10 Ways to Put the Sparkle Back into Your Studies
If you're feeling a bit bored and jaded by your studies there are lots of different ways that you can put the spark back into them so that you approach them with energy, inspiration and enthusiasm. Keep reading for my ten ideas that are sure to put the sparkle back into your studies.
10 Ways to Put the Sparkle Back into Your Studies
1. Get Curious
When someone tells me that their studies are ‘boring' it always makes me very sad. You see, every subject that you learn is full of awesome and amazing knowledge and understanding. From getting your head around the infinity of π to learning French, enabling you to communicate with an extra 300 million human beings; from understanding cell division so that you know how you were created and how you grew to appreciating the work of the greatest writers in the English language. Really, if you can't find something to marvel at and get stuck into in every subject that probably makes you a very un-interesting person.
So, get curious, start asking questions about what you're learning and sit back for a moment to appreciate the thousands of years of human research and development that has gone into creating the knowledge that you're lucky enough to just easily extract from a text-book.
2. Remember your ‘why'
Some people literally go through the motions with their studies because they have to, “The government told me to”. However, the ones who get the most out of it a) are genuinely curious and want to know more (see above) and b) understand what's in it for them.
Whether you've got a grand ambition that you've got your heart set on achieving or you just know that you want to keep your options open, remembering what all the hard work is for is really important in keeping that sparkle when you're studying. There is a purpose, it isn't just some pointless grind, and when you realise your goals you'll be so happy!
If you're not sure what your big why is, check out chapter 1 of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take or Module 2 in The Extraordinaries Club to work it out.
3. Read a book, watch a film or documentary or go on a visit
Often when our studies get stale it's because we get disconnected from the reality of what we're learning. I've always loved using novels and films to help me bring history to life, for example watching the ‘Elizabeth' films. While not 100% historically accurate, they give you a vivid mental image of what life for the Tudor queen was like. Similarly with books and films set around the two world-wars.
As a geography student and teacher it was also important for me to get out and see the places I was studying. (I still go on my own mini-geography field trips. Yes, I am a proud #geographygeek.) I studied the London Docklands for my GCSE geography but it was only when I visited them for the first time while I was at university that it really came to life. Similarly, visiting Boscastle after the floods to see the measures they'd put in places to manage and prevent future flooding brought the whole thing to life in a way that a text book just can't.
I could give you more examples, but you don't want to hear my whole geography travel history. Suffice to say, if you're struggling to picture something that exists in real life try to get out and see it. Or, second best, go on a virtual tour on Google Maps. (This doesn't apply just to geography – you can do this with may other subjects). Check out my article on How to Revise Geography Case Studies for more on this.
4. Try learning in a different way
If you've made hundreds of pages of revision notes and now you're reading through them on repeat, it's time to mix things up and try learning in a different way. Things you might try:
- Teaching someone else
- Getting out of your comfort zone and trying some past papers
- Creating a piece of art or drama to illustrate or explain a scientific concept
There's so much you can do. Just switch it up and have fun with it. The more varied your revision techniques the more successful your learning will be.
5. Mix it up
Don't just sit there revising one topic all day, or worse still, for days on end. It's scientifically proven to be more successful to mix up the topics and subjects you study. It's called interleaving. It keeps your brain on it's toes and stops it from getting bored. Try it!
6. Cut out distractions
It's really hard to feel like you're making progress when you aren't. And distractions, like notifications on your phone or sitting in a busy place where your family is getting on with life around you, will definitely hamper your progress.
Everytime you're distracted you brain has to switch ‘contexts'. This takes time and energy, and is ultimately a huge waste of your attention. So, choose one thing to focus on, focus on it for 25 minutes, and then let the distractions in on your break. You'll feel so much better about your studies if you actually make some progress.
7. Take breaks
Taking breaks is an essential part of revision. Just like if you tried to do press-ups all day your arms would get ridiculously tired, your brain can't keep learning without a rest. Think of revision like you would ‘sets' or ‘intervals' in the gym. If you were doing weight training you'd do a certain number of reps, have a rest, then do some more reps. The same with increasing your speed and stamina in running, you do a fast interval, followed by a slow interval on repeat. You also take rest days.
So, with your revision, do short burst with rests in between. Check out this blog post on how long your revision breaks should be for more information.
If you're really bored, tired and stale you need to take a day off, or even have a holiday. If you're a conscientious student it's hard to justify taking time off, but usually, it's for the best in the long-term. You come back to your studies refreshed and energised.
8. Reward yourself
When you do focused work and achieve something good, reward yourself. My favourite reward has always been cake. But, I would also reward myself with an hour of my favourite TV programme at the end of the day. At weekends I would go to watch the Leicester Tigers with my dad. After exams, my mum and dad would take me out a meal, and one year, after my university exams, my mum even took me and my sister to France on holiday.
How can you reward yourself? If you've just done 25 minutes you deserve a smaller reward than if you've stuck to your revision plan all week, but having those incentives in place is essential for keeping you fresh and motivated.
9. Be grateful
I once visited Uganda on a teacher exchange and spent a week in a school there. The classes had 50 students each, there were no text books, the furniture was higgledy-piggledy and broken and the only teaching resource was blackboard and chalk. The students had to pay to be there, and there were students lined up outside the gate who wanted to be inside learning but weren't let in because their families couldn't afford to pay.
In this country, we have free education for everyone with qualified teachers. We have school libraries, public libraries, the internet and so much more that is there to help us to learn. Yes, there are things wrong with our education system, but ultimately, compared to what many people have around the world, we have a huge amount to be grateful for. Not many decades ago, in this country, young people were allowed to leave school with no qualifications at the age of 14. Now, society is ambitious enough for every young person that they are required to stay in free education until they're 18. I think that's pretty amazing and, when you sit back and think about it, we should all be grateful, that by accident of birth, we live in a country where this is provided for us.
10. Get a mindset makeover
If none of the above appeals to you or helps, you need a mindset makeover. Mindset is about attitude, but it's also about discovering what stories we're telling ourselves that are holding us back. Get honest with yourself. Do you believe that no amount of work is going to enable you to pass? Are you telling yourself that you've tried everything to succeed, but when you're really honest with yourself, you know you haven't? If these kinds of things are going through your head you've got a mindset problem. The module on Mindset inside The Extraordinaries Club is a good place to start with sorting this out.
Over to you…
I hope at least one of these ideas is at least tempting to you. Go away and try one to see if it can help bring some sparkle back into your studies. Once you've tried one, try another until you're wowing the people around you with your amazing enthusiasm for your studies. You've got this!
And, if you need someone to hold your hand along the way, my team and I can help. We've got a range of options from 1:1 coaching to joining The Extraordinaries Club for group coaching. Check out the options and get in touch if you're interested.