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I always end up playing a game or something when I'm supposed to study. Hey, having fun is a lot more fun than studying, right? What can I do to make the consequences of my action seem more real? I mean, come on, I wouldn't be homeless if I don't study for my exam tomorrow, right?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

There is no quick solution to this.

Okay, there is. Read the other comments for some good tips. However, the problem is deeper than that, and if you won't fix it, the problem will keep returning to you later.

Pushing yourself, threatening yourself, punishing yourself, etc. those are all short-term solutions which may save the day, but will leave you more tired. You have to change your mind. As long as you see studying and having fun as opposites, you will always suffer when studying. When you fight against youself, whoever wins, you lose. You have a choice between losing fun or failing at exam. Both options suck, honestly. And you already know that. Let's not pretend otherwise.

I looked at your other question on SE. You say you go to gym every day. Wow, that's impressive! I would like to improve my body, but I couldn't do that, and I would prefer to be a fat computer guy, because that would mean less suffering for me. I mean, going to gym is so boring, exercise is so annoying, and the whole business takes so much time. If I had to do that every day, I would consider it similar to being in prison. Do you agree with me? -- Or does your mind process this situation completely differently? Is there some magical point of view, where all this suffering either disappears or somehow becomes irrelevant? Don't say "willpower", because willpower is just a code for "I don't really know". And I wouldn't believe you. If you can do it, it means it is easy. For you. In your current state of mind. No offense meant, the same thing is true for anyone who manages to do something for a long time without becoming crazy.

Studying is fun. At least for some people. Who belong to the same species as you do. How can they do that? (How can you go to gym every day?) Maybe they don't think about the suffering and "just do it". (You know, the thoughts about suffering are optional. You can turn them off anytime you decide to.) Maybe they don't push themselves, they just get a book, an empty room, turn off all distractions, and let the natural thing happen at its natural pace. (You can read as slowly or as quickly as you wish. You can sit comfortably. Make it as good as possible; just no distractions. You can even get breaks. Just no distractions during the breaks, either.) If you can later talk about what you learned, with anyone, classmate or not, that would be great. It is okay to have good days and bad days, as long as you don't give up after the bad day.

And the easiest way to make the consequences more real, is to take a large piece of paper, colored pencils, and paint a nice picture describing all the good things your current effort is heading towards. (Satisfaction with yourself. Pride for the achievements. Being wise among your friends. A diploma. A big salary. A large house. A private helicopter. Anything else.) Then put the picture on a place you can see every day, preferably where you spend a lot of time. This is your life, this is what you do. Because you enjoy that.

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I like all the answers in this page but personally, I like this one the most because it's so... personal. +1. Would +10 if I could. – Gannicus May 14 '13 at 16:11

The consequences of your (in)action won't be real until you actually suffer from it.

If you want to go that negative route, visualize that suffering: the embarrassment, the realization that you lost that time and cannot retrieve it, whatever motivates you to do something with a longer-term payoff than the fleeting "thrill" a few hours of video games.

Or, go the positive route and instead visualize the postitive benefits of taking measurable action, of passing your exam and wowing your teacher/professor, the recognition that you're making an investment in yourself and/or your future, etc.

Or, don't allow the time-wasters to be an option, by using timers, tricks, friends, internet blockers, etc. so you don't have any reasonable alternatives during times you should be doing something useful.

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Make your studying a game (gamification).

If you like games have you considered trying to create one?

This also many be an indication that you don't like what you are studying.

Your question is an example of instant gratification versus deferred gratification. For example, you are given 20 bucks. There are two choices: either spend it now (instant) or save/invest (deferred) it. If it's used now, it's gone. The future value is zero. If it's used in the future value is 20 dollars + interest (assuming you invested it). By saving it, you can increase the value. The catch is you have to wait.

Should you play games or study? Playing games is now. Studying is investing in your future.

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What can I do to make the consequences of my action seem more real? I mean, come on, I wouldn't be homeless if I don't study for my exam tomorrow, right?

  • Get a part time job.
  • Move in a separate house and pay its rent from the money earned by your part time job.
  • Pay for your studies from the money earned by your part time job.

It seems to me that your parents/relatives are paying for your education, and house rent (or you are living with them).
The day you stand on your own feet you will then realize that if you don't study for exams tomorrow then you might fail, and in that case you will have to pay for your education yourself, again and again and again.

So, your hard earned money will be spent on paying the fees of same class in which you are currently (till you pass) and on the house rent.

You won't have any money to spare for entertainment since your income will be limited and if you don't pass you will certainly be homeless.

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There seam to be a couple of assumptions with this answer that confuse me a little - did the OP say she was living with parents/not paying fees? – Joe May 13 '13 at 14:17
@Joe did the OP say she was living with parents/not paying fees? Where did you find me saying that it is a fact that the OP is living with his parents? I said "it seems". – TheIndependentAquarius May 13 '13 at 15:17
Following that assumption I'd guess he wouldn't be homeless if he didn't pass, unless his parents/family really don't like him much. – Dave Newton May 15 '13 at 12:00

You really, really want to beemind your studying! Here's a guest post on the Beeminder blog by a student who did so:

Beeminder is all about setting up very real consequences, as well as visualizing your progress, which serves as the positive reinforcement.

It's super great, says the co-founder of Beeminder. (Sorry for my shameless plugging! So many questions on the productivity stackexchange are begging for solutions like this, it's hard to help myself. :) I'm happy to plug our competitors as well.)

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To me, it's just a matter of priority and practice. No, you will not be homeless if you don't study for the exam, but then why are you going to school in the first place? So, after you've realized that you indeed HAVE to study to pass the exam, graduate, get a decent job etc, it only takes practice. Focus is just a matter of practice. No, you will not be able to study for 8 hours first day, but you will be in a week. Also, don't be too hard on yourself. Take 15-minute breaks every hour, or whatever works for you. Just don't end up making an hour break every 15 minutes :) Remember, practice makes perfect. Good luck!

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