We’ve had short surges of motivation before. (sometimes, we just feel like studying)
And it’s always, ALWAYS at the start of a “new chapter”—whether it be a New Year, new semester or new academic year. (there’s more hope that way)
Here’s a problem. Your motivation gets lost after 2 weeks. Sounds familiar?
Answer this: What could you achieve if you could somehow control your motivation levels?
Would you finally be able to stop procrastinating and do the work you need to do?
I think so. 100%.
Now, what if I told you that it really IS possible to control your motivation?
In this post, I will share 5 THINGS on how you could hack your motivation and finally start doing what matters.
Success does not give a damn if you were pumped up to do something or not.
All it cares about is that you actually get your butt off and do something to get what you want.
This is a guide on how you can actually hack your motivation. Let’s get started.
In a nutshell, here is what you’ll learn in hacking your motivation:
- The type of mindset that will make you successful in anything
- Manipulate your motivation using The Motivation Equation
- Setting up systems that guarantee that you reach ANY goal
- Recreating your environment to increase motivation effortlessly
- Build habits and making everything automatic
All of these factors combined will produce the greatest effects on your productivity and academic success.
In this post, I will discuss exactly how you can do all of these.
Mindset for Studying: The Growth Mindset
There are ultimately two types of mindset that are relevant to this—the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
Our mindset ultimately determines how we perceive failures and challenges.
The fixed mindset says “It’s difficult. I cannot study this amount of information at once because I’m not a fast learner. Yes, my goal is to become a top-performing student and redeem myself from past failures, but I think it’s too late. I’m not cut for this.”
The Growth mindset says “If I were to study this amount of information, I got to have better strategies to pull this off. Along the way, I can get smarter. By being smarter, I can finish this earlier than expected. It would be hard, but that makes it more worthwhile. I can do this. I am 100 percent responsible for my results.”
By having the Growth mindset—the right kind of mindset, you will be unstoppable. Nothing on this planet would be able to take your drive down.
You’d meet obstacles along the road, but I 100% guarantee that you’ll try to find ways to hurdle through them.
Why? Because by having the Growth Mindset, you know that you want to BECOME smarter, not just LOOK smarter.
Manipulate your Motivation: The Motivation Equation
- Expectancy = “I can easily do this.” This is your confidence to finish a task.
- Value = “There’s a reward waiting after this.” This is how valuable you perceive a task is.
- Impulsiveness = “I’d rather do something else.” This is your distractibility.
- Delay = “It’s taking so long to receive my reward.” This is the time gap between task completion and rewards.
In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know to increase motivation:
- ↑Expectancy and/or ↑Value = ↑ Motivation
- ↓Impulsiveness and/or ↓Delay = ↑ Motivation
To increase expectancy and value, I like to break down tasks into more manageable parts. This is called chunking.
If I have to finish a book, I’d break it down into chapters.
If that doesn’t look easy enough, I’ll list down subchapters.
If I have to finish a 100-item problem set, I do 50 problems in the morning and 50 at night.
In other words, eat an elephant one bite at a time.
After a single chunk, I’ll take a break—and I make it a satisfying one. Usually, I grab a piece of KitKat or watch an anime episode online.
It also restores my attention and focus and allows me to work just as hard on the next task.
To reduce impulsiveness and delay, I use the Burning the Ships method.
I go into a study place where there is literally ZERO chance of being distracted. There’s literally no turning back to do other things.
I bring my pen, problem set, calculator to a coffee shop and that’s it.
I personally chose the coffee shop because A) It’s near + people are also studying, and B) I’d already see the bed in my dorm when I turn around so when my energy levels drop, my impulsiveness to lie down in bed goes way through the roof.
Guaranteed Success: Systems rather than Goals
It’s not necessarily saying that you should ditch setting goals altogether but I think people should realize that aside from their goals, they must also have systems that align with their goals.
Related Post: How to Learn Faster and Study Myths to Avoid
You’d be surprised how easy it is to achieve your goals if you do something about it every day, and it’s like compound interest.
The more consistent you are, the more successful you’ll be—even though it might not show right at the beginning.
Bottom line, CONSISTENCY beats INTENSITY.
Setting up your systems
Your system contains the minimum amount of work that you should do every day to attain your goal.
If your goal is to become better at Math, start by doing 25 Problems a day.
If your goal is to become a better English speaker, start by talking to someone in English even for a brief 15 mins a day.
Because it’s THAT easy, make sure to STICK to your system every single day.
As Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL says:
If you want to lose 30 lbs—start with a 10 min. walk every day.
If you want to improve your retention of a subject—do 30 minutes of Retrieval Practice every day.
If you want to write 15 articles in 1 month—start by writing at least 600 words per day.
You get the point—your goals should only be the guide for setting up your systems. Without your systems, your goals won’t matter much.
On the contrary, it does not matter what your goals are if you’re not actually doing something consistently to achieve them.
Losers and winners have the same goals, but they have different mindsets and most importantly, different systems.
Make it Effortless: Redesign your Environment
Your environment, unknowingly, has a HUGE impact to your success.
Imagine that in a cafeteria, there are several cans of FREE soda that you could grab after eating.
Everybody knows that it’s bad for their health.
But they take it anyway, just because getting water takes two extra steps (you have to take out your wallet and buy from the counter).
If it were free water bottles lying around, they would’ve grabbed them instead of the soda.
This is how powerful our environment is in influencing our actions.
Design Principle #1: The fewer steps it would take for an action to implement, the more likely you’ll do it.
If you want to drink more water—have a bottle of water always available in front of you. That simple.
Always think of a path to least resistance.
Design Principle #2: The more steps it would take for an action to implement, the less likely you’ll do it.
This is just the opposite of the first design principle.
This is the exact reason why a lot of students fail to study at home and just feel like studying when they feel the pressure coming.
Taking out your notes, setting up your study table, and actually starting to work takes a lot of steps compared to getting your smartphone and getting on Facebook.
Redesigning our environment makes studying easier to do and distractions harder to do.
Lastly, in order to completely eliminate our reliance on motivation and willpower, we must be able to form a study habit.
In summary: Eliminate all possible environmental cues that may induce distraction.
Make Studying Automatic: How to Build a Study Habit
What’s the difference between successful and unsuccessful people? Their habits.
Their small, seemingly inconsequential habits that compound over time are what makes them highly capable of moving mountains in their careers—as simple as reading 30 minutes a day, practicing 10 minutes of meditation or simply tracking their food.
In the previous sections, we learned how to hack our motivation by building systems and redesigning our environment. But here’s the thing.
We can hack our motivation even further and just take it out of the equation.
I want you to answer this question:
Do you ever have to motivate yourself to brush your teeth?
Habits are automatic and do not require any willpower at all.
Habit Forming #1: Make it Obvious
Out of sight, out of mind.
The good news is—the opposite is exactly true.
Think about the advertisements that you see everywhere.
They get into your radar all the freaking time by leveraging what’s called the Mere Exposure effect.
The same way goes in building a study habit—get them into your radar all the time.
Make the cues obvious. If you want to study right after waking up, prepare your things the night before you study. Get it ready and wide open for you to see after waking up.
This sets the right cue for starting your habit.
The moment you form a study habit, the simple act of seeing your materials immediately triggers your brain into studying.
Habit Forming #2: Make it Attractive
What I personally do in making studying attractive is taking everything that is more attractive than studying away from my room/study area.
Create an irresistible urge to study. Take out the Food. Snacks. Video game consoles; Take out everything in your study room that’s more attractive than studying.
Basically, make studying the MOST attractive thing to do at the moment.
It might not be perfect, but it gets the job done and it eliminates ALL possible distractions as well.
Habit Forming #3: Make it Easy
If you think studying for an hour every day is hard, you’re right.
Especially if you haven’t even studied for even 30 minutes a day before.
Start small. What matters in forming habits is showing up until you establish it, not overwhelming your body with a HUGE change. Consistency beats Intensity.
You can’t improve something that doesn’t exist.
Want to start getting used to solving problems every morning?
Don’t do 100 problems in the beginning. Start by answering 20 per day. Then the next week do 25. The next week, 30.
By starting small, you essentially hack your motivation (Increased Expectancy) and actually start doing the habit that you want to implement without procrastinating at all.
Again, You can’t improve something that’s not there. ESTABLISH, before you OPTIMIZE.
Habit Forming #4: Make it Satisfying
Just like the refreshing feeling of fresh breath after you’ve brushed your teeth, we can absolutely make our habits satisfying to “reward” our brain for doing it.
Reward yourself. To make studying satisfying, you must reward yourself immediately after studying. Eating a good meal, Watching a movie, Playing for 1 hour—you name it.
Habit Forming in a nutshell: Make studying related-tasks obvious (in plain sight), attractive to do (creates an urge), easy (by chunking it down), and satisfying (by introducing rewards)
Hacking your motivation comes down to the right mindset and some understanding of little brain hacks.
So, make sure to share this to your friends if you liked it, and if you have any feedback, leave it down in the comments!
I’ll be answering every one of them.