Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been talking about final exams in my Anti-Boring world. And if you’ve been watching my videos, you may know how to make yourself an anti-cram plan so you’re not going to cram at the last minute, but you’re going to study over several weeks before final exams, right?
So, students, you have this nice and pretty plan…but how the heck do you get yourself to follow through???
Educators, how do you help students actually do the amazing plans that they create with you, either in your classrooms or in your coaching sessions?
It’s a conundrum!
So today we’re going to look at 10 different ways you can trick yourself into following through…and at the very end, I’ll have a very special tip for teachers and coaches about how you can help students maximize their ability to take action on their plans.
Read on…or watch the video.
My Top 10 Tips to Motivate Yourself to Follow Through on Your Plan
How do you actually get yourself to take action when you’ve made a nice and pretty plan and you don’t feel like doing anything, but you know you need to if you’re going to accomplish your goals?
- Use timers in 25-ish minute bursts.That’s something that’s called the Pomodoro Technique, and you can Google that if you want. What I have found is that many students don’t necessarily like 25 minute increments: some prefer shorter increments like maybe 15 or 20 minutes; some prefer longer increments. What matters most is that you set a timer for a short enough amount of time that you feel willing to do, which is the best way to get yourself started. Once you’ve done one or two timed bursts, then you might be able to sit and study for longer, but at least use that timer to get started.
- Take breaks that actually move your body. When I watch students working, I see them sitting and sitting longer and sitting longer…and then when they take their break, they get their phone and they mess with that. It’s okay to be on your phone, but get yourself up. Maybe go outside, get some vitamin D on your face if you’re in a place that has sunlight this season, and maybe check in on your scrolling. Or, maybe get up and actually do some jumping jacks, or dance to a song, or walk around the house for a little bit, go put the laundry in the washer–something to move your body before you come back and set the timer to do another little burst.
- Schedule time in advance with other people to co-work. This one works really well for me. My hardest time to take action is probably 9 A.M because that’s the start of my work day, and I sometimes just don’t want to get to work. But if I have a meeting on the calendar to co-work with someone, that solves the problem. I did this just this week with a friend. In this case, it was my friend Jo and we planned to do a Power Hour just to get ourselves going. It worked! I got myself going, and then I was able to work without her afterwards.
So look at your anti-cram plan that you made on your making time visible page and then decide which are the times you might have trouble following through. Then, schedule a time with a friend, sibling, parent, friend of the family–it doesn’t matter who it is as long as you can rely on them. Knowing they’re going to expect you to be there and then working quietly alongside them will ensure you follow through on your plan.
- Quiz yourself using things like whiteboards. Whiteboards are incredibly motivating–I don’t know why, they just are. Clearly, I love writing on them! So get yourself a marker, get a white board, and when you don’t feel like quizzing yourself, maybe do it on the whiteboard. When you don’t feel like drawing a chart or pulling everything from your notes together in one place, maybe do it on your whiteboard. For whatever reason, it’s motivating. The 8.5” x 11” ones are great, but I also recommend having a bigger one in your bedroom if you can. There’s also whiteboard paint so you can turn an entire wall or door into a whiteboard. There are so many options, but this really will help you follow through
- Listen to music, though preferably instrumental music, so it can help you hold the space, hold the container. I like to suggest for your studying that you have some music that keeps you going, that may have a beat to it, but that’s not going to distract you with the lyrics. So I highly recommend that many of my students actually have playlists that are video game playlists, because that’s instrumental and it’s kind of exciting because it has energy that says go, go, go go!
- Pay attention to your environment. Can you make your space for studying anti-boring? Maybe three weeks before finals, clean your room, maybe get yourself a nice smelling candle to put there–there’s something about the flickering flame that makes me feel less alone; I can’t explain it, but it works for me–or put up fairy lights. What can you do to make your space interesting? Maybe go to the Dollar Store and get yourself some extra fidget toys, something, anything to make your space feel different and interesting.
- Stock the house with fun supplies (parents, this is where you can help!).
Somehow I thought about the fact that we often buy medicines at the pharmacy and do not even know whether it is necessary to take them for a particular disease https://www.faastpharmacy.com/. And we do not always know how to store them properly. But I wonder how literate our people are in all sorts of pill issues?
- Post-its are great for quizzability.
- Giant Post-it notes that can go on the wall where you could try to summarize all your notes in one place.
- Poster boards. I personally feel a little bit more stressed out about paper because once you’ve put it on paper, you can’t erase. That’s why I like the whiteboard but some students really like having these big things in place.
