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How to Study Better, | Studying When Your Motivation is Low,

Have you ever heard of the expression, "You can't pour from an empty cup"? Well, this applies to studying. You can't keep studying when your motivation is low, when you have no energy left, and when you cannot focus. You shouldn't be studying anymore.

Today, I'm going to introduce a concept that has revolutionized my life. I call it your attention budget. If you can understand and maximize your attention budget, you're going to change your life. So what is the attention budget?

The idea is that you have a B amount of attention to spend per day, which I like to think of as a full water bottle at the start of the day, and throughout the day you can pour this water, your energy, and attention into various tasks. 

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The size of your attention budget from day to day will vary based on different factors like your mood or if you menstruate, as there are certain days when your ability to focus and be productive is just less.

Maybe it's exercise, meditation, or conversations with friends. All of those in number three: how are you dividing your day based on these activities? And lastly, in number four, which tasks do you wish you had more motivation and energy for? So, based on this metaphor and the self-awareness that we strive to achieve,

I'm going to tell you a bit more about how I carve out my study days. The only reason I'm able to study for such long periods and still be productive and have high energy is that I'm aware of my fluctuating motivation.

So, before every study day at university, I will have planned my day ahead of time; I like to look at my next week on a Sunday and do a high-level schedule.

For this, I have a class here and I'm doing a rough time-by-time schedule for each of my days, including social activities, exercise, meditation, and all of that, but you can also do this the night before because it takes so much mental effort just to decide how to live our days—where should I go, what should I do, and with whom—and this takes so much attention.

By the time you've done that, you're mentally tired; you're pouring and pouring your attention into this effortful choice, so if you can do that in advance, you've already got more energy to donate to studying. I will always start my day with yoga or meditation. I don't know if you've ever meditated before, but I think there's a misconception that you just sit and breathe.

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But really, it's a practice of learning to be aware of your thoughts and observe them without judgment, and then constantly teach yourself to bring your attention back to the breath or to an anchor. You know that every time you get distracted, you bring your attention back, and so in many ways, you are training your ability to focus.

So that when I study, I can stay in this deep focus mode for long periods of time without being distracted, and I know that mystically, I only have a few hours a day where I can have deep focus, so I always try to plan the really massive elephant tasks during this time of deep focus.

I know I work better alone, so I'll try to study alone in the morning, and I won't spend much time on social media in the morning because I'm really just devoting my time and energy to these deep work tasks, and then as my attention begins to fade throughout the day.

I can get on social media, post my photos, scroll a little bit, and study with friends in the afternoon because then it's also fun. It's a change of scenery that gives me energy, and it's in the rest of the day that I'll do the low-effort tasks. I'll sit with friends in a cafe doing pomodoros and making flashcards or doing class reviews while doing my readings.

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Nothing requires the kind of deep, deep creative thinking that the previous task did, and it's also critical in a good study day to avoid feelings of guilt if possible. I've worked so hard throughout my years at the university, since A-levels and GCSEs, to detach my sense of self-worth from the amount of work that I get done or the grades that I'm achieving.

because it's just very toxic and unhealthy if you're constantly judging yourself. Another tip is the sanctity of space. but it's basically the idea that your study environment should be just for studying, and the more of a study mindset you can create in your space, the easier it is to have the motivation to finish tasks.

And finally, throughout my day, I will take many intentional breaks. In the fourth year of my degree, I have a general understanding of what makes me happy, what gives me energy, and what motivates me, and it will be things like seeing friends do a meditation between study sessions, going to nature dancing, or doing a workout for me.

Workouts are so important to, like, re-energize my day; these things make me want to go back and keep studying in the cognitive science of learning versus a principle called "interleaving," which is the idea that you study one subject and then place different subjects or different things that you're learning in between and then come back to the original thing you first studied later on.

It's a great way to compound learning because you're forcing your brain to go back over that information after having switched gears, and so this is something I'll frequently do. I'll be studying something, and then I'll switch activities, maybe go for a run, and then come back to the activity I was studying. I also want to say that we are all so different.

I have friends who can be hyper-focused for 20 hours without eating and produce incredible results or literally procrastinate for a week. I have other friends who love studying from bed, which I can't really do because I get tired. I have friends who get mentally exhausted by exercise, and it does not help them focus.

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