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Discipline with Studying


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?