At TSM we provide you with the tools and training materials to literally guarantee (yes, that’s right) a passing EPPP score. But having the right tools for success is only one part of the picture. You also have to put in enormous effort. It’s at that point – the effort part – that many people flounder because they lack sufficient motivation. Unmotivated students are the most likely to fall into the trap of EPPP procrastination.
Of course, it is possible to prepare for the EPPP exam even when you’re not feeling particularly motivated, by simply doing what you need to do. Many tasks in life are like that – they are things we don’t particularly enjoy, but we have to grit our teeth and do it anyway. However, it is much harder to achieve success, and much harder to overcome the obstacles that stand between you and your goal, if you’re feeling consistently unmotivated. That’s why I want to share how you can create motivation to give your studies a sense of purpose and flow.
The first thing we recommend people do when they feel unmotivated is to reverse-engineer their lack of motivation. Slow down, take a long breath, and then take a deep look inside yourself to assess why you’re feeling unmotivated.
If you’re like tens of thousands of other people in the world, it could be that your lack of motivation is arising from one of the following four factors: (a) being tired, (b) being distracted, (c) lacking confidence, (d) feeling overwhelmed because you don’t know where to begin.
Many people find that by addressing one or all of these four factors, the feelings of being unmotivated can be brought down to a manageable level. I’d like to briefly look at each of these four barriers and then suggest a few positive tips for cultivating a sense of motivation.
Lack of Motivation Because of Tiredness
If you’re feeling unmotivated in your EPPP studies because of being tired, there are a number of things you should try. The most obvious is to simply start getting a good night’s sleep. I encourage everyone wanting to know how to prepare for the EPPP exam to start getting sufficient sleep as the first step towards creating a lifestyle for success.
Still, many of us struggle to get sufficient sleep at night, and even after a good night’s sleep we may still feel tired in the mid afternoon. To address this, some people find it helpful to study lying down in bed and then, when you feel yourself starting to doze off, let yourself fall asleep and have a short nap (not too long, just enough to take the edge off your tiredness). As soon as you wake up from your nap, get out of bed, stretch, and resume your studies in an upright or even in a standing position. Taking a nap is not a waste of time because there is evidence that it is more difficult for the memory to retain material if one is tired or sleep-deprived. I have reviewed some of that research in my articles ‘Don’t Get Too Tired (part 1)‘ and ‘Don’t Get Too Tired (part 2)‘.
On the other hand, if you are not the sort of person who benefits from taking a nap, or if you find it difficult to fall asleep in the middle of the day, then consider changing your study position from sitting down to standing up. This may involve purchasing some office accessories to facilitate being able to stand and still use your computer comfortably, but it’s worth it to achieve increased alertness. Growing numbers of students, writers and software programmers are finding that the standing position increases alertness and helps them to be more focused, which in turn increases motivation.
There is another type of tiredness you need to guard against, and that is cognitive exhaustion. Punctuating your study with rests can be a helpful antidote to mental fatigue, as I showed earlier in my post on leveraging the power of rest. Ideally, these breaks should be taken outdoors and involve some activity that oxygenates the brain like walking or gardening. Other activities could be things like listening to music, yoga, eating a proper meal, having a bath or just doing nothing at all. In the interest of avoiding cognitive overload (and the resulting depletion in motivation that usually follows such overload), I encourage people to keep their study breaks low-tech. If your breaks are spent reading emails, going on social media, sending text messages, keeping busy on your smartphones, then the neurological benefits of your break will be diminished. (I’ve explained further about why it’s important to keep your study breaks low-tech here.)
Lack of Motivation Because of Distractions
If you’re feeling unmotivated because of distractions, then I would encourage you to assess the circumstances of your life with the aim of removing – at least as much as possible – anything that might be distracting you from your EPPP studies. I realize that for many of us it is not always possible to escape from the myriad obligations and stimuli that distract us from studying, whether employment, family commitments, etc. But each of us can remove distractions during our times of study by finding somewhere quiet.
