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Study Tips for the Undisciplined Soul

Discipline is a very useful skill to have in college, but for many of us, it is not an easy skill to obtain. Self-discipline is a learned goal that even the most put-together people have a hard time accessing sometimes. People lacking self-discipline need to approach college and studying in a way that makes them motivated, structured and keeps them from burning out. Here are my study tips for any of you undisciplined souls. Hopefully, they will help you get through the four (or more) very demanding years that is college.


1. Remove temptations 

Items like your cell phone, the TV, a musical instrument, a good book, social media platforms, or even the possibility of leaving your study area can really delay your studying, and maybe even lead you putting it off entirely. Before you start studying, remove all distractions and temptations. Close your blinds or face away from the window, so you aren’t tempted to leave or go see friends. Use a phone locking app like Flora to keep you from touching your phone at all. Maybe use one browser for work and one for entertainment on your computer (i.e. Chrome for work and Safari for play), so you don’t have any tempting bookmarks like Netflix or Pinterest calling your name. If you listen to music while studying, have the perfect playlist already made so you can avoid changing the song and focus more on the work in front of you. Basically, if you have nothing calling out to you telling you to stop studying and start procrastinating, you will not need discipline to stay focused.


2. Make a to-do list 

To do lists give you a clear illustration of the amount of work you have waiting in your future. They can be a great way to keep track of when things are due, how much work is left, and can even be a source of productive procrastination. It can also help you enjoy the process of studying much more than you do currently (which I am guessing is very close to not at all). If something on your list is daunting and killing your motivation to do any work at all, do a more entertaining assignment instead. Don’t want to write that eight-page paper on fuel emissions in Salt Lake, switch to that movie you have to watch for Am Civ or that article you have to write for Her Campus (aka my current situation). You can even make a to-do list, or an outline, for one of your papers. Creating an outline can make you feel functional, help you make progress, make you less overwhelmed, and actually help you finish the project a lot faster. Having a to-do list can also bring you a little motivation, and get you to start thinking about what you are going to write about in each of your assignments.



3. Let others know the (possibly daunting) amount of things on your list 

Telling the people who would normally be distractions to you (i.e. family, friends, significant others, roommates) how much work you have to get done before the week is over can help your studying a lot. Most people will use this information to make sure you stay on top of it. and they will leave you alone. Some people may even offer help you by being your new study buddy. Either way, showing people your to-do list can be really helpful, and can allow you to use their discipline in order to stay on track.



4. Don’t schedule a specific time to study 

This is a problem that a lot of undisciplined people have. They set a specific time block in which they want to be studying, and then when that time rolls around, they avoid studying, and use the fact that they already passed their allotted time as justification for putting it off until the next day. If you just let your studying happen at times where you feel the slightest amount of motivation or you get extremely bored, it will come a lot more naturally to you and you will get more done. With this, you should also allow yourself time to procrastinate, or you will always have a negative mindset towards school and studying. Letting your study time be flexible and fluid can change everything. When trying to decide at what point you absolutely NEED to start studying, check your to-do list, gauge how long everything will take to complete, add an hour to that amount of time (trust me), and decide how late you are willing to work if you really don’t want to start just yet.



5. Schedule rewarding (and short) breaks 

Scheduling rewards for yourself is probably the most important thing an undisciplined soul can do while studying. Reward yourself with short breaks for food, time on your phone, and even a YouTube video or two. Just treat yo’ self. These breaks should help you recharge, give you time to think about your assignments in a different way, and can make your studying an enjoyable process. You can also feel more motivated to get your work done so you can get to your next break. Either schedule these breaks at strict time schedules (like every 25 minutes) or after you finish a certain percentage of your current assignment. They are a game changer, but avoid rewarding yourself with breaks that take a long time like naps, Netflix, or car rides. Limit each break to less than 15 minutes in order to stay motivated.



6. Manage your stress levels 

It can seem impossible to start an assignment, if you are feeling stressed. Reducing your stress can make studying a little more enjoyable, make college a manageable experience, and can help you retain a lot more information. Reduce your stress with sleep, spending time with (easy-going and not dramatic) friends, doing assignments early, and keeping in mind that GPA is not everything. Don’t let five little letters ruin or run your life. College is hard, and you will still be doing great if you get a B or a C in a class. Just do your best and take time for you.



7. Just start 

Starting an assignment can be the hardest thing about that assignment. Getting started takes an inordinate amount of motivation, ideas, and discipline, but don’t worry, there are many things you can do to get over this hump. I usually start by writing a terrible first draft (in the case of a paper). This could mean that your first draft is full of profanity, and has very little usable content, or is full of references about the Netflix series you would rather be binge-watching. Just do what is easy for you. It will help you get some ideas on the page and help you push past writer’s block super easily. It can also be both fun and helpful to write about much you hate the assignment, for both managing stress and starting your paper. This method will get you started and make that blank document in front of you much less frightening.



8. Always keep the end goal in mind 

You might have no discipline, but you do have goals. Always keep in mind that you are trying to make a better life for your future self, and you will be able to do just about anything. Maybe even keep a countdown calendar on your phone to let you know how far you are from graduating.


Lacking discipline can make college seem like an impossible task, but using these study tips can help shift your perspective and make your college career a little easier. I hope this helps you get a better and more advantageous grasp on college. Good luck my undisciplined friends!


This article is dedicated to my easily distracted, free-spirited, undisciplined, and truly incredible older brother.


Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


Mariah Iverson is a senior studying sociology at the University of Utah. She grew up in Apple Valley, California and moved to Utah to be closer to her family. She enjoys listening to music, reading, cooking, drawing, traveling, and helping others. She enjoys writing about her favorite TV shows, cooking, LGBTQ experiences, and advice, and in her free time she can be found laying on the ground outside taking in the world. Enjoy Mariah's articles and everything she has to offer!
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