Sometimes you’re tired and unmotivated and the last thing you want to do is sit at your desk and force feed knowledge into your brain…but you know that you still need to make progress in your studies after an awful day.

While sometimes the answer may be rest and some time away from your textbooks, but when you’ve got deadlines and big assessments looming, you need to be able to turn things around.

So, in this post we’re going do just that. You’re going to learn exactly how to shake it off so you can make progress in your studies after an awful day.

This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 142 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re a more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the script.


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When you’re a non-traditional student, it’s likely that you’re going to have to fit study sessions into days that are just awful, where everything’s gone wrong or you’re just exhausted.

  • Maybe work was awful – your manager’s a douche or your colleagues are incompetent or your clients are rude.
  • Maybe you didn’t sleep well or much last night and so you’re knackered today.
  • Maybe you’ve got kids and one or more of them are ill or they’re not sleeping or they’re going through a tough time that’s making you upset or stressed too.
  • Maybe you’re not feeling well or you’re struggling with your mental or physical health.

Lotssss of lovvvvvvely things could be happening in your life which means you’re left with the need to sit down and study but absolutely zero desire or feelings of capacity to do so.

Important point here before we move on: first, you need to work out whether you NEED to study depending on quite how crappy the day has been and how pressing your studying is.

Something else to remember…when we’re tired or stressed we can fall into the trap of black or white thinking – “my only option is to study for hours and hours, or I’m so tired I must completely sack off studying and rest.”

This cognitive distortion may prevent you from seeing what other options you have available, perhaps one in the grey area? What about doing a small amount of studying PLUS an intentional restful activity? Or 1-2 hours of studying and then a treat of a hot bath or reading in bed or an episode of a good tv show?

Finally, motivation more often than not comes AFTER you’ve gained some momentum. Too often we think that we need to feel motivated before we start studying. And if we don’t then maybe we should just sack it off and wait until tomorrow…

3 ways to make progress in your studies after an awful day

1. Give yourself a bit of time to sort your shiz out

  • change your state with some exercise or by taking a shower,
  • get into some comfy clothes,
  • clear your study area a little bit,
  • sometimes when my mood is low I need a bit of company. Sometimes that might mean working from my laptop on the sofa while my boyfriend plays on the Switch. But if that’s not possible or I really need to focus without distractions I’ll call a friend or one of my sisters and have them on speaker phone as I get myself together to start working. A bit of a catch up and talking about things OTHER than what’s stressing me out can really help to put me in a better state to then get some work done
  • something related to this…set boundaries or expectations with friends/family

2. Make the experience more enjoyable

  • can you make your study area a bit snazzier? Light a nice candle or put on some fairy lights
  • find some tasty snacks or drinks to get you through. My fave is to make a mixed bowl with some chocolates, sweets, grapes, maybe some salted pretzels. That way I can snack my way through a pretty hefty study session

3. What are you going to work on?

  • when you’ve had a crappy day or week, when you’re feeling kinda low…you may not have the most energy and brain power for your big, intense study tasks. Now, if you ARE able to choose what to work on then perhaps you pick some easier or slightly more fun tasks to work on today
  • but if you can’t? If the reason you HAVE to study after such a crappy day is because you’ve got an assignment due imminently or a big exam coming up…then what if you picked something easy FIRST? Think of the smallest, simplest sub-tasks and spend the first portion of your study session on those. As I mentioned earlier, gaining momentum by ticking off some tasks is really gonna help you feel a bit more motivated…or if motivation is just not possible for you today…ticking off a few tasks and gaining momentum will at least give you positive evidence that no matter the shittiness of the day…you’ve gone and made progress anyway.

Two final reminders to make it easier to make progress in your studies after an awful day

1. Sometimes, studying sucks.

You can change your state beforehand, light a fancy candle, eat lots of chocolate during the session, tick off some tasks on your to-do list…and you can still feel crappy and utterly relieved once you’re done. And that’s OK. You don’t have to feel motivated to do good work, you don’t have to be interested in the material to write great arguments with it, you don’t always have to be passionate about furthering your education to making progress towards your academic goals. 

Sometimes you do just need to get your head down and grind it out a bit in your studying. As long as you regularly check in that this course and qualification is what you want to do and is worth it for the awesome stuff along the way and and at the end, then sometimes you’ve just got to grin and bear the not so great study days, reminding yourself that it won’t always be like this.

2. You may have the best of intentions… turn around a bad day and get some good studying done but you only manage to make a tiny bit of progress. If this is the case do NOT beat yourself up. Yes, it wouldn’t be great if this was the result of every study session but you do not HAVE to be perfect to achieve great academic results. Andddd…I would argue there’s value in having a few crappy study days.

Showing up and sitting down to study, even on days when you don’t want to, is going to make it easier in the future to study. Like how this winter I’m having to get used to running in the wind and the rain and the dark. Going through these crappier runs is just going to reduce the resistance to run when it’s warmer, sunny and dry.

And showing up and studying most days, even if it’s just ticking off one 10-minute task some days, it builds the habit of consistent studying…which will make it easier to study than it is not to study. It’s also a vote for the student you want to become

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