Good study habits can greatly determine your success with passing exams, earning a degree and completing assignments on time.
By nature, habits are regular ‘automatic’ tasks so by turning study into a regular habit, you will take the pain and struggle out of trying to motivate yourself to study. This can greatly reduce the amount of stress you feel around exam time!
Follow this 7 Step process to help you develop the habit of regular study.
1- Develop Self Awareness
Your first step is to develop self-awareness around your current study habits. This is so you can see where improvements or changes need to be made.
How many hours per day or week do you currently study? When do you find it hard or easy to study? What places and what times of the day do you study best? What motivates you or distracts you?
Are there any people or activities that are preventing you from studying? Can you reduce or eliminate these?
2- Define Your Outcome
Get a big picture outcome of what you want to achieve by developing good study habits. What is your ultimate goal? To earn a degree? Get a certain job? Where do you see what you are learning taking you?
Set a small habit goal for studying. It is best if this is something you can do every day for the next 30 days to form the habit.
This needs to follow smart goal setting principles, for example “I will study Italian for 1 hour every day for the next 30 days at 7 a.m. weekday mornings and 9 a.m. during the weekend”. Make sure this really is something that is realistic for you and that you can do consistently for the next 30 days.
3- Get Motivated
To perform your new activity enough times for it to become a habit, you will need sufficient motivation to do so.
Get clear on the reasons and benefits why you want to develop your new study habit.
– To get good grades
– To earn a degree
– Better career options
– Recognition from family and friends
– Personal satisfaction
What will good grades and better career options ultimately lead to? Maybe you want a certain lifestyle or level of security that comes from having more career choices.
Put some pictures in your study area that relate to these benefits. You could include a Photoshop picture of yourself graduating from your chosen course or pictures of the country you would like to visit if studying a language.
In contrast, think about what will happen if you fail to develop good study habits.
Write these points down so you have a document to motivate yourself with when it comes time to study.
4- Planning & Strategy
Before a behavior becomes a habit, it will require some strategy and planning to ensure you complete it and to do so effectively.
Firstly you will need to allocate time to study. Look at your schedule and try and work in regular study blocks. To create a firm habit, it is preferable to do the activity every day for 21-30 consecutive days.
You also need to make sure you follow through and actually study when the time arrives. Alarms and reminders can be helpful as is someone to keep you accountable. People you live with are ideal as you see them often and can regularly query your progress.
Pay attention to where you will study and make sure your study environment is set up in such a way to be conducive to study and eliminate distractions. Make sure the lighting is sufficient and the temperature is comfortable.
If the Internet is a distraction for you whilst studying or completing assignments, turn it off! You can switch off the modem if it will not disrupt others or you can temporarily disconnect your local connection. Save Internet, social media, games, etc. as rewards for your break times.
Take short breaks when you study. The optimal amount of time to study for is 50 minutes followed by a short 10 minute break. After two 50 minute sessions you should take a longer 30 minute recovery break and have a small snack or meal to keep your energy levels up. This works in with our circadian rhythm cycles.
Take some time to learn effective study techniques that work for your particular learning style. You can also ask those who are already adept at studying what techniques they are using and any tips you can apply. This will ensure you are using your actual study time effectively and developing good habits.
Write down all the details of when, where and how you will study and refer to it often.
5- Mental Preparation
Your beliefs about studying will determine your success. If you believe studying is hard or boring this is what you’ll experience. Negative beliefs about yourself such as “I can’t study”, “ I have a poor memory” or “I am a procrastinator” will negatively impact your effectiveness.
Replace these thoughts with positive ones and consciously adjust your attitude prior to each study session. For example, “I enjoy learning new things and am determined to use this time effectively”.
Remind yourself of your skills and abilities. Recall times you have studied effectively or tests you have passed to put yourself in a positive mind frame for learning.
Say aloud your new beliefs and visualize yourself studying effectively for the time you have allotted.
Ideally you will do your new behavior every day for 21-30 days. If work or class schedules don’t allow this, you can still form a habit as the more times you do any behavior, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Before studying becomes a habit, you will require some willpower in order to carry it out and will have to motivate yourself. This is why it’s good to have your motivation material handy when it comes time to study. Relying on motivation can be unreliable so it is also wise to have an accountability buddy or study partner to ensure you carry through with your planned study session.
7- Record, Refine & Review
Keep a record of your study sessions and what you have learnt.
This help you build up a new self image of yourself as someone who is an “effective student” who “studies regularly”. Seeing how far you have come can give you motivation to keep going and complete the material.
You can also take note of what are the best times of day for studying for you as well as any persistent distractions that come up and how to avoid them.