Studying is hard. Not only the process of studying itself, but also finding the motivation to study on days when your time and energy are limited. But high-quality learning is a long-term process. As I mentioned in this article, I never cram for tests anymore. Instead, I developed a habit of studying every day, even when I’m not motivated.
Here’s how I continue to cultivate discipline with studying:
1. I write down my goal
I use the sticky notes function on my computer so that when I open my laptop, I see my study goal. I’m currently in a fairly demanding rotation as part of my medical clerkship. Therefore, I made my goal quite reasonable: I read one lecture every day. I’ll of course have to pick up the pace closer to my exams, but having my goal written down ensures that I stay focused every day.
2. It’s not an option
I have certain things in my life for which I tell myself that not doing them is not an option. We already do this with other habits. For instance, I don’t need to motivate myself to brush my teeth in the morning; it’s just not an option. I started doing this with my weekly workouts a long time ago. And now I’m doing it with my daily studying habit. I used to waste energy trying to decide whether I should study or not, or squeeze in a workout or not. Now, it’s not an option. I just do it, and I no longer spend time worrying about it.
3. I reward myself
I find it rewarding to check things off of a to-do list. (It’s the little things in life, right?) So for my goal of studying every day, I have a list of all the lectures I want to read over, with a little check box beside each of them. I get satisfaction from checking that box when I’m done. Now, I recognize that this reward doesn’t work for everyone. But there’s usually something nice that you can do for yourself to cultivate discipline using positive reinforcement. Get creative!
4. I get it done early
If I have a daily goal, I always try to complete it at the beginning of the day. I love starting the day by accomplishing something that will help me progress towards my long-term goals. Furthermore, I have the most energy after a good night’s sleep. That means that my studying is usually higher quality (meaning I retain more) when I do it earlier on.
5. I recognize it’s hard
There’s something freeing in accepting that studying is hard. I know that I may not always enjoy studying. Learning something new is challenging. But that’s also what makes it rewarding. I’m consistently improving myself by doing hard things. Studying daily is hard – and that’s okay!
How do you cultivate discipline?