Studying when you should be sleeping is usually unproductive but it’s more productive than never studying.

Don’t we all love a good excuse not to study? Well… until the test shows up. Then we regret them.

“I’m too tired to study!”

I’ve told myself this hundreds of times. There was a time in my life where it actually kept me from studying enough. I’d be all prepared to sit down and study but I’d let that little excuse pop into the back of my mind. Then I’d be stuck wondering “am I too tired to study” for twenty minutes before deciding.

I would get stuck thinking about the excuse when I could have just been studying.

On Exhausted Studying

Studying when you’re too tired isn’t productive. It isn’t useful. It isn’t smart. If you’re in the habit of studying daily then you might worry about skipping a day but sometimes you need to do it. 

You will:

  • Feel miserable
  • Learn nothing
  • Hate studying more than ever

But… not studying is a problem too. It can destroy your habits. It can prevent you from studying enough. Worst of all, it can become your go-to excuse that prevents you from learning for days or weeks at a time. (“I’ll start studying in another week when I can get more sleep…”)

The time you spend making decisions like this could be spent studying.

Eventually, I solved this problem for myself.

I created 3 simple rules for deciding when I’m too tired to study.

Keep in mind, these are just my rules. It’s important you develop your own.

I had to answer all three questions yes to take a day off studying:

1. Did I study yesterday?

If not then I’m developing a pattern of not studying. That’s bad. I’d rather study poorly every other day then develop a pattern of not studying. This also helps because I plan for the next day. If I know I’m going to have to study tomorrow if I take today off then I plan for it. If I expect to feel worse the next day then I study.

2. Do I want to study?

If I don’t feel a desire to study then it usually means I need to study. I avoid wanting to study for tons of reasons. Being too tired is an okay excuse but if I have any inkling that exhaustion isn’t my real excuse then I study anyway.

I realize most students don’t “want” to study at all. That’s okay. This question works for me because I’ve been using the 15MSS for years now. The average student might just want to look for other reasons they dread studying. If they have other reasons then don’t let yourself say it’s exhaustion.

3. Did I sleep less than 75% of my usual time?

I make an effort to sleep 8+ hours a night. I succeed most of the time. When I fail, I know that I’m going to be tired. In my mind, this is verifiable proof I’m tired. That means, I can answer yes to this.

If I get a yes for all three of these questions then I give myself permission to skip a study session. These rules ensure I miss a day of studying due to exhaustion only a few times a year for this reason.

too tired to study sleeping in class
You need to set up a routine that works for your personality.

Here is what’s important to you:

You can create a basic guideline to follow that will make sure you study more often while allowing yourself the freedom to take a day off once in awhile.

By the end of this article, you’re going to know the most important factor in this decision making process. This will ensure you can keep your grades up and your suffering down.

Your Simple Rules

When is it okay for you to take a day off studying because you’re too tired?

Make a set of simple rules.

You can use my rules as a starting point but no one thinks in the same way. You’re going to have to personalize these rules. If you’re going through a tough patch in life then you might want to give yourself more leeway. If you’re disciplined and focused you might want a little less.

The main goal is to make these rules simple.

Don’t force yourself to debate whether you should study much. Look at my questions:

Have rules that ensure you study more often than you skip it.

1. Did I study yesterday?

This is yes or no. I can answer it in a second.

2. Do I want to study?

This one is problematic… I can debate it for hours. I’ve learned to live with it but be careful not to rely too much on these kinds of questions.

How do I know if I want to study? It’s my gut. My gut can flip flop quite a bit. That’s why this is a weak rule.

Fortunately, I have two other easy rules to rule out taking the day off easier.

3. Did I sleep less than 75% of my usual time?

This is another yes or no question. Sometimes it’s close but in those cases I assume I slept enough.

The ideal set of rules have no interpretation. The more interpretation you have, the more you’re going to get caught up thinking while you could be studying.

Quick Tip: If you’re ever debating whether or not you should study for more than 5 minutes then you should study. If you have time and energy to debate then you have time to study.

But this next point is super important…

Set The Rules In Advance

Most students avoid this important point. Any routine can be adjusted to work if you’re consistent and don’t make it up as you go along.

Never take time off studying unless you had your rules set in advance.

Are you reading this article because you have to study but feel tired? Then study.

You shouldn’t create a set of rules you plan on following immediately. The rules are for tomorrow or the next day or the day after that.

It’s too easy to set rules for the moment. If you’re tired right now then you will be tempted to write rules that are better for the moment than your future.

Accept that the moment is no longer up for debate. Study. You’re not suited to decide the rules for today. It’s too difficult to think rationally about tomorrow when you have a conflict of interest today.

Adjust The Rules In Advance

This is the last point…

Your rules will probably suck. That’s part of any experiment you try. To set up the experiment looking for a certain result. If you don’t get the result you’re looking for then you need to adjust something about it.

  • Do you spend too much time thinking about it?
  • Are you taking too many days off?
  • Are you “studying” but too tired to learn anything?

Change something.

But change it for tomorrow. Again, you’ll always have a major conflict of interest in the moment. You can always adjust your rules but never let yourself adjust them for the wrong reason. Adjust them to improve your results and live better. You shouldn’t adjust them to feel better in the moment.

Are you too tired to study?

No one can answer that.

Don’t try to answer that while you’re tired. Set up a simple set of rules to make the decision for you. The time you save debating this question will make up for the days your set of rules fail to account for something.

What about being too sick to study? Well… you can read my thoughts about that here.

Image Sources: Pixabay, Robert Couse-BakerMennonite Church USA, Wikipedia, Wikipedia

When Are You Really Too Tired To Study?

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  • May 29, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    I like the idea of planning it in advance.

    I’m all about studying every day because I don’t trust myself to make the decision in the moment and I know I’d be better off studying than not studying. It may not be efficient but it’s safer. But with the extra rules made in advance it might work a little better.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • May 29, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks for the comment!

      I agree that really does make the difference.

  • May 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Kay!

    I’m a big fan of something you said about studying while sick.

    You mentioned that a good time to take a day off studying when you’re sick is when it’s a complete accident. I think that also would apply for sleepiness. If you accidentally fall asleep while you’re studying then you’re probably too tired to study!



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