How to Study When You Don’t Feel Like It – 4 Steps


I’m going to share a secret with you. I am, in fact, human. And I, too, have several moments where doing work or studying is the last thing that I want to do. Over the years, I’ve learned how to work even when I don’t want to get more done.

In this post, I’ll show you how to do the same. If you follow these instructions, I guarantee you’ll see results.


The Core Principle

I am a firm believer that systems produce results. Relying on motivation, inspiration, being energized, or any other fleeting emotion will not sustain you or deliver the results you desire.

I apply this philosophy to all aspects of my life—from regularly exercising to eating healthily to studying and getting work done. It’s the system that delivers the results. Period. Now, let’s go over how you too can create a system that allows you to overcome feeling tired, feeling bored, or just plain feeling like you don’t want to study.


Step 1 | Audit Yourself

The first step is assessing your current state. You may know your study habits and strategies are not working, and you want to fix things. The tricky thing about advice is one size does not fit all. You must first objectively examine your own habits and systems to figure out what you can optimize most effectively.

Focus on the largest pain points that allow you to put in the least amount of effort to gain maximum results.

In order to do this, I suggest you keep a journal or open up a note on your phone and jot down what you are doing and how you’re feeling over the course of a day. Who are you studying with? When did you eat? When did you try to study, and when did you begin feeling like you were over it?

Doing this over a couple of days will give you a better view of your current systems and pain points. You may find yourself growing more mindful of how you feel and the things occurring around you, as I did. I now practice meditation regularly and journal every night as part of my bedtime routine, which I find quite helpful.


Step 2 | Use the Power of Language

Sounds a bit woo-woo, right? Hear me out. The power of language is the most important part of this entire process. This is the foundation of the entire system. Our entire world is understood through language. By making small adjustments, we can very effectively reduce the friction involved in getting work done.

Still not with me? Here are some ways to implement it:

“So What”

When I tell myself, “I don’t feel like studying,” I say out loud, “so what?” No, literally; I actually say “so what” out loud, which snaps me out of the limiting mindset. I’m in control. My feelings are fleeting, so why would I follow them? The next time you don’t feel like studying, say it out loud, and then say, “so what?”

“And” Instead of “But”

Use the word “and” instead of “but” when facing your problems.

When you say “I have to study for my midterm, but I’m tired and I don’t feel like studying,” you’re limiting your potential options of action. You’re essentially telling yourself, “well, I need to study, but I can’t because I don’t feel like it!” However, when you say, “I have to study for my midterm, and I don’t feel like studying,” you have two separate phrases, and the second one doesn’t negate the first. You’re now telling yourself two independent phrases that don’t conflict with one another.

As someone who is very scientifically-minded, type A, and logical, this initially felt like some touchy-feely nonsense, but I assure you, it works. Try it out and see for yourself how effective it really is.


Step 3 | Lower the Activation Energy

Dig back to your biology and chemistry classes. Do you remember how enzymes work? They facilitate a reaction by acting as a catalyst, meaning they lower the activation energy. The reaction we’re going to catalyze is getting you to study.

The main problem we have isn’t an issue of actually doing the work. It’s just starting. Starting is the hardest part. So how do we make it easier?

Create Small Sub-Tasks

Take your large task and break it into something small. Once you think you’ve made it small, make it even smaller than that. You’re likely not thinking small enough. For example, if you need to read two chapters in your biology textbook in preparation for your upcoming quiz, telling yourself to read just one chapter or even one section is still too big.

Instead, tell yourself to read one paragraph. No obligations. Just one paragraph, and then you can assess if you want to keep working or not. More often than not, you’ll find it much easier to keep going.

Decrease the Time Commitment

Do the same with your time commitment. It’s great that you blocked out the next three hours to do work, but guess what? Studying for three hours is incredibly daunting. Here’s how you get past that.

You’re no longer studying for three hours anymore. Instead, you’re studying for only 25 minutes, which is a lot easier than three hours. After the 25 minutes are done, you get a break, guaranteed.

This is the Pomodoro technique in action, and it’s one of my favorite study hacks.

Choose Easy Tasks to Build Momentum

Early on in the day, I generally like to knock out the difficult tasks first, since it makes the rest of the day a breeze. But I don’t always get the luxury of doing that. There are instances where starting is so difficult that there’s no way I am able to tackle the most daunting task first.

In those instances, I start with something easy. This can be something as simple as doing my laundry or washing dishes. Once I’ve built the momentum of getting something small done with a small victory, it becomes much easier to step it up to something a little bigger.

Lower Your Expectations – Hero to Zero

This one applies to creative works, such as writing an essay. First, using the steps above, we’ve already told ourselves we’re not writing an essay, just one sentence. And we’re not writing for one hour, just for three minutes.

If you find you still can’t get started, lower your expectations. Intentionally tell yourself you’re going to write something bad. And I don’t mean if the writing is bad that’s fine. No, you’re literally going to intentionally write something bad. Try this technique next time you’re stuck. You can thank me later.


Step 4 | Add Some Spice

If after steps 1 through 3 it’s still feeling a bit dry, it’s time to add a bit of flavor to the process. I find the methods included here to be particularly useful if you’ve been studying for some time and find yourself running out of steam. This can be done in several different ways. Here are my favorites that have proven most effective.

Vary the Type of Studying or Subject Matter

First, if you find yourself getting bored of looking at your physics textbook, change it up by either doing practice problems or studying for your English class instead. You can either vary the subject, such as going from physics to English, or vary the method of studying, such as going from reading to doing practice problems.

One of my favorite ways to change it up is by doing one or two Pomodoro cycles of Anki flashcards and then returning to my other work. It almost always makes me feel more refreshed.

Incentivize Yourself with Rewards

Find something you’re looking forward to and tell yourself you’ll be able to do it immediately after you finish your task. Let’s say a new episode of Top Gear comes out or maybe you’re excited to go out with your friends on a Friday night.

Tell yourself you’ll be able to do exactly that as soon as you’re done with your work. Watch yourself become much more efficient.

Get Up and Move

Moving has two benefits. First, physically moving your body around with walking or some light exercise is a highly effective way to reset and get into a better mindset that’s ready for work.

Second, moving to a new location can provide enough of a novel stimulus to get you out of the rut and build up momentum again.


By following this four-step system, you’ll be well-equipped to get your studying and work done, regardless of how you feel.

To really get the most out of this video and optimize your system, I recommend two additional posts. First, 7 Steps to Cure Procrastination, and second, How to Achieve Super Human Efficiency and Productivity.


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