether and are retaining. Whatever your reason for studying while working in a full-time job, I admire your commitment to the hustle. Studying as an adult is hard. Particularly when you have a full-time job and various other obligations.

In 2018, I decided to go to night school after I had recently started a new job. I would definitely describe that period as …character building. There were many days where I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and hide under the covers, but that wasn’t always an option. So I found a few tricks that motivated me to study when I really didn’t want to.

Short sharp bursts

Nothing gets rid of that Friday feeling more than knowing you will be spending the whole weekend studying. Setting a whole day aside, let alone an entire weekend to study, is ridiculous and unachievable – for me, at least it was.

Allocating in advance set hours to studying and doing something else in-between is a much better way to making the most of your time. Do you work better in the morning? Why not start extra early and then, after lunch, gives yourself the rest of the day off to relax, meet up with friends or get the rest of the housework done. Or if you enjoy sleep, have a long lie, potter around and then study in the afternoon/evening.

If your course is so intense that you need to study on weeknights, make sure to leave one or two free to recuperate and be realistic with how much you can do in the time you’ve given yourself. You don’t want to burn yourself out.

Set a plan

Have you ever sat down to start a big task for work, and you just don’t know where to begin? It can lead to procrastination and putting it off until it’s too late. Taking this approach to studying can have the same effect.

To start immediately studying can be overwhelming and very daunting, and you often think you have more time until you don’t.

If possible, set a study plan at the start of your course, including modules, topics, and assessment dates. This way, you can map out all areas you need to learn and by which date. Putting a plan and a schedule in place can make you feel more in control and more on top of your learning.

This works as well for starting a study session. Before you open your books, take a minute to think about what you need to cover and focus on for that day. It works as a gentle introduction to your study session and starts to get your brain into the right mindset.

This was very useful for me as on the days that I really didn’t feel in the mood, I could see the bare minimum I needed to achieve to ensure I was on track.

No distractions

I get distracted very easily. I’m a slave to my phone and social media for no good reason. Seeing my phone light up from a notification or buzz was enough to stop my concentration. Even if I tried to power through, all I could think about was the notification. Could it be a friend asking me if I wanted to do anything other than studying?

It is unrealistic to believe you can focus on one task with no distractions for hours when you already don’t want to study. Instead, switch your notifications to silent, set a timer for either 45 minutes or an hour and then place your phone screen face down on a table.

This can have a positive impact on your productivity and focus because you’re on the clock. Knowing that you are only studying for a short while before you get a break is also proven to motivate you.

Go for a walk – no headphones.

So you’ve set your plan, your phone is on silent, and then halfway through, you hit a wall.

Going for a walk in the fresh air can focus your thoughts and increase your reaction time. Studies have also shown that as little as a 5-minute walking break can boost your mood and make you feel more alert.

By leaving the headphones at home, you also reduced the risk of overstimulating your brain – and it might even help you reflect on what you’ve been learning (and remember it better!).

At the very least, knowing what the weather is like in Scotland, it could be so awful you want nothing more than you retreat inside, get under a blanket and start studying again.

We’re better together!

If you work with or know people doing the same exams, why not meet up (in-person if allowed or digitally if not) and study together. For me, talking things through and asking (or answering) questions definitely helps both my understanding of a topic and the chances that I’ll remember it. And even if it’s something you’re working on independently and in silence, having a friend sitting next to you will always help you focus and stop the temptation to just get up and go!

Remember to ask for help. If you are struggling and are finding things challenging, consider what may be causing this. If you are overstretched at work, your employer might be able to support you. Or, if you are finding the course challenging, there are many ways the qualification bodies could help.

Everyone is different. Although these steps worked for me and helped me push myself to study, they may not work for you, and that’s ok.

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