Studying can make you happy. You just need to know a few things.

“Happy studying,” they told me as I cringed and nodded. Their sarcasm was not appreciated.

Studying should feel like a workout.

It pretty much is a workout for that moist muscle bouncing around somewhere inside that skull of yours. A good workout is one where you build muscle. A good study session is one where you build the synapses in your brain. (Let’s ignore cardio for now but it mostly fits anyway.)

A good workout and a good study session is usually one that:

  • You try and procrastinate doing
  • You push yourself to your limit doing
  • You couldn’t do for an hour without feeling completely worn out
  • You finish and feel pooped
  • But you still have enough gas in the tank to be happy.

You already know this. Look at these images below and take a guess which person is building muscle and which person isn’t.

Any idea?

Perhaps the big muscular one that’s about to pop a blood vessel?

How about with these folks?

The look of the person on the right is saying, “I could do this all day.”

The look of the person on the left is saying, “I shouldn’t have done this. I should have been a barber like my mum said.”

Now that you can recognize a good workout, how about a good study session?

Recognizing A Good Study Session

You’ve probably never been taught how it feels to learn. When your brain is processing information, it can feel similar to a workout.

Have you ever tried to remember something and then got frustrated because you couldn’t? (Every other test, perhaps?)

That is active recall.

Active recall is the muscle building of studying. It’s the fundamental study strategy proven effective by science. People remember stuff by practicing remembering it. If you want to be sure you’ll remember something then you need to practice remembering it.

Sound good?

The classic example of active recall is using flash cards. You read one side of the flashcards. Then you try to remember what’s on the other side. Your face may cringe up a bit. You might feel yourself getting a little frustrated. You may even put on a face of agony (like I do when I can’t remember that band name.)

But, only one of two things will happen:

1. You remember it.
2. You don’t.

If you have to flip over the flashcard to figure out what’s on it then you don’t know it. That means you need to keep studying.

If you remember the other side then, at this second, you know you know it.

After trying a flashcard 5-10 times, you’ll most likely be able to remember it. This is how you create synapsis in your brain.

Recognizing A Bad Workout

Tell me how I know the following people aren’t building muscle. Any guesses?

Ummm… Maybe that big beautiful smile lighting up the face?

If the smile was misshapen, there were a couple crazy eyes bouncing around, and tears were running down the face, I might believe that’s a good workout. No muscle is getting built.

This person could do this workout long enough to blow their joints out. BAD!

Now think about what you should look like during a good study session…

Studying well requires your brain. You can’t be focused on looking any particular way. It can’t be forced. This can lead you to:

  • Look like an idiot (I stick my tongue out when I’m thinking.)
  • Look like a crazy person (bouncing around and talking to yourself.)
  • Look completely boring

All these are acceptable.

Notice what isn’t on this list:

  • Smiling
  • Laughing
  • Looking good

I’m not saying it’s impossible to study while looking pleasant but I’m willing to bet you’re not studying well if you look good. Sure… it’s possible but considering the usual factors, it’s highly unlikely.

Most importantly, looking ridiculous while studying doesn’t mean it’s impossible to enjoy studying.

Studying Well Feels Good

Here is the weird thing about a good workout. It also applies for a good study session.

You may look miserable but you may feel fantastic.

Your face will go from the agony of stress to the joy of success. You push yourself beyond what you know you can do. Then you’re excited when you go farther.

Look at this guy… He looks like he could do a back flip.

When you’re finished with a good workout, you feel better than when you started.

It goes farther than that though. After you get into that habit, you’re going to get addicted to the feeling. You’re going to dread missing your next workout. You’ll be looking longingly to the day you can get back into the gym.

What does that have to do with studying?

Well… like almost EVERYTHING.

A good study session will make you feel miserable for moments but it will make you feel fantastic by the end.

Pushing yourself feels bad but it also feels good.

You should spend your study session overcoming challenges that you’re proud to overcome. Every success builds up your pride and excitement a little.

Have you ever felt this before?

Probably not because most students are taught miserable study strategies. They aren’t challenging themselves and they’re overcoming nothing. They’re just sitting in misery and soaking it up. That’s not what you need to do.

Your study session needs to be about achievement.

Active recall is usually the most consistent way to achieve that.

It’s not that simple though. There are a lot of things that ruin a good study session.

Why Your Study Sessions Suck

Studying better means you can study less without having to worry about your grades dropping.

Here are the common culprits:

Your Study Session Is Too Long

Here at Smart Student Secrets we recommend the 15 Minute Study Strategy. In most situations, you shouldn’t need to study more than 15 minutes a night to score high in class. Does that sound too short for you? You’ll be surprised.

But seriously, some students spend hours a night studying!!!

