Studying isn’t always fun. In fact, sometimes it can be downright boring. You may be looking for some way to make those long hours of studying more fun, or you need to keep your brain a little more engaged in the subject matter, making it easier to remember all the facts, figures, and formulas.

Turning your studies into a game is a great way to make the material more interesting to you, getting you through everything you need to know and help you better retain the information.

To get you started, here are 5 great ways to gamify your studies:

Set Timers & Race Against the Clock

If you have quick sets of tasks to get done but you’ve just been dragging your feet (We get it. We’ve been there!) such as answering forum posts of getting through that paper’s first draft, set a timer and see if you can finish before it goes off.

When setting your time, be careful to pick a length of time that will allow you to finish your task, but just barely. If you think the task should take you one hour to finish under normal circumstances, set your timer for 55 minutes. The shorter timeframe will motivate you to move quickly and avoid distraction without it being so long that you dawdle and end up wasting time. Once you’ve finished this quick work period, take a break. The goal of this sprint is not to get a fully finished product; it’s simply to get something on paper to get your juices flowing and let you feel accomplished that you can go back to later to polish.

To up the ante a little, make a chart to keep track of how many sprints you successfully complete in a day, week, month, or semester. Give yourself a prize goal – a new outfit, a video game, or dinner out – to work toward with your sprints.

This method also works well for your everyday study sessions, such as when you’re trying to read a few textbook chapters or do research for a project. Set your timer for 25 minutes and work, no interruptions. Take a 5-minute break at the end to do something else, like get a snack or throw in a load of laundry. Once every three to four 25-minute rounds of focused work, take a 15-minute break. You’ll feel accomplished and have time for something besides studying!

Give Yourself Prizes for Studying

You know how, when you play a video game, completing a series of tasks means you get coins or stars or an extra life? Why not create similar conditions in your study habits?

Pull out your semester calendar and look at all the reading, papers, projects, and tests you have in each of your courses. Start out by finding an attainable goal for your early-semester reading, but something that’s a bit of a stretch. If, say, you have 10 reading assignments in the first couple weeks of the semester, and you’d normally finish half of them, write down a small prize you’ll allow yourself to have for finishing 7 reading assignments. This prize doesn’t have to cost money. It can be as simple as spending an afternoon watching a favorite movie. But it’s something that you would enjoy enough to motivate yourself to reach that goal.

Write down this prize, and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Maybe that’s your computer monitor, or your planner, or even your bathroom mirror. If you’ve got that short-term goal in front of you daily, you’re more likely to think about it when you’re about to get derailed in your studies.

Once you reach that goal, enjoy your reward and celebrate your success! Now, start thinking of your next benchmark goal and reward. Go a little bigger than the first time, so maybe shoot for 12 completed reading assignments, and a slightly bigger reward. Repeat this goal-setting and reward-choosing process for any big project, or hours spent studying, or set of reading assignments for the remainder of the semester. You might just find yourself getting some great grades along the way!

Leverage Some Great Apps

Thanks to modern technology, there are tons of great apps and browser extensions designed to help you remain productive during your day. These programs reward you with all sorts of great instant-gratification “prizes,” and you can compete against yourself to see how far you can get.

If cats are your thing (Cat pictures do make the internet go ‘round, after all), give Written? Kitten! a try. For every set amount of words you write, the site rewards you with a picture of a cute kitten. The more you write, the more cat pictures you get!

For those days when you’re distracted by the siren call of your phone, there’s Forest. Pull up the app on your phone when you’re ready to study, and you’ll sprout and grow a tree. The longer you stay in the app, the larger the tree grows. If you leave the app to check social media or texts, your tree dies. You can challenge yourself each time to go longer and longer without checking your phone, growing bigger and bigger trees.

Create Your Own Games

If you have a ton of facts or formulas to remember, make learning them more fun and a lot easier by creating a game to help you out. Word searches can help you remember any long or complicated spellings; a Jeopardy-like game lets you quiz yourself on dates, events, and all sorts of facts; even a custom-designed board game with quiz questions you have to answer are great ways to level-up your learning.

A big bonus of creating your own games is that thinking about the design of the game and creating pieces or question cards helps you learn and remember the information without really trying.

Form Study Groups

One of the best ways to make sure you’ve got difficult concepts nailed down is to talk them over with other people. Creating study groups among your classmates gives you these built-in groups of people to talk with and who can help you clarify any holes in your thinking. Even as an online student, study groups can be conducted over Skype or another web-based conferencing service, giving you the ability to talk face-to-face across the miles.

Take your group to the next level by creating your own games and competing against one another before a big test. You get the thrill of competition while studying. Add an extra level of competition by playing for prizes, like gift cards for coffee, movies, or restaurants. All study group members can toss in a few dollars and that money is what’s used to purchase prizes.

No matter which method you choose, gamifying your study habits can help you want to study more, study longer, and retain information better. You get to improve your grades while also having fun – Where’s the downside to that?

Online Learning on Your Schedule

For more than 65 years, NAU has offered innovative career education solutions to professionals at all levels. You get to advance your career while studying on your schedule, taught by some of the best instructors in the industry.  Learn more about our online educational options today!