Introducing a new habit can be tough. It’s too easy to get demotivated, you forget to do what you set out to, you get lazy, the excuses just keep coming. Bottom line is, committing to a habit is a rare thing. If you’ve ever been to the gym at the beginning of January, then again any other time of the year, you’ll know what we mean.
Still, we know it isn’t January 1st. Truth is, you can start new habits whenever you’d like, as long as you’re prepared to get serious about it. If you want to revolutionise your study routines in a way that’ll stick, keep on reading.
What Good Habit Building Looks Like
Before we launch into how to build habits, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page here. If you’re trying to improve your learning through being dedicated and consistent, we can promise you’ll get results. However, to maximise those results, we need to make sure that the habits you’re building are going to help you, and that you’re building them in the right way.
Remember, if a habit is something that you do all the time, you want to make sure it’s worth your while.
Setting Beneficial Habits
Nobody likes to harp on about study methods more than StudyTime, and it’s for a good reason! If you’re trying to get into the routine of using a certain study method, you need to make sure it’s going to work. For example, trying to get in the habit of rereading your notes for 20 minutes every other day is going to be very unproductive. Sorry, note readers, but it’s true – we all know you’re not learning anything.
On the other hand, dedicating that same 20 minutes to engaging in a little active recall is a primo way to revise. Because you’re gearing up your brain to remember information so much more efficiently, you’ll be getting lots more out of your habit.
Basically, just be sure your habit is going to help you, rather than hinder you.
Remember, one of the best ways to learn and remember more is to engage in consistent, deliberate practice – aka, a beneficial habit. If you’re not sure what some good study methods are, hit up Google, read this article, or check out some extra StudyTime articles for advice. We’ve got your back.
Keeping It Sustainable
We’re all for the environment, but this is a different type of sustainability. Habits are all about dedicating yourself to something you can do routinely, or in other words, all the time.
As a result, how long you stay dedicated to your habit can hinge off of the time constraints you’re putting yourself under, and what your current study habits are. That was a big ol’ sentence, so let’s talk through an example.
Let’s say you’re an athletic kind of person who loves to engage in a little sports in your free time. If that’s the case, you probably won’t be able to commit to quite as much as someone who doesn’t play sports, just because you don’t have enough free time.
If this is the case, don’t try to commit to hours and hours of study per week. You still need to balance other commitments in your life, as well as just saving time for a bit of relaxation. Being honest with yourself about how much you can really commit to is something that’ll affect how long you keep those habits going for.
We also mentioned your current study habits, and this is important to think about, too. There’s no shame in being someone who never studies – anybody can change their habits, we can promise you that. However, someone who never studies is going to have a much harder time committing to three hours of revision a week compared to someone who already studies for two and a half hours per week.
Long story short, it’s not about how much time you spend studying altogether, it’s about how much more time you spend studying than you did before. You catch our drift?
In essence, a lot of people – hello, January 1st gym goers – will commit to a whole lot on the first day because, well, the first day is easy. What they’re not prepared for is how hard the second, third, and fourth days will be, and by the fifth, they’ve likely given up entirely. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.
By setting a habit that you know you can keep up, instead of one that sounds nice in theory, will help it last.
Of course, it’s this first step that trips a lot of people up. Good thing we’ve got a whole section on getting started, right?
How to Start a New Habit
If we want our habits to actually become a habit, and not just something we do for two days, we need to be smart about things. Here are a few key things to remember when you’re getting ready to kickstart a new routine.
Start Small and Enjoyable
If you want to make studying a habit, you need to start off with something that’s easy and fun to do on a regular basis. Okay, let’s be real, studying usually isn’t very fun – however, there are always ways to study that aren’t as miserable as others. These are what we’re aiming to find.
Here are some possible habits you could start with introducing:
- If you take the train or bus to school, practice flashcards during your 10-20 minute commute.
- If you don’t feel like actively revising, watch a YouTube video at least five minutes long on a topic you want to learn more about. Do this at least twice a week, or whatever feels doable for you.
- Whenever you study, use a rewards system each time. For example, after each question you complete, give yourself a few of your favourite treats (nothing quite like a mid-study Tim Tam, right team?).
After you’ve spent a few weeks keeping this up, you’ll be ready to add in a few more habits. More on that later.
If we’re starting small, the key is keeping things small until you’re 100% ready to move things up. We all know that the biggest issue people have with trying to set habits is ditching them prematurely, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
Instead of biting off more than you can chew in the first go, instead, focus on maintaining a smaller habit. Think about it – doing 45 minutes of study four days a week is the same amount of study time as doing one uber-chonky three hour study session.
Three hours sounds fine in theory, but if you’ve ever tried to study for three hours straight, let alone one or two, you’ll know how much it sucks.
