15 Ways to Make Studying Less Stressful for Maximum Motivation and Great Results

Image shows a woman studying on a bridge over a moving train in the metro in Montreal.

No matter how academic you are, or how much you enjoy studying, the fact of the matter is that learning can be boring at times.

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With lots of facts to be memorised and arguments to be absorbed, not all of which you will find interesting, there are times when studying can seem a chore and motivation can wane. It’s times like these that you need to have a few tried and tested study methods and motivational techniques to fall back on that will reinvigorate you and make the process of studying a little more enjoyable. This article gives you a few ideas to help you bring back the joy of learning and succeed even in your least favourite subjects.

1. Listen to music

Everyone’s different, and some people can’t concentrate with music on in the background. But if you’re trying to get to grips with a topic you just can’t seem to get interested in, having some music on in the background can really help. Experiment a bit to find the right kind of music to work to; many people find that they can’t concentrate on working when there are lyrics in the music, so some gentle orchestral, piano or jazz music may do the trick. They say that Mozart is particularly good for the brain cells; we recommend his clarinet concerto if you aren’t sure where to start!

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2. Set your notes to music

Image shows a pair of skullcandy earbuds on a desk.
Music can be used in lots of different ways to help you study.

You could go a step further with the music and actually use it to help you learn. You’re probably good at remembering lyrics to songs, because the melody and rhymes help cement the words in your mind; you can use the same principle in your studies. If you’re struggling to remember dates, facts or figures, try setting them to music. It may feel a little cheesy, but picking a tune and substituting the lyrics is a great way to remember those facts that just won’t stick. Then when you’re in the exam room, you only have to recall the tune and the facts should come flooding back.

3. Try using interactive learning materials

In this day and age, you have an advantage over previous generations in that you have a wealth of study materials available to you on the internet. With plenty of online courses and other web resources, you’re sure to be able to find some fun interactive learning software for the subject you’re trying to tackle. Such software makes use of multimedia information to help you absorb information more easily, and may include audio, videos and quizzes in addition to straightforward text for you to read. Mixing up the format of your learning materials in this way is a sure-fire way to help you learn more easily, but it also makes the process more enjoyable by breaking up the monotony of studying from books.

4. Use flashcards

Image shows a woman's hands, flicking through flashcards.
Flashcards are a classic revision technique.

Flashcards are a really useful revision resource, but you can use them all year round to make your studying more enjoyable – not just when it comes to exam time. Try condensing the topic into as few words as you can; it’s quite a challenge. Also, design them in such a way that they are visually memorable. Adding colourful drawings to each card to illustrate each topic means that when you’re struggling to remember something, perhaps in class, you can recall what you drew on the card. The chances are that the rest will come back to you when you remember the visual cue.

5. Create posters

Summarising concepts on posters gives you something different to do, and also allows you to be a bit creative with your designs, injecting some fun into your studying in the process. Let’s say you’re learning about photosynthesis. You could design a poster that illustrates how the process works, complete with colourful diagrams and drawings, text outlining the step-by-step process and labels highlighting what each part of the plant is called. When you’re finished, you could hang the poster in your room so that you’re exposed to it in your spare time as well, and you’ll gradually absorb the information without even realising it. It’s a much more fun way of learning difficult concepts, and it will help you get the facts clear in your head.

6. Make up some mnemonics

Image shows the Earth rising, seen from the Moon.
A helpful mnemonic for the planets: My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Noodles.

It may be hard to remember how to spell and say the word mnemonic, but the thing itself is in fact a memory aid. It refers to when you translate information into a form in which you can more easily remember it. For example, many people use the mnemonic “Never Eat Shredded Wheat” to remember the compass directions (“North, East, South, West”). You can use these to help you memorise troublesome facts that just won’t seem to stick in your head. For example, if you’re trying to remember the names of the kings and queens of England, make up a phrase with their initials. Taking monarchs of the last century as an example, we have Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, Elizabeth II – giving us the letters V, E, G, E, G, E. You can then use these on their own, recalling “Vegege”, or you can make up a phrase with the words starting with these initials – for instance “VEGetables Eventually Get Eaten”.

7. Use diagrams to illustrate what you’re learning

We touched on this point earlier with posters and flashcards, but it’s an idea you can apply to every aspect of your learning, including note-taking and essay-writing. Creating drawings and diagrams to illustrate the concepts you’re learning or writing about is a fun way of learning, but it also helps convey points more easily, and in such a way that they will stick in your mind more readily. What’s more, using diagrams in essays helps make your work more interesting for teachers to read, scoring you more points by supporting the clarity of your communication.

8. Invest in some stationery you love using

Image shows a beautiful old-fashioned notebook with a beaded bookmark.
Delicious new stationery can be a great motivating tool.

