Whether they’re working on academics or other projects, some people can become so engrossed in what they are doing that they don’t even notice time passing. They are fully immersed in the present moment—in other words, they are “in the zone”. Has this ever happened to you?
This description may sound familiar—it’s often called “the flow state”. This is where you’re able to perform at maximum capacity for the task at hand. Not just that, you are completely content with where you are—you do not want to be anywhere else.
The flow state is wonderful when achieved, but sometimes you are confronted with a project or class where you would rather do anything else. You’re not alone—we all have things we have to do, but don’t want to do. But as Dr. Kevin Jubbal points out in his video, there are ways to continue working hard when motivation can no longer carry you. To me, this is what momentum is—doing the work with focus and consistency even when it’s not something you would otherwise pursue. Here are some tips that have helped me, as a student, gain momentum in my studies.
1) Take Breaks as You See Fit.
The term “momentum” may make it seem like you must work nonstop to be effective at first glance, but this is not true! Momentum can only be gained when it is paced over the long-term. Try taking breaks according to your study style to avoid burning out.
Many people love the Pomodoro technique. It involves 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 cycles, take a longer break for 30 minutes. However, it’s completely up to you! Some people thrive on taking many little breaks, while others may prefer fewer, longer breaks. Your preference may also change as you gain momentum. For example, 5 minutes doesn’t feel like a break for me—I find it simply stops my thought process. Just keep trying until you find something that works for you! You can find a Pomodoro Timer here to track it.
2) Figure out What Reinvigorates You.
Do you find that your breaks sap you of your energy, turning ten minutes into two hours? Perhaps it’s time to experiment with new ways to take breaks. For example, I used to take breaks with an episode of my favourite show on Netflix, but I found myself groggy and struggling to tear away from the screen afterwards. It halted the momentum of my day. Now, I step away from my study space and listen to my favourite music for ten minutes instead. For some, however, Netflix is reinvigorating. It’s completely up to you! Pay attention to how you feel after your breaks and don’t be afraid to switch it up.
3) Build A Routine for the Term.
Building a routine that you follow over the whole semester will help you avoid procrastination. Just as you brush your teeth as soon as you wake up, perhaps you can schedule 30 minutes of the class you don’t like for right after lunch. Planning study times relative to things you will do anyway—such as meals, waking up, or showering—is a great way to hold yourself accountable without feeling pressured by a minute-by-minute schedule.
Build a routine and see how it works for you over the term. If it doesn’t pan out, that’s ok—you now have an opportunity to reflect and modify your plan for the next term. Momentum is all about capitalizing on how you learn to improve efficiency even when you don’t feel like it. Figuring out how you learn takes time.
4) Self-Compassion: Understand That Momentum Takes Time.
To gain momentum, it may helpful to think of your brain as a muscle. To become stronger, you must practice lifting weights consistently over many weeks. In the same way, try making a concentrated effort for a small amount of time to gain momentum. For example, try starting with thirty minutes at set times throughout the week for the class you don’t like. As exams approach, you’ll be ready to increase the interval to reflect the extra workload.
It would make sense to feel frustrated during this process. Just like your muscles lifting weights, you may wish your brain can do more at a time. It’s going to take time to figure out what works for you. This is completely normal. Try not to get mad at yourself, and acknowledge you’re doing your best. This attitude is called self-compassion, and it's incredibly beneficial to achieving your goals. You can click here for guidance in this practice. If you struggle with being compassionate with yourself, it’s ok—you can learn how to do anything with time and effort.
Overall, momentum is about starting small, learning how you study and being kind to yourself as you figure it out. With enough effort, you may just find studying comes easier to you. Good luck!