Study Tips

How to Get Motivated to Study – Guaranteed

Motivation is the elephant in the room when it comes to sitting down for a long study session. How many times have you said to yourself or heard others say, ‘I don’t feel like it’?

I remember sitting in a tiny bedroom in a shared house studying IP Subnetting at 5am for several weeks while I was preparing for the Cisco CCNA exam. It was 2000 and I was 30 years old and had left behind a career in law enforcement. I was working on a helpdesk with mostly 21 year old’s and I was desperate to get ahead so I could get better pay to support my family and get back to living in my house.

Motivation wasn’t a problem for me. I was in a bad situation and wanted to get out.

I appreciate that most of us struggle when it comes to motivation so I wanted to share a few ideas that might help you get your IT study guides out and get to work.

Unearthing Your “Why”: Pain or Pleasure?

If you feel motivation by the thought of losing something or suffering by not reaching the gold then this is pain based. This “away from pain” motivation can be a powerful kick starter. Visualize the disappointment you’d feel with a poor result and losing around $400 in exam fees.

Pain for me included:

  • Working for a nasty boss
  • Being broke
  • Working with people 10 years younger
  • Doing menial and repetitive work

This type of motivation works on around 75% of us. I’m sure you have heard the story of the dog on the porch crying. When the owner is asked why the dog is crying he tells them that he lay down on a nail. He won’t stand up though because the pain isn’t enough for him to take action. This is the same for most of us, we have enough to get by but aren’t uncomfortable enough to take action or put effort in.

However, relying solely on this away from fear or motivation can be draining. Let’s unlock a more sustainable source of fuel: intrinsic motivation, the drive that propels you towards pleasure and personal growth.


Pleasure or towards based motivation is far more pleasurable. Here you focus on all the wonderful things that will happen for you and those you love WHEN you achieve your goal. It can be about:

  • More free time
  • Better status at work
  • More money to do fun things
  • More challenging or interesting work
  • Feelings of success

Passing the Cisco CCNA for me in 2000 meant getting promoted, a pay increase and being able to move back to where my family lived. It was enough to make me get up at 5am every day and hit the books.

Think about your long-term goals. Acing this exam might be the key to landing your dream college or internship. Maybe it unlocks a career path you’re passionate about. Focusing on this positive vision – the joy of achieving your goals – can be a much more energizing motivator.

Goal Setting: From Vague Wishes to Actionable Steps

Now that you’ve identified your “why,” let’s translate it into a concrete roadmap. Vague aspirations like “do well” won’t cut it. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Specific: Don’t just say “study history.” Instead, aim for “review Chapters 5 and 6, focusing on key events and their causes, by Friday.”
  • Measurable: How will you gauge progress? Is it completing practice questions, creating flashcards, or summarizing key points in your own words?
  • Achievable: Be ambitious, but realistic. Don’t overwhelm yourself with an impossible workload.
  • Relevant: Ensure your goals align with your overall exam objectives.
  • Time-bound: Set deadlines to create a sense of urgency and keep you on track.

Get a notebook and pen and write down what you want to achieve and by when. Write down what you will get when you pass and what will change for you. Also include the negatives of what won’t happen for you. If you start to feel the motivation grow inside you then you are on the right track.

If you can include pictures of what you will achieve all the better. Post images of places you can go on holidays, a car you can afford. Put up photos of people you can see and the job you will be doing. Put them on the fridge also so you see them whenever you get food.

Writing your goals down and displaying them in your study space serves as a constant reminder of your purpose and keeps you accountable.

Building Your Exam-Smashing Battle Plan: The Study Schedule

Imagine entering an exam unprepared – not a comforting thought, right? A well-crafted study schedule is your weapon against feeling overwhelmed.

  • Block out dedicated study time: Schedule realistic chunks throughout the week, factoring in your personal learning style. Are you a morning person who thrives on early sessions, or do you function better with afternoon or evening blocks?
  • Prioritize effectively: Identify the most challenging topics or subjects and allocate more time to them.
  • Schedule breaks: Our brains aren’t built for marathons. Include short breaks every hour to avoid burnout. Get up, move around, grab a healthy snack, and come back refreshed.
  • Be flexible: Life happens. Unexpected events might throw your schedule off. Don’t panic! Review your goals and adjust your schedule accordingly.

There are many free online scheduling tools or apps you can use, but a simple planner or calendar works just as well. The key is to find a system that works for you and stick to it.

My routine was 60 minutes study at 5am. Study during my lunch break for 45 minutes and then again after work. It wasn’t pleasant but I was desperate to pass ASAP. It actually took two attempts but that was due to a bad study strategy on my part.

Taming the Distraction Demons: Your Focus Fortress

Our attention spans are under constant bombardment in today’s digital world. Social media notifications, the allure of that new game on your phone – these distractions can derail even the most well-intentioned study session. Here’s how to build your focus fortress:

  • Identify your weak spots: Are you a social media fiend or do you get lost in the rabbit hole of online browsing? Be honest with yourself so you can tackle the most problematic distractions.
  • Silence the Sirens: During dedicated study periods, silence your phone notifications, or consider putting it in airplane mode altogether. If you find yourself constantly checking social media, consider website blockers or browser extensions that restrict access for a set time.
  • Declutter your environment: A messy desk or study space can be visually distracting. Tidy up, remove unnecessary clutter, and only have study materials at hand when you’re in focus mode.


Embrace technology for good: There are many apps designed to help you stay focused. Consider apps that use the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that breaks work into focused intervals with short breaks in between. Apps that create white noise or ambient soundscapes can also help mask distractions and create a more study-conducive environment.

Rewarding Yourself: The Cherry on Top of Hard Work

The human brain is wired to respond positively to rewards. It reinforces positive behaviors, like your focused study time! So go ahead and plan fun rewards for yourself. After all, you deserve it!

  • Little milestones, big wins: Don’t just wait for the final exam result. Reward yourself for completing a study session, conquering a particularly difficult topic, or achieving daily goals. This could be a favorite snack, a short episode of a show you like, or a relaxing walk with good music.
  • Align rewards with your goals: If your aim is to ace that math exam and land a spot in the advanced class, treat yourself to a new scientific calculator or a set of challenging logic puzzles to keep your mind sharp.
  • Don’t sabotage progress: Reward yourself with treats, experiences, or activities, not by skipping subsequent study sessions or compromising your healthy habits.

Finding Your Study Tribe

Sometimes, conquering exams is a team sport. Forming a study group with motivated classmates can be a game-changer. Surround yourself with positive, focused individuals who share your goals.

  • Accountability and encouragement: Agree on study times, keep each other motivated, and cheer each other on as you navigate those tricky subjects.
  • Diverse strengths: Pool your knowledge and resources. Someone in your group might have a killer grasp of biology concepts, while you’re the grammar guru. Teach each other and learn from each other.
  • Moral support: Let’s face it, exam stress can be overwhelming. Just having your study group there to share the load and offer words of encouragement can lighten the burden and keep you feeling energized.

Final Thoughts: Embrace the Process

Preparing for exams can feel like a grueling mountain climb, but remember to find joy in the journey! The act of learning itself is incredibly rewarding. Celebrate your knowledge gains, appreciate your growth mindset, and remember: the effort you put in now directly influences your future success.

I hope these strategies fuel your motivation and empower you to smash your exams! If you have any other questions about study tactics or conquering exam woes, feel free to ask.

Let’s get those study wins!


no shadow WCNA

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