What stops us from studying?
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “study”?
Most students will immediately think of it as a task which is both difficult and boring. Why is that? It’s because we were never really taught how to study in an interesting and effective way. Without understanding how to approach it, students often avoid beginning their study altogether and tell themselves that they will “start it later”. This often leads to a vicious cycle, overdue study builds up and soon it seems impossible to catch up. This can lead to cramming and last-minute study come the end of the term, with the pressure of exams just around the corner.
Thankfully, there is a simple solution to help you stop avoiding study – thinking positively and creating a structure that will help you get going. This could be as straightforward as setting some goals or writing the first sentence of that English essay you were putting off. Once they get started, my students often find that their assignments are more interesting than they expected and not as difficult as they feared. There is also an amazing sense of satisfaction and relief to be felt when you complete a task. This sense of accomplishment will motivate you to keep up the good work and maintain your study momentum.
Barriers to effective study can be thought of in two ways – conscious and subconscious blocks. More simply, the conscious barriers are those that you are aware of and the sub-conscious ones are those which you might not even know exist.
Conscious barriers include:
- Distractions such as TV, a busy social scene or social Networks.
- There may be practical reasons such as having to help at home or part time work which reduces the time available for study.
- The physical study environment may not be suitable - noisy or lacking privacy.
Most students never have the ideal, perfect conditions for study. Everyone has to deal with these distractions as best they can and make the most of the situation. Remember, you can’t keep on making excuses for not getting started.
The subconscious barriers are not as obvious and may be more difficult to deal with as a result. Here are some of the typical blocks which make it difficult to motivate yourself and get going.
The blocks that get in the way:
- Feelings of self-doubt: Many students ask themselves “Why should I try if I’m just going to fail?” This can lead to a lack of self-belief and less motivation.
- Feelings of anxiety: Worry about the impending exams can cause real stress when studying for the Junior or Leaving Cert. Anxiety is often as a result of not having a plan or structure and not having long-term goals in place.
- Feelings of fear: Every student wants to get their course in the CAO. The fear of not getting it can be a major study distraction, however, and cause them to feel helpless.
- Feeling overwhelmed: With the mountain of work ahead, we begin to panic. It seems impossible to tackle. We keep putting it off as long as we can and this can lead to feelings of hopelessness.
- Fear of failure: For many students, the fear of failure weighs heavily on their minds. It is one of the most common reasons for not studying. Unless a student overcomes this fear, it can be difficult to achieve their goals.
But, it is possible to remove these barriers to study. The following checklist is a great way to start reducing barriers to study and start getting good work done.
How to overcome study blocks:
- It’s good to talk. Chat to a parent, teacher or friend. Discuss your biggest study blocks and decide how to remove these distractions from your day-to-day life.
- Set goals for yourself. With strong goals we empower ourselves to achieve what we want most of all.
- Get rid of self-doubt with positive affirmations. Remind yourself that you are a smart and capable student and don’t undervalue yourself. Celebrate successes and achievements, no matter how small.
- Remember that the key to success is consistency. The most successful students are the ones that do effective work every day.
- Use exercise to expend any nervous energy you have while studying. Going for a quick run before you settle down to work can be a great way to clear your head and stay focused on the books.
- Write down how you feel about different subjects and exams. This helps identify any problems so you can start getting rid of them.
- Think about changing your study environment. To keep things fresh and interesting, try something different such as availing of optional after school study instead of heading straight home to your room.
- Make study a regular part of your routine. This will help cement study as a habit and make it feel less like a chore.
- You might change how you do things at weekends such as not going out on Saturday night and getting up for study early on Sunday morning (when the house may be quieter).
- Don’t let the fear of failure become an issue – use the positive learning from effective study skills techniques to overcome any doubts that you may have about not succeeding in your goals and academic results.
- Most importantly be disciplined. When you decide on a particular approach or plan stick to it. Have periodic reviews and make changes then if necessary.