Motivation is overrated. But, as a CAT 2020 aspirant, you must have felt the need for motivation several times in your preparation journey. At least I did back in 2017, when I was preparing for the CAT exam. In this post, I will share 7 realistic ways to keep yourself motivated for CAT.
CAT Exam Motivation
7 Realistic Ways
I. Plan with Milestones
You must have heard of "the light at the end of the tunnel" but unfortunately that light takes a long time to appear when it comes to the CAT preparation journey. My own journey was about 10 months long and for most CAT aspirants it is at least 6 months long.
Time and again, aspirants are told not to enroll themselves in coaching classes which begin 1.5 years before CAT. The simple reason is because the farther the light, the more chances you'll feel demotivated for the exam. So, what's the way around?
Divide your journey into smaller milestones so that you have several lights to be excited for rather than the one which makes itself visible around the month of November.
For example, if you're taking mocks, then there can be milestones for the marks you wish you score. Accordingly, you can work on improving your mock scores after hitting each milestone.
The entire CAT preparation journey can be divided into 3 basic milestones:
Finishing the Basics
Taking the Mocks
Improving the Score
For each of them, you should define measurable milestones. Let's take the case of "Finishing the Basics". You can simply divide this larger goal into byte sized weekly goals. By making a CAT preparation plan, you can bifurcate a 3-4 months basic preparation journey into 4 monthly goals and 18-20 weekly goals.
Count how many lights you'll now have to look forward to!
II. Offer Treats
This is one of the most commonly suggested tips yet the least practiced one. I'll be very honest - there were days (and there still are) when I'm too hard on myself. I slog and slog but forget to appreciate the effort I put in. I bet many of you would be doing the same.
Without getting too much into its depth, I just want to tell you that offering yourself treats on accomplishing a target is a proven method of reinforcing positive habits. We are taught about this in the Organizational Behaviour classes at IIMs.
Why not apply it to yourself? The next time you make a weekly plan or you set a target for yourself - give yourself a treat on its completion. Watch a Netflix episode, cook something you like, spend time with your pets, I don't know what brings joy to you. But whatever it is, you need to enjoy it to celebrate your hard work!
III. Understand the Objective
Here I'm not referring to why you want to crack the CAT exam. What I mean is that you must know the rationale behind what you're doing. It sounds simple but it isn't.
I often receive messages from aspirants who say that "we're not able to solve the QA questions while practicing and it's too demotivating". I understand, but ever thought why you're practicing them in the first place? Is it to validate whether you're good or to get better at QA?
If it's the latter, then you're not expected to be good at QA already to be able to solve all the questions you come across. Point being, you're practicing because you want to learn how to solve those questions. Then how does it matter if you're unable to solve them initially?
What matters is what do you after you realize that you don't know how to solve a question? Do you check its explanation? Do you learn the trick? Do you understand how it was to be solved? Do you take a note of it in your formula book for revision? Do you revise it?
Understand the objective behind carrying out an exercise. When you're in the first stage of CAT preparation i.e. finishing your basics, what you need the most is the ability to attempt and learn from the questions, not to solve them in the first go and expect results from the very beginning.
IV. Take Breaks
There is no need to build upon this point. Just make sure you're taking due breaks in the day while preparing for CAT, especially now when the lockdown has restricted the number of activities you can indulge in.
But, remember to come back from your break when it is due. A lot of aspirants find it difficult to stick to a timetable and truth be told, you don't need to have one (we'll talk about this in point #6). Just remember to have multiple short sittings in a day with ample gap in between them.
V. Measure Results
Probably the most important point. The right time to measure your results is when you start taking the mocks. And how you do it will make a lot of difference in how inspired you feel to continue your CAT preparation.
Use ceteris paribus. This is a term we often use at B-schools. The best way to check if a change in a variable is having an effect or not is to keep everything else constant.
In this case, when you attempt a CAT mock and you get a score, you need to analyze which section needs to be worked upon in the coming week before you take the next mock.
And while doing that, you keep the other sections constant i.e. you practice them as much as you were doing earlier. But, for the section which is weaker (and not constant), you put in more effort during that week.
That is when, after taking the next mock, you'll clearly be able to measure the results and see if your efforts paid off for that particular section. This will do two things:
It won't demotivate you as much if you score lower in the other two sections.
It would motivate you more than usual if you score better in the section you worked hard for.
Ultimately, you'll know what is working and what is not, which is way more important than seeing a good mock score one time and an absolute disaster the other time.
VI. Manage Your Time
Have you observed that we feel more demotivated towards the end of the day than in the daytime? This happens because we tend to evaluate how our day went during that time.
Now, if you follow a regular routine, a set time-table to get things done and it's working - great! You don't need this point. But, if sticking to a timetable doesn't work for you, you might as well try a task table instead.
A task table simply tells you what all needs to be done in a day and how long is each task going to take. It doesn't define when it needs to be done which gives you a window of flexibility to relish.
This technique worked very well for me and kept me away from feeling demotivated at night because honestly, timetables never worked for me.
(For those who jumped to this point from #4, you missed a good one above)
VII. Report to Someone
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'd know how much I've emphasized on the need to have accountability partners in any endeavour you take up.
Accountability partners are people you report your periodic progress to. This technique has been talked about in the book Atomic Habits and works really well given the individual you're reporting to is someone you trust.
When you share your progress with someone, you get more clarity on your further steps. And the clarity need not come from your accountability partner, it comes from your own mind when you speak or write about it.
Make sure that you have someone to be there with you during your CAT preparation journey. If you don't feel comfortable sharing your plans with others, you can also write them down. But if you go ahead with the former, try finding an individual who is going to stick by.
So these were the 7 ways that kept me motivated during my CAT preparation days. Hope they work for you too. If you're facing any difficulties, these posts might be helpful at the moment: