They say the first steps are the hardest, right? Sometimes a study session can be massively productive and you feel great once you get into your flow but getting there can seem like a massive uphill battle. So why is studying motivation so difficult (and how can you make it easy)?

We’ll not get into the nitty-gritty details too much but it basically comes down to your limbic system. Your brain doesn’t like to work. It doesn’t care about that exam it wants to preserve energy and it does that by taking shortcuts and hiding from difficult tasks (like studying).

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Motivation is going to be different for everyone. There’s no one size fits all solution and I don’t (personally) agree with the idea of using inspirational videos and music constantly. Inspiration is fickle but forging discipline is like strengthening a muscle. The more you force yourself to study — the easier you’re going to find it.

And the best way to start that path is by finding your own personal motivation. I love this answer from Ila Tripathi when asked what inspires him to study:

*The fear of being average*

If you’re not focused on studying as a student and are in lower rung, you’re probably enjoying your life and are excelling at something else say sports, music, anything. If you’re studying really good, you’re the creme de la creme of the class and have no worry about getting in to a good college or job.

But if you are between them, it’s tough. You are excelling at nothing. And perhaps you are wasting your time. You are caught between doing fun and studying. But neither of these are you great at.

I was a good student in school but college was a disaster. I was only an average engineering student among the lacs (or may be crores) of other Indian engineering graduates. I would be hardly attending morning classes, would be just passing courses like Data Algorithm and would mostly idle away.

As an average student, I would miss out on the ‘fun’ part of college too. Because I was not good enough at anything else either! Consequently, after graduation I ended up in a job I didn’t like.

I hated being just another face in the crowd. It is not a great feeling, believe me. This boredom motivated me to create a place for myself. I wanted to excel. I had never had an interest in engineering but I was fairly good at reading-writing. I found out civil services examination would give me the opportunity where I can use this interest to excel. And once I decided, the rest is history. I cracked a supposedly tough exam with utmost sincerity securing All India Rank 51.

Even today, I continue to read and write a lot. I fear being an average officer of the Indian Administrative Service. I want to be the best IAS officer my cadre Telangana has ever had. I want to be the best civil servant India has ever seen. This feeling to be the best pushes one to study hard.

Life as a mediocre hurts. You don’t know what you’re capable of. Had I not pushed myself to study hard, I would have been stuck in a job that I did not like. Your ambitions should be high. They should push you to study hard. You should constantly tell your young self- “Ab nahi toh kab?” (If not now, then when?). Your young age is the time to study, after that it’s only learning through experience.

Be at the top of the game. It could be sports, arts, music, theatre. But if it’s related to studies, top it! Don’t be an average. You will be soon forgotten.

But there’s more to it than just keeping your motivation — you need to understand. Studying is not about how long you spend looking at a book or a computer screen.

What you get done is far more important than how long you study for. If you’re efficient with your studying techniques you can get more done in 2 hours than in 20. So before anything else take an hour or two to improve your studying ability and you’ll avoid wasting a lot of time. Better studying results in less work? Too good to pass up.

One of the easiest ways to do this is brushing up on your memory and improving your ability to learn faster. You know who’s a master at this kind of thing? Chess players. I’m not suggesting you go and learn chess at the level of a grandmaster (unless you have a spare decade) but, luckily, a grandmaster has an audiobook ‘Unlimited Memory’ — which you can download for free with Amazon’s Audible.

It’s about 2.5 hours long but, since it’s an audiobook, you can listen when you go to bed or something. I guarantee it’ll change the way you study and even if you cancel Amazon lets you keep the entire audiobook. You can download it here.