In the middle of preparing for the National Bible Bee Competition, many contestants struggle to study hard without burning themselves out and losing their motivation. Thankfully, there are tips that make it easier to study intensely and effectively without burning out and ending up wanting to quit. Previously on the blog, we looked at two of the most important tips: rest and moderation. Today, a few more practical tips to manage your study workload, and some encouragement to keep your goals in perspective and focus on the prize that matters more than any earthly trophies, prizes, rankings, or rewards, because ultimately, the study is about so much more than how many verses you memorize or how many facts you’ve succeeded in learning.
A factor that can often contribute to burnout is boredom. Always doing the same thing in the same way can lead to boredom, which saps your enjoyment and motivation. To prevent falling into a rut, find ways to continue enjoying the material and approaching it with curiosity so that your brain is actively engaging with it. Too much change can make it hard to focus as well, so instead of trying to do everything differently than what you’re used to, just switch up what you need to so you can stay mentally engaged with the material you’re studying.
Switch up study tasks to keep your brain engaged
One effective and easy way to stay focused on the material and avoid studying on autopilot is to switch up what you’re studying when you start a new study block. If you’re using flashcards to review Greek words, you might switch to reciting verses or reading the study passage for the next block so that the material is different and requires more focus to engage with it. If you’re staying focused on what you’re learning, there’s no need to switch tasks, but if you find your mind wandering you might want to try something different.
Use different study and review methods, especially ones that maximize how your brain works
Some study methods are more effective than others, and the most effective methods vary a little from person to person. For example, some people find memorizing much easier when the passages are set to music, others prefer writing or typing them out, and still others rely on verbal repetition. While studying, some rely heavily on online flashcards, some find it helpful to write out information by hand, some love using color coding or other more visually oriented strategies, and some prefer to listen to the information they’re studying. Most people use a combination of different methods, adding personal twists to how they study so that it helps them learn and remember information effectively. A little bit of experimentation goes a long way in avoiding boredom; just make sure you don’t spend more time figuring out how to study than actually studying.
Change locations or time of day you’re studying
Another easy way to incorporate small changes is to switch up where or when you study. Memorizing some of your memory passages in a different room (or maybe even outside) or taking your study materials to a new spot is a great way to subtly break your routine and make it seem different. Just don’t pick an environment that is distracting or too uncomfortable to stay focused on what you’re doing. Combining studying or reviewing with other parts of your daily routine (like reading over the material while you brush your teeth or listening to the study passage every time you’re riding in the car) is another way to change up how you study. For some contestants, studying early in the morning is when they are most focused, for others, later in the day or just before bed is better. Find the time of day when you have the most mental focus and prioritize your most important or hardest information during that time.
Another important element to avoid burnout is community. Feeling lonely and isolated will quickly drain your motivation, leaving you discouraged, frustrated, and wanting to quit. Your community provides support and encourages you when you are struggling; they can study with you, keep you accountable, motivate you to study more, share insights with you, celebrate with you, and pray for you. Family, friends, and church are all part of that community, so make sure you’re regularly spending time with each of those groups and investing in them. However, while community provides many wonderful benefits that can help you, don’t just approach community looking for what you can get from it, but what you can give to it. It is a blessing to be able to share what you’re learning, pray for others, listen to them and encourage them in their struggles, and just enjoy spending time with them by doing fun things together. Avoid making most of your interactions about your study; instead, enjoy the relationships for their own sake and look for ways you can invest in and build up your community.
Don’t let your studying keep you from interacting with people
When you’re focusing intensely on studying, it’s easy to become a little hermit-like, but ultimately withdrawing from others will make burnout much worse. It’s okay to pass on some social events to study, but skipping every opportunity to spend time with friends and family will leave you feeling discouraged and alone quickly. Make sure you’re spending time with the people that are important to you, doing things that are completely unrelated to the study, because community is a vital part of life no matter what stage you’re in. Plus, spending time with others doing things you both enjoy is a great way to feel refreshed and ready to return to studying.
Connect with fellow NBBC contestants
Connecting with other contestants can be very motivating and encouraging. They understand both the challenges and rewards of studying and memorizing and can provide helpful suggestions and accountability to motivate you. Another benefit is that many contestants are willing to share study materials, which can save you time and keep you from getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything yourself. In return, look for ways you can share what you’re learning, offer encouragement, and help them study. In friendships with other contestants, it’s especially tempting to base all your interactions around studying, but it’s still wise to spend some of your time together just having fun or doing things that are separate from the study, which will make your friendship stronger.
Reach out to someone when you’re struggling
If you’re dealing with discouragement or burnout, reach out to someone and let them know you’re struggling. Having someone who can encourage you and pray for you makes a big difference when you want to quit. Sometimes, it’s hard to admit that you’re having a tough time, but having the humility to acknowledge your struggles is a powerful way to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and can encourage others who are struggling by letting them know that they are not alone, allowing you to support and pray for each other. Also, reaching out to other contestants to ask how studying is going for them, praying for them, and celebrating or sympathizing with them is a great way to bless others.
Another vital component of avoiding burnout is having a good perspective on why you study and what you’re trying to accomplish. Every contestant has their own reasons and motivations for studying, the things that keep them going. For some, it’s a desire to do well in the competition, for others, they simply enjoy the process of studying. For most, it’s a love for God and for His Word that keeps them going. No matter what your goals, and no matter how close or far you are from achieving them, here are some things to remember:
- Studying God’s Word is not the only way to glorify Him, and He calls us to do all things unto Him wholeheartedly, in thankfulness (Colossians 3:17, 23). So go live life fully, enjoying Him and glorifying Him in all you do, from painting to praying, from music to memorizing, from sports to studying, all good things are from God, and to God, and He calls us to bring Him glory in all of it.
- God will use His Word to accomplish what He wants to work in your life, and that promise is based on His faithfulness, not on how well or how much you study. We are called to rest in Christ and what He has done on our behalf, knowing that the work is His and not ours (Isaiah 55:8-11, Hebrews 4:9-11). So give thanks for what you have already learned, and give thanks for God’s goodness and sovereignty, and approach your studies resting in the fact that God is faithful and neither your worst study days nor your best study days can change that.
- God’s Word is eternal, and its value outlasts and surpasses every earthly treasure and every reward. The purpose of knowing the Word is not just to know it, but to live it out. If you’re merely learning all the facts without applying anything, you’re missing out on the blessings of obedience and true wisdom. (James 1:22-25, Isaiah 40:6-8, Psalm 119:72, 97-105) So as you study, don’t just think about the bare facts, but about what they mean for your life and what they teach you about Christ.Then know that the wisdom that comes from the Word will bless every part of your life in far more lasting ways than meeting all your study goals will.
- It’s all about Christ! Every verse you memorize, every fact you learn, all of it points back to the One who is the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth. He is our sustenance and our Life, our Light, our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord (John 1:14, 6:35, 8:12, Colossians 1:16-18, Titus 2:14, 1 Corinthians 8:6). So rejoice in Christ, and seek Him in every passage, and remember that the reason you do this is to know Him and make Him known.
In conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with studying hard, even if it sometimes means staying up late, giving up a social event, or spending less time on other things in your life. It’s not even wrong to want to do well in the competition and to study hard for that purpose. It only becomes a problem if you’re studying in such a way that it’s leading you away from glorifying and enjoying God. If you aren’t enjoying God’s goodness in the gifts He’s given you, or you’re more focused on what you’re doing or not doing than on glorifying God, it’s time to refocus on what matters most.
Written by NBB Alumna: Janese Hurst