A good lifting workout for a normal person shouldn’t take more than an hour. Professional bodybuilders lift less than 2 hours a day and they’re usual pumping up with more than just iron. They’re loaded up on every chemical substance you can think of.

A good study session for a normal person shouldn’t take more than an hour. Sure… if you’re going to be preparing for finals while studying medicine, I’ll give you leeway. Most students don’t need to study long if they study consistently.

Long study sessions suck:

  • You learn less and less as the session lengthens
  • Focus requires energy. You’re draining it completely.
  • You’re never going to want to start it! (“3 hours… do I have to? Five more minutes…”)
  • You’re going to skip sessions regularly because no one has hours consistently

If you have a long study session then you’re going to end up like the guy in the gym for one day. He tortures himself for hours but then doesn’t return. He’s too sore and he dreads it too much.

Make studying tough but don’t make it impossible for you.

You Don’t Care

O RLY?

Studying doesn’t mean you care.

In most cases, it means you feel obligated. You feel like you “have to” study. You don’t want to study. You don’t want to learn the stuff. You just want to do what you’re supposed to do. You want to go through the motions of a motivated student.

No one will blame you for your low score if you spend hours studying to “earn” it.

You can tell your teacher and parents, “I studied for 6 hours!” They won’t get too upset.

Compare that to this:

Imagine if you told your teacher or parent you only studied an hour or two for the test. You’ll probably get a guilt trip. Even if you don’t really care about school, it doesn’t feel good to get chastised.

How do you care about what you’re studying:

  • Think about the parts you like
  • Figure out why other people like to study it
  • Think about the end result of you learning it
  • Don’t study stuff you don’t care about (and accept the consequences.)
  • Quit trying to make others think you care. That’s just a distraction from you caring.

If you don’t want to study then you’re going to struggle to get into productive study sessions. It can happen but it will usually happen because you unintentionally focused on one of the points I listed above.

Find a purpose and live it everyday.

You’re Not Achieving Anything

If you don’t feel a little like this dog after you’re finished then you probably don’t have a solid reason to study.

At the end of your study session, you should be able to prove that you’ve improved.

If you have a set of flashcards then you should be able to remember more flashcards than when you started. That’s an achievement. It’s something you can celebrate.

If you have a set of math problems then you should have answered a good chunk of what you planned on. You now can look at your completed work and celebrate it.

Achievements allow you to celebrate your successes because they make those successes objective.

Imagine the traditional study strategy of reading your textbook. If you just read your textbook chapter a couple times then you have no proof that you know it. Sure… it might look familiar as you’re glancing at the pages but that’s hardly proof of anything. In fact, studies have shown it tends to be familiarization without memorization. Sure… it looks easy but you still don’t know it.

Look for objective things that can prove your study session was successful. When you have those, you’ll have what you need to know you’re improving. That means it’s perfectly appropriate to enjoy your success.

One Important Note:

Objective success means that you’ll sometimes have objective failure. Some days you won’t do well. That’s okay. One bad study session isn’t the end of the world. It just means you’ll have to compensate for a slightly lower motivation the next day.

In my experience, these bad study session show up 5-10% of the time.

It’s okay to have bad days. Don’t let them turn into bad weeks or months.

Studying is like a good workout.

You’re don’t enjoy the process when you start.

People don’t start working out because they want to feel the hormones of working out. They start to workout because they want to look good or be stronger. But eventually, the process and hormones are the feeling you’re after. At a certain point, you don’t need more muscle. You just want to get that rush from pushing yourself.

The same goes for studying.

You want good grades right now.

That’s cool. That can get you started but don’t expect that to be the end of it. When you get in a good study routine, you’re going to get into the compulsive urge to learn more whether the grades are a factor or not.

Studying is a challenge that you’ll be excited to overcome.

That is happy studying AKA Successful studying with a purpose.


Image Sources: Petr Kratochvil, Skeeze, Max Pixel, Skeeze, CDC/Amanda Mills, I Reshape You, Mathew Ragan, Tbuckley89, camera_is_a_mirror_with_memory, EDanley, OpenClipArt

Happy Studying – How To Enjoy Studying Without Sucking At It

How A “Dum” Guy Got Straight A’s

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4 thoughts on “Happy Studying – How To Enjoy Studying Without Sucking At It

  • July 17, 2017 at 5:22 pm
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    I prefer cardio but I totally agree with what you’re saying about studying. I see my friends talking about spending hours a night studying and complaining about their grades.

    • July 17, 2017 at 5:44 pm
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      Those are exactly the people I was thinking about while writing this 🙂

  • July 17, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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    HAHA That was great!

    I never thought about studying like that.

    • July 17, 2017 at 5:43 pm
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      Thanks for the comment!

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