earn good grades Even If you hate studying + 3 small, easy tweaks to get your grades back on track
Do you hate studying but want to earn a degree? Welcome, friend, you are in good company!
I became a college professor because I love the education process. But I still don’t like to study. It would be difficult to find someone who truly loves studying for study’s sake. What you find are successful college students who manage their approach to school well and put in the work to earn good grades.
I have a few easy tweaks to help you get your grades back on track even if you hate studying.
Why Do We Hate Studying?
In short, we hate studying because it feels like work and we are wired to desire feel-good things, not difficult things.
This is also why we hate exercising, eating healthy, etc. Ultimately, you already know this, right? When engaged in these activities which are undoubtedly good for us it doesn’t necessarily feel good.
I’ve got a truth bomb for ya’: everything is not supposed to feel good all the time.
A hatred of studying stems from thoughts like this:
- this should be easy
- this should be fun
- this should make me feel good
- this should motivate me
You know those are crazy thoughts, right? And yet we unconsciously have this spin in our minds about studying (all of us) and it only makes things harder.
1. Figure out What You Want, and WHY
To earn better grades you have to put time and effort into schoolwork. If you hate studying and aren’t putting in the time and effort the first step is to change what you focus on. For a minute, don’t think about the assignment you have to do or even the course you are in. Think big picture.
Why do you want a degree?
What does your future look like with a degree?
How does this degree change things for you and your family?
When working on my MFA degree I was working full-time during the day and working full-time every other moment as a student. I regularly went to work early, skipped my lunch break, stayed up late, turned down invitations, went to the library, and studies like it was my job. Because it kind of was.
It’s hard to balance college, work, family, and the rest of life. I studied because I wanted to…
- learn something new.
- be better at my current job.
- set a positive example for my kids.
- earn an A.
- get a better job.
- make more money.
- finish school early.
- be proud of myself.
- prove I could do it.
All of those motivators were about me and what I wanted. They were never about a course or assignment. The first step to getting better grades when you hate studying is to shift your focus. Stop focusing on the specifics of what is in front of you (courses, exams, papers, etc) and focus on the future in front of you.
2. tweaks Your habits for Major impact
Next, we have to have solid habits. Habits are the foundation to keep us moving forward when we don’t feel like it. Read more in-depth about the most important habits of successful college students. But if you truly hate studying and are starting out fresh with study habits, I have a suggestion for where to begin.
I want to build a regular habit of exercise. I have started on this habit too many times to count and always give up. When getting started I craft the perfect exercise schedule for my week. I get really specific about what to do every day and schedule 30-45 minutes of exercise every day. I feel like a balla’ with my plan.
I see these things on my calendar and tell myself I don’t have 30 minutes. It feels like a LOT to do. Just looking at what I had planned makes me tired.
So I skip it. And then skip it tomorrow.
The problem with my approach is I was trying to start with the optimized plan before I had any basic habits in place. (You don’t start the Olympics before learning to swim.) I was starting too big when I needed to start small. So I shifted my model. I came up with five minutes of exercises to do each day. That’s it. Just 5 minutes.
And then I did it every single day.
I would see it on my list and I would think, “This only takes five minutes. I can do it.” It was sometimes challenging to get started, but I literally had time for it every day. After four or five weeks of building a consistent daily habit, I start to optimize it further. I thought about my schedule and where I could do more, and what was the best exercise for me.
What is most important (and what finally worked for this exercise procrastinator) is building a consistent habit of showing up. Here are a few examples to start your study habits small. Pick one to begin:
- Study for five minutes at the same time every day
- Read five pages in your textbook every day
- Review your study notes for five minutes every day
- Go to the library for five minutes every day
Then you practice these small goals consistently. Give yourself two weeks and make sure you complete these activities every single day. This builds the habit of consistency and showing up for your schoolwork.
Don’t focus on how much work you do or don’t do each day. Focus on studying every day, just for five minutes.
When your new daily habit feels easy and normal, then start to optimize it a little more. Make it 10 minutes. Then 20 minutes.
3. Plan a reward in advance
Now you have a new 5-minute daily habit, but sometimes it still feels like a chore to get started. My final tweak is to plan a reward after you complete the habit.
What is something you WANT to do?
Allow yourself to do it only after you complete your 5-minute daily habit. Maybe after your study session, you will:
- go meet a friend for lunch or coffee
- take a walk
- play a video game
- read a good novel
- work out
- play with your kids
- have a snack
- watch some TV
The key is to pick something you WANT to do. You might even think about what you are doing when you procrastinate and then plan the same activity for your break instead.
The more you practice this approach, the easier it gets.
We have a family saying “First we work, then we play. That’s the Shields family way.” When we started this with our 2-year old it didn’t get great results, but we kept repeating our little phrase and living it out. We all get our work done and then we do fun things together.
At 3-years old she knows it now and it’s a habit. Want to watch TV? She knows to pick up her toys first. Want to play a game after dinner? She knows to clear the table and help clean up first. She can trust in the process and delay gratification much better because we have practiced it every day and it’s become our motto. We get the chores/work/study out of the way first and then we really enjoy the fun things together.
Let’s be honest…when you procrastinate by playing video games, watching TV, etc., you aren’t fully enjoying it. There is a big dose of guilt knowing you should be studying instead.
But when it’s your reward and the studying is done, it is much more enjoyable.
Building habits are like riding a roller coaster blindfolded. We can’t see what’s ahead, we can only feel what’s happing at the moment. When building new habits they usually start out pretty easy…then they get high/harder…and high/harder…and usually right before the big drop, they feel terribly difficult.
If you bailed on the roller coaster before the big drop you would miss out on the fun. If you bail on your new habits before they get easier (and they DO get easier), you are missing out on the accomplishment and good feelings about to come your way.
And don’t miss out on the #1 way to beat procrastination.
Try It Yourself: 10-minute Challenge
- Set a timer for 5 minutes and make a list of what you want from your degree and why you want it.
- Pick one 5-minute daily habit to begin. Write it down and give yourself reminders.
- Practice it every single day until it feels easy. Then pick another. 🙂