How to start studying and stop procrastinating - student chewing pencil while looking at laptop
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Exactly how to start studying and stop procrastinating

So you have to study and you just can’t bring yourself to do it. Everyone’s been there. You just don’t want to study because it seems like a chore, boring, and like there are so many more fun things you can do with your time. But you know that you need to stop procrastinating and start studying, so here you are, wondering how to start studying.

Well in order to break through the procrastination and start studying, we must first look at why we procrastinate studying. Then we can look at tools you can use to stop procrastinating and start studying.

So, let’s jump in and figure out how to start studying.

The reason you procrastinate studying


A huge reason people procrastinate studying is because they don’t feel confident in what they are doing. They might not feel confident in what they are learning, that they understand it, or that they will perform well when it comes to demonstrating what they know, such as in a test or in front of a class or group.

A lack of self-confidence is a real killer because it can cause you to become so afraid of failure that you never start the process of actually gaining self-confidence.

The only way to get self-confidence is to practise. You cannot get confident at what you are studying unless you go through the painful process of actually trying to learn it. The more you do it, the easier it will become, and the more confident you will become.

What is clear is that avoiding studying will not help you. If you avoid study then you will never get better at it.

Just trust in the process that you can and will get better. It may feel hard, it may be difficult, and it may hurt, but know that, as with anything, if you keep doing it you will get better at it.

Fear and anxiety

Tied in to self-confidence, you may have fears connected to what you are studying. Maybe you fear what comes after the study – an exam, an essay or paper you have to write, or being faced with the fact that you might not understand everything.

Or maybe you are anxious because you have a huge amount of study to do. Perhaps you procrastinate studying because it has become overwhelming, either due to the amount you have to do, or because you have now left it so long that it has become stressful.

But you have to know that the only way through this fear and anxiety is straight on. The more you avoid studying, the more anxious and fearful you will get. The more anxious and fearful you get, the harder it will become to start.

The easiest way to tackle this is in small chunks (as we will discuss below). But know that the fear and anxiety does not need to be as difficult as it currently feels. Just trust that, the more you do it, the easier it will become.

You don’t like it and don’t see the present benefits

As humans, we like instant gratification. We like things that make us feel good. For many (most?) people, studying does not feel good. It can feel hard, feel like a chore, and generally not be fun.

But there is a way through this.

The problem of wanting instant gratification is that we don’t easily see that something we do now can give us real gratification in the future. After all, if you study now, you know you will be more likely to do better later with whatever you are studying, and, therefore, do better in a test, presentation, etc.

So we need to be able to see the gratification now.

Although you might not ever find it truly enjoyable to study, you can enjoy the process of becoming good at studying. You can be pleased with yourself that you are making yourself disciplined. You can enjoy the fact that you are the kind of person who can do things even when they don’t necessarily enjoy it. You can like the fact you are learning what you are studying.

So the trick here is to move what will be real in the future to what is real right now. Find a way to feel good about the studying and see the future benefits now.

How to stop procrastinating and start studying

The points above are all well-and-good, but how do we actually stop procrastinating and start studying?

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques you can use to help yourself start.

Visualise your success

The human brain does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. If you have fear over doing something or don’t believe you can, a really useful tactic is to visualise doing it.

If you visualise being good at studying, visualise sitting down, getting it done, and enjoying the process, you brain will believe that you have already done it. In that way, it will become easier to stop procrastinating studying and actually become good at studying.

Visualise the possible failure

Adding on to the above point, you may find it beneficial to be driven by the pain of not studying. Perhaps you know you will get in trouble if you don’t study, or you will fail a test, or you won’t get a particular job you want. These are all useful things you can use to stop avoiding studying.

If you close your eyes and really imagine the failure that comes with not studying, really feeling the pain of not having done it, really feeling the regret associated, then your body will feel that pain and will want to do something about it.

After you visualise the possible failure and feel that pain, you may want or need to go back to visualising your success before starting, so that your brain believes you can do it.

Use structure to your advantage

Not having structure in your day and with your time can really cause you to waste a huge amount of time.

When you don’t decide what you want to do with your time in advance, it becomes all too easy to delay in actually deciding what to do. You can end up spending huge amounts of time deciding.

Further, as a tendency, you will want to put off the thing that is most important or that is bothering you the most – i.e., your studying!

So a great thing you can do is actually make a timetable for yourself, just like at school. Decide when you are going to do particular things and then follow that timetable.

If you don’t have to think about what to do, then you can dive right in without wasting energy and wasting your limited decision-making abilities.

One of the best things you can do is actually decide what to do the next day the evening before. That means it will not only be on your mind as soon as you get up, but you also won’t waste time in the morning figuring things out for the day.

Do things in small chunks

Tasks like studying can feel really overwhelming when there is a lot to do. You can look at your list of things to study and just feel a massive sense of overwhelm and dread, and that doesn’t make you want to actually do the studying!

So one of the best things you can do to stop procrastinating and start studying is to break your studying down in to small chunks. These can either be topics you can study individually, or time segments of learning. For example, you could study for 25 minutes at a time, or choose to do one chapter at a time. Whatever works for you.

The point is to avoid the overwhelm that comes with seeing a large amount of studying to do, which only ends in you avoiding studying. Break things down in to smaller chunks and you will find it much easier.

Try giving yourself very short and strict time limits

Similar to the above, you may find it helpful to do things as quickly as possible. Not in such a way that you don’t take anything in, but just from a sense of urgency standpoint.

If you know you have to get through something and know that you have a very short time to do it in, your brain will find a way to get it done in that time. If you give yourself only half an hour to study something that would usually take you an hour, if you really believe in your limits, you will find a way to do it.