An easy way to make studying more fun is to invest in some stationery and general desk equipment that you love using. High-quality paper and pens that are a pleasure to write with, a set of colouring pencils, highlighters, a notepad with an attractive cover – all these will make you want to use them! Another trick on the stationery front is to purchase a nice ‘To Do’ list notepad so you can tick things off; nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking things off a list, and it will also allow you to stay on top of what you need to do and when.

9. Treat yourself

Rewarding yourself for your efforts is an important part of making studying more enjoyable, as well as motivating yourself. Keep some healthy snacks with you while you’re working, such as sliced fresh fruit, dried fruit or nuts. If you’re reading something particularly difficult, buy a packet of Skittles, Maltesers or similar, and place one at intervals down the page – you get to eat it when you’ve read up to that point. Thinking slightly longer term, book things to look forward to for your time off. That could be meeting up with a friend, a trip to the cinema to see a film you’re looking forward to, or anything else that will give you a way to relax once you’ve got a hard study session out of the way.

10. Read the book? Now watch the film…

Image shows Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfayden as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
You could ask yourself, which is the better adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – the 1996 BBC series, or the 2005 film?

When you’re studying a work of literature, seeing the film is absolutely no substitute for reading the book. However, when you’ve read the book and spent some time interpreting and analysing it, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a couple of easy hours to watch a film adaptation of it. Provided you take a critical approach to it, there’s nothing wrong with calling this session ‘studying’! Ask yourself how well you think the film has been cast, whether the film does justice to the book, what things have changed and what have remained true to the book, what you’d have done differently, and so on.

11. Read Harry Potter in another language

If you’re learning another language, you can make learning more fun by attempting to read your favourite book in the language you’re learning. We’re giving Harry Potter as an example here because it’s even available in Latin and Ancient Greek! Because you’re already familiar with the plot and characters, you’ll find it easier to get to grips with the language itself.

12. A change of scene

Image shows a young woman studying in a park.
Studying doesn’t have to be about shutting yourself away in a dark library.

Changing your environment can be a great way of regaining your enthusiasm for studying, and provided your change of scene doesn’t bring with it too many distractions, this is a simple means of making studying more enjoyable. This could mean studying in the library rather than at home, moving your desk to by the window so that you can enjoy the view each time you look up from your books, or even heading down to a local coffee shop and burying yourself in your studies with a steaming mug of coffee to keep you alert. On a summer’s day you could try studying in the garden or park, so that you get to enjoy the outdoors without neglecting your studies.

13. Study in small bursts on each topic

Don’t try to spend an entire day studying a single topic; you’ll soon get bored of it! Instead, map out a timetable allocating no more than an hour per topic, breaking bigger ones down if necessary. This means that you’ll have a varied day and be better able to retain interest and enthusiasm for individual subjects. Anything becomes dull if you spend too much time on it, so keep the fun element by stopping before you reach that point.

14. Study with a friend

Image shows a group of students studying by a river in Switzerland.
Working with friends is a great way to boost creativity by exchanging ideas.

Studying with a friend is an almost guaranteed way to make studying more fun, and it’s enormously beneficial to those given to procrastination. It can be difficult to motivate oneself when studying alone, but with someone else there to spur you on (or for you to spur on!), everything seems much easier – particularly when you can help each other understand concepts you’re struggling with. Here are a few ideas for how you can make the most out of studying with a friend:

  • Compare notes on ideas you have and on what you thought of essay questions, set texts or other assignments.
  • Allocate different areas of a topic for each of you to study, and then each of you teaches the other about what you’ve been learning. Having to explain a concept to someone else forces you to learn it properly and think clearly.
  • Engage in some academic discussions and debates, with one of you playing the role of Devil’s Advocate while the other tries to argue a point.
  • Give each other little mini lectures, complete with presentations – this helps you learn the subjects as well as giving you valuable practice at presenting.
  • Set each other quizzes to test what you’ve learned.
  • You could even introduce an element of competition – see who can come up with the most ideas for an essay, who can get to the end of a chapter quickest, and so on.

15. Start a study group

Finally, you could go a step further with the ‘study buddy’ concept and start up a study group with a number of friends. This gives you the benefit of more ideas and opinions, and makes it easier to get an academic discussion going. To make it work, you could allocate a set time each week when you all meet – perhaps at a weekend – and you could arrange your meetings in a coffee shop so that it doesn’t feel quite so much like working (provided you can be disciplined enough to stick to conversations about what you’re meant to be studying!).
Following these tips should help avoid boredom when you’re studying and keep your productivity levels high. Even the subjects you think are dull can be made interesting and enjoyable if you take the right approach, and maintaining this positive attitude is sure to do wonders for your grades!

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Image credits: banner; headphones; flashcards; planet; notebook; Pride and Prejudice; studying; working with friends