Get Motivated! PQ February 2008 It’s the time of year again when you’ve got to get back in to studying. It can be hard though, to get yourself motivated to work when exams are so far away. The evenings are dark, you’re probably tired after a long day at work, and you’d rather be going out with friends, watching TV, going to the gym, or whatever floats your particular boat rather than slaving away at your desk! Learning the latest corporate governance rules or how to do a consolidated balance sheet, just isn’t most people’s idea of fun. Motivation strategies It’s a very different story though, when the exams are close, when its usually so easy to get motivated. So what’s changed? Psychologically you must be doing something differently to create that motivation. The thinking approach you use is called your motivation strategy. Some common facets of most people’s motivation strategy 2-3 days bore the exam include: Its clear in their mind that they are going to study that night. Put another way, they have a plan, even if its not formally written down. When people think about that evening, they see themselves studying, and don’t visualise any other option. People also talk to themselves differently. “I really should get on and study”, becomes “I MUST work really hard tonight”. People think about the exam, and when they do, they do so very vividly. They create a great big image in their mind, so it feels close. They may even see themselves in the exam hall and the subject they’ve yet to study coming up in the exam. Crucially, that makes people feel bad, and as a result, motivated to work. Some people are more positive and consider the great benefits they’ll have once they’ve passed their exams. That huge salary, car and the right to be called a qualified accountant (OK, well maybe not that last one!) We all have our own personal strategies for how we motivate ourselves, and you could probably add a few of your own strategies to this list. It’s no good being able to motivate yourself 2 days before the exam though, what you need is a motivation strategy that will work for you 4 months before the exam! This is not as hard as it might sound, since a motivation strategy is simply a thinking approach. The same strategies people use 2 days before the exam can also be applied even when the exam is 4 months away. A motivation strategy might look like this: (1) Make a plan Each week, plan how many hours work you are going to do and when you are going to do it. That creates an expectation in your mind of what you are going to do. Make sure it’s realistic, and that it makes time for other important activities in your life too. (2) Visualise yourself achieving that plan Regularly see yourself, in the future, at your next planned study session, working hard and well. You probably need to think about it for no more than 20 seconds at a time, but whenever you consider what you’ll be doing at that point in time, ensure that’s the only thing you consider. (3) Remember the benefits When it comes to the time you are going to study, firstly think about what it’ll be like when you’ve passed all your exams. Imagine the house you’ll be living in the car you’ll be driving and the life you’ll have. Remind yourself of what passing your exams really means to you, and don’t stop until you’re feeling great about this, since ultimately it’s our feelings which drive us. (4) Feel awful about the consequences of not studying Visualise yourself in the exam hall, not being able to answer any questions. Imagine getting your results and seeing a fail. In fact, why not visualise yourself in the exam hall in 3 years time, sitting the same exam for the 6th time, and again you can’t do it because you haven’t done enough work! Imagine just how terrible you’d feel. The worse you can make yourself feel, the more motivated you’ll be. Then say to yourself “I MUST study tonight”. (5) Make it easy to begin Finally, make it easy to begin by saying to yourself “I’ll just do 10 minutes, and see how it goes from there”, and then get on with it!! Everyone is motivated slightly differently, so you may need to adapt these steps to your own motivation approach. Remember also, that you can use the same approach to motivate yourself to do almost anything, so next time you can’t get motivated to go to the gym or tidy your flat, this might come in useful there too! Nick Best is tutoring CIMA papers 3, 5, 6 and TOPCIMA, and ACCA P1 at Reed Business School for the May/June 2008 exams. See www.reedbusinessschool.co.uk.