- Whiteboards, 8.5” x 11” and a larger one for the wall
- Blue tape! Use blue tape to attach your flash cards on the wall–maybe down a hallway, so you can walk down the hallway and quiz yourself. You look at the word on the flash card that’s blue taped to the wall, and then flip it up to see what’s on the other side. Doing this while you’re walking means you’re actually moving your body while you’re quizzing yourself.
- Flashcards on rings. They sell these at Walgreens and other places and, for some reason, it’s kind of fun to see all your flashcards all in one place on a ring set or in different colors.
- Prioritize Sleep! I know it’s hard–you just want to stay up late–but, please, prioritize sleep! It just is amazing how much better we think when we are getting the sleep we need, so please do that. It really will help you be more motivated to follow through.
- Fill the house with healthy, but fun, snacks, including fun protein for breakfast. Having more protein first thing in the day really does help your brain get the fuel it needs to think more effectively, so don’t skimp on that. Maybe have protein bars around. You can also have some unhealthy snacks if that’s motivating to you, as well, but do make sure that your nutrition needs are being met at this time.
- Work in new and interesting places. Have you tried the bathtub without water? Or with water, if you happen to have your flashcards on Quizlet? I will do my finances in the bathtub on my finance app holding my phone because I’m unmotivated to do them generally, but, ooh that nice warm water, makes it so much more pleasant. The bathtub, with or without water, is a nice, contained space. You can close close the door or close the curtain, and there you are with nothing else to see. Put a couple pillows in there, and I bet that could be a great study space for 45 minutes. So switch it up! Coffee shops are wonderful places to go. Outdoors under trees can be a wonderful place to go if you’re someone who’s not distracted by things that are outside.
The point here is when you notice your attention flagging, go study in different places. There actually is some science that shows that when we study the same content in different places, it actually creates bigger neural pathways for that information, especially as compared to studying always in the same place. The brain really likes variety, and there’s more effort and more attention that comes when we switch it up.
So these are my 10 favorite things to tell students about how to trick yourself into following through with your anti-cram final plans, but I’m sure there are hundreds of other ways to be motivated. You can put some of your favorites that I haven’t mentioned down below in the comments. I think it would be super fun to see what else there is out there!
Now, for my classroom teachers and coaches who work one-to-one with students, here’s something for you all! I recommend keeping a running list throughout the semester, but at the very least in the couple of weeks leading up to final exams, that share some of these tips that I’ve given for self-care and then ask students, “what else have you noticed about how to get yourself to follow through?” Sometimes I even like to say, “how to trick yourself to follow through” because that’s what we’re always doing–we’re trying to trick ourselves to just get started. Once we get started, we’re probably going to be able to continue, but it’s that initiating that is so difficult for so many of us. So just let this be a regular part of your conversation, and maybe as an entrance ticket at the beginning of class, have people put new ideas of things they tried to get themselves to follow through, and keep that on a running list in class.
People are so used to classroom teachers only teaching the content, the academic, serious stuff. I think the more teachers can weave in some of these “how to be human in today’s day and age” lessons, the better. And, sometimes that lesson doesn’t have to be you, the teacher, offering advice, but simply keeping a running list of what students have noticed. What data can they collect about their experiences? What motivates them? To put this on a list can only take maybe a minute every class period. Then, throughout the semester, we’ll see that list grow and grow and then it will only help spark new ideas.
Tip number two for teachers and educators is to learn my “Get in Gear” model that I teach students. It’s a checklist for how to follow through when you’re noticing you just can’t take action, when you’re procrastinating. The way you learn the full Get in Gear mini-lecture is by joining my Rock Your Coaching program where you take my Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically course. But, there is also a free way you can get a glimpse at the Get in Gear model, and that is to go to download the PDF from my website. That will give you an overview chart, as well as a blank worksheet that you could photocopy and experiment with passing out to students to fill out.
Of course, selfishly, I would love to have you in my program and to be able to mentor you as you practice how to teach these specific executive function tools to students as a part of your academic curriculum without having to take time away from the academics–that’s my specialty and it’s what we cover inside my Rock Your Coaching program. But first prove to yourself that some of this works by grabbing that tool!
And, finally, students and educators, I would love to invite you to come to my next free, live office hours. You can sign up here to get the Zoom link emailed to you. Even if you can’t come live, it’s a great way to send in a question and have me answer it, and then watch the recording afterwards–so please get in the habit of reaching out to get good advice when it’s offered because it’s going to help you so much in the long run!
Here’s to finding the motivation that works for you!