Finding a quiet and distraction-free place to study could include a local library, a coffee shop, or even just sitting alone in your car after you’ve driven to a location where none of your friends can find you. But be careful: even in a distraction-free environment, your attention can still be scattered through digital media such as the internet and smart-phone. If you are studying at your computer make sure all social media and email are turned off.
(By the way, I’ve shared some observations about turning off distractions in my posts ‘Skills for Online Learning that no one is Teaching‘ and ‘Top 5 Ways Successful Students Achieve Focus During EPPP Studies.’ You may also want to read some of the excellent literature about attention, including Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence or Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself.)
If you must check social media or text messages during your times of study, do this at structured and pre-defined intervals. If there are messages that require a response, instead of replying right away, make a note on a piece of paper (or the free computer program Evernote, which is particularly suited for writing notes to yourself) and come back to it later after your study period is over.
Even after applying this advice, you may have a myriad of mental distractions to deal with. There is nothing like mental distractions to take the motivation out of studying. For example, as you are going through your EPPP preparation materials, you may suddenly remember something you needed to do, or something you don’t want to forget. With so much activity buzzing around in the mind, it is incredibly difficult to focus. That is why I recommend that people who are studying keep a pad of paper on hand (or again, you can use a program like Evernote or comparative note-taking software). As things to do come to mind, write them down on the paper and then forget about it and return immediately to your studies. The act of committing a thought to paper is enormously helpful in freeing the brain to let go of the thought, since our working memory can only hold about seven things at a time, plus or minus 2.
When Lack of Confidence Zaps Your Motivation
If you’re lacking confidence in your ability to successfully prepare for the EPPP, it might be time to again step back and talk to yourself. Tell yourself that confidence is not a fixed feeling that you either have or do not have, but something you are in the process of earning for yourself.
Confidence requires competence, and competence requires mastery, and mastery is derived from doing things right repeatedly. As you study for your EPPP and begin to get the right answers again and again in your practice exams, you’ll find yourself earning your own confidence.
So if you feel lacking in confidence at the beginning of the process, be assured that this is normal. Confidence will come later when you’ve earned it through frequent practice.
But Where Do I Begin?
Another factor leading to lack of motivation can be the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to begin. The EPPP has so many sections and sub-sections that often students don’t know where to start, and so they enter their studies without any real plan, randomly skipping around without any structure.
When you sit down to do your EPPP studying, it’s crucial to make an action plan that will structure your studying for that day. What you want to avoid is feeling like you are swimming in a sea of information that totally engulfs you and then overloads your working memory. So don’t bite off more than you can chew, but make a realistic plan for what you want to learn that day. Then try to put everything else out of your mind and just focus on that.
At TSM, we have a team of researchers and engineers that have spent years studying the EPPP, as well as studying various theories of memory and learning, in order to identify the most effective ways to structure your study time. We have put together a series of online tools that can break down your EPPP studies into manageable parts that can be tailored to your unique schedule. If you haven’t already enrolled for our free trial, now might be a good time to consider doing that.
If you apply all the strategies I’ve mentioned and you are still feeling unmotivated, then I suggest you spend ten minutes at the beginning of your study time to visualize everything you will be able to accomplish once you have become a licensed psychologist. Then back up and imagine yourself receiving a letter announcing that you passed your EPPP. Keep backing up in your mind: imagine doing well on exam day, imagine your weeks of final preparation, and finally bring yourself back to the present to visualize having a successful study session today. Repeat this process of visualization every time you feel discouraged and lacking in motivation.
In the weeks ahead, I hope to give further tips on how to prepare for the EPPP exam when you’re not feeling motivated.
- How to Succeed at the EPPP Without Ruining Your Life
- Top 5 Ways Successful Students Achieve Focus During Their EPPP Studies
- You May be Spending Too Much Time on EPPP Study Materials
- Interview with Dr. Graham Taylor
- Waiting Too Long to Take the EPPP Could Lessen Your Chance of Success
- Don’t Delay Your EPPP Prep (Procrastination Part 2)
- Don’t Be a Perfectionist with Your EPPP Practice (Procrastination Part 3)