The trick is that you have to make sure you stick to your strict time limits and don’t start to think that you can let yourself off the hook. So one way to do this would be, for example, to know you have to do the studying before you are due to go out somewhere. Or maybe you want to do it before a favourite show you watch is on. Whatever works for you that means you can’t cheat yourself.

Work with someone else

Accountability buddies can really help when you have to get something done. The idea of someone being there to make sure you do what you need to do, whilst you make sure they get done what they need to get done, can really help you to focus.

You need to find someone reliable that is not going to distract you, or someone you don’t work with but merely report to, or you can work with someone online (I use FocusMate).

This works because the idea of telling someone that you didn’t achieve what you set out to in a work session is embarrassing. It can be just what is needed to make you actually sit down and start studying.

Give yourself rewards

Humans can be trained to do things more easily. If you can find a way to give yourself a rewards after you have done your studying, then you will find it easier to start studying in the future.

You must make sure, when doing this, that you don’t give yourself the reward in advance. You also have to be strict that you only get the rewards if you did what you set out to do.

Don’t make the experience easier on yourself just to get the reward. Humans grow when they push themselves, so you have to make sure that you deserve the reward.

This does take some discipline, so it might be best to ask your accountability buddy to give you the reward or decide whether you can have the reward at all.

Just start

The single best thing you can do when figuring out how to start studying is to simply start studying.

It’s tempting to sit there and wonder why you can’t study, to get annoyed at the fact you find it so hard, or to try and figure out ways to make it easier. But that can really just be wasted time.

And, most of the time, the most obvious, and possibly easiest, thing to do is actually staring at us in the face – we just need to start studying.

Once you start studying, it becomes easier. So often we build up this idea that something is going to be hard, that it is going to be challenging, but, actually, once we start, we realise it’s not that bad after all.

Once you start, it’s very easy to get on a roll and keep going. And when you keep going, you feel better about yourself and you find it easier to start again and keep going.

It can feel incredibly hard to “just start”, and this can feel like a bit of a kick in the teeth as advice. But that doesn’t stop it being true.

Yes, it can feel hard to start. Yes, you might believe you can’t do it. But if you jsut sit down and start, you will soon find that you keep going and find it much easier in the future.

Rather than asking how to start studying, maybe try the simplest thing on this list and just start! Even if just for a few minutes, and see how much easier it is to continue.

How to start studying – Conclusion

Being stuck with the question of how to start studying can feel like an incredibly overwhelming and tiring thing.

Procrastinating studying can feel like the easier option at the time, and feel like it doesn’t have huge ramifications. But if you procrastinate studying then you will damage yourself in the long-run. The short-term pleasure of avoiding studying is not worth the long-term pain that can come with it.

It does not have to be as hard as our brains can make it feel. Rather than constantly wondering how to start studying, take some or all of the steps outlined in this post. You will soon find it much easier to start studying and, importantly, to continue studying.

Trust that the brain is like a muscle – it will grow with practise (importantly, practise that pushes you). You will find it easier the more you do it.

So stop reading this now. Use the tactics outlined above and remember, most importantly, the best thing you can do for yourself – even if it feels hard – is to just start.

How to start studying

These tips on how to start studying will help you to finally stop procrastinating and start studying.

  1. Understand what procrastination is and why you are procrastinating.

    If you understand it, then you will know how to beat it.

  2. Visualise your success.

    The brain doesn’t know the difference between what you have imagined doing and what you have actually done, so use this to your advantage and start believing that you can study on demand.

  3. Visualise the possible failure.

    Use the pain of possible failure and what it will mean if you don’t study to motivate yourself to start now.

  4. Use structure to your advantage.

    Don’t waste time and energy deciding what to do when you need to actually be working. Instead, decide in advance what you are going to to and when you are going to do it. This saves you energy that you can put towards studying.

  5. Do things in small chunks.

    Take away the overwhelm associated with having to study a large amount of material. Break it down in to smaller parts and you will find things much easier.

  6. Try giving yourself very short and strict time limits.

    Create a sense of urgency about your studying. If you give yourself a short amount of time to do your studying in, and you commit to doing it in that amount of time, then your brain will find a way to get it done.

  7. Work with someone else.

    Having an accountability buddy that you have to keep in check and who will keep you in check, can add a good layer of pressure on what you have to do. It would be embarrassing to tell that person you procrastinated your studies, so you are more likely to start studying.

  8. Give yourself rewards.

    Humans can be trained to like things through rewards. So even if you don’t like studying right now, you can learn to like it because of the reward you get at the end of it. Be strict with giving yourself the reward – don’t give yourself the reward if you don’t do your studying to the level you intended.

  9. Just start.

    The simplest answer to how to start studying is to just start. It can feel incredibly hard, but, often times, when we just start doing the thing we fear or that we are avoiding, it becomes a whole lot easier. Force yourself to take the first step, stick with it for even a few minutes, and you will soon find it easier to keep going, and to start studying again in the future.

Further Reading

If you generally find it hard to study, or don’t feel like you are a good student, you may find a New Year’s Resolution essay to be just the thing you need. You can write an essay about what you want to achieve over the next year and going forwards, which can help to focus your mind. Even if it’s not New Year, you can still use it to create new resolutions and good habits. You might also want to check out these New Year Resolutions for Students to help give you some inspiration when writing the essay.

If you suffer from procrastination, these Top 10 Things That Waste Your Time might help you to realise how you can spend your time better.

9 Ways to KILL procrastination and start studying
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Disclaimer: Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or other professional advice. You should always seek the advice of a professional, qualified person.  

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