Usually, your focus has totally disappeared after 40 minutes or so, and you aren’t making too much progress. Remember, we want our habits to be productive, and a three hour study sesh is anything but.
What we’re trying to get across here is that you shouldn’t be rushing into trying to do everything at once. You’ll find you can keep up your habits longer if you have a lowkey, sustainable goal in mind.
When trying to introduce new habits, it can be easy to hold yourself too accountable, definitely when starting out. You should obviously do your best to stick to the schedule you’ve set out, but if you need to reschedule your study plans every once in a while, that’s totally fine! The key is to be flexible.
Let’s run through a scenario. If you always do a 45 minute study session on Thursday nights, but now one of your friends is wanting to hangout, you’ve got three main options. You could;
- Forget the studying, and spin a yarn with your friends instead
- Stay on the study grind, and ghost your friend
- See your friend, and reschedule the studying to tomorrow.
What’s the best course of action here? Let’s discuss.
If you don’t study at all, you’re setting up a real bad precedent.
Skipping one study session altogether is a slippery slope. Especially since there’s no immediate consequence of not studying just once, you’ll start to set a new, unwanted habit – meaning, you’ll get into the habit of skipping study more often. Not ideal.
Isolating yourself just to study isn’t always great, either.
Studying is good, but if you don’t let yourself have fun every once in a while, your relationship with your coursework is headed on a downward spiral. Remember, these habits should be sustainable, and cutting everything fun out of your life is pretty much the opposite to that. Let’s skip this option, too.
But rescheduling your study session? That’s basically the Goldilocks of habit building.
You’re still working towards that goal you’ve set for yourself, without obliterating your social life in the process. In essence, flexibility is key to making sure you can maintain that habit for a long time.
Habits in the Long Run
Alright, let’s jump forward a bit. We’ve introduced our small, fun habits, we’ve kept up with them for a while, and now we need to focus on ramping things up. Let’s break down a few ways we can keep improving our study routines in the long term.
Change Things Up
Studying on the bus or train or revising with a mate are fantastic ways to start out, but to ensure we see real change in our learning, we need to gradually get more intense. This is where we can slowly switch to longer and/or more frequent revision sessions, and maybe even some different study techniques.
For example, if your initial habit was to study for 30 minutes two times per week, you could work on studying for 35 minutes three times per week. Focus on making your changes small and sustainable, just like when you introduced your habits to start with.
You could also try to incorporate new habits as opposed to changing up old ones. You could aim to spend 20-40 minutes working on a specific study method, such as note-taking from the StudyTime Walkthrough guides, practising past paper questions, or working from your class textbook.
Reflect On Your Progress
Reflecting can be tricky at times, dedicating a little bit of time to finding what is and isn’t working is key to maintaining habits. Every couple weeks or so, ask yourself questions like;
- What habits are feeling productive? Can I incorporate more of this?
- What habits am I enjoying?
- Can I sustain my current habits for the upcoming weeks, or do I need to change things up?
- What are my weaknesses, and what can I do to improve?
When reflecting, always aim to come back to find an action you can take to improve your current routines. Whether this is purposefully changing a current habit or adding a new one, your goal should always be to get better.
Measuring your progress is another great way to reflect on how your habits are treating you.
A really easy way to do this is to tackle a question from a past paper every once in a while. Write your answer under exam conditions (timed, without notes) and self-mark against the assessment schedule. Do a similar question again in a few weeks, after all of your amazing studying, and compare your answers.
Not only does this force you to pay attention to finding where you can improve, therefore strengthening your exam skills, but it’s a way to see how you’re improving over time. Seeing the evidence that your new habits are making you that much smarter is a great way to stay motivated, helping you to keep those habits up.
Alter What Doesn’t Work
We can cut to the chase here. If you’ve been finding a habit tedious, boring, or unproductive, the best thing to do is drop it. Sure, studying isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows, but if you want to make a habit stick, you can’t despise it with every fibre of your being.
And remember, everybody is different!
Let’s look at it this way. Maybe all of your friends find completing past paper questions to be really helpful, so you try it as well. If you aren’t confident with the material to start with, jumping straight into past papers is going to be really difficult, and you’ll be likely to struggle quite a lot.
When you realise this is too hard for where you’re at right now, go ahead and switch to something that works better for you. For example, if you’re not ready for a past paper just yet, try YouTube video explanations of content, short workbook questions you can self-mark, or drawing up notes and diagrams to break down content.
TL;DR – if something isn’t working, don’t keep forcing yourself to do it. That’s just not sustainable. Instead, try something else that you find better suited to where you’re at with your own learning.
To sum things up:
Staying dedicated to a new routine doesn’t have to be impossible. Start with small and enjoyable habits and focus on consistency, not intensity. Slowly work on completing more productive habits, change what isn’t helping you, and keep an eye on your progress. If you follow these steps, you’ll be studying like a pro in no time.