How to make a habit of studying
It’s now 2018, last years’ results are out and everyone is releasing a collective sigh of relief promising that this year will be their year.
The problem is, we all seem to say this every year. And yet somehow when November rolls around, we act surprised when it dawns on us that we’re comically underprepared, yet again.
The most effective formula for doing your best at school is quite simple: study consistently throughout the year.
There are so many reasons why making a habit of study is beneficial, but to sum it up in one analogy: think of a marathon. You wouldn’t begin training one week before game day.
School, study and exams are no different, and yet too often we find ourselves doing this exact thing.
Why do we do this? Laziness? Not enough time? A secret desire to self-sabotage so we have a valid reason for the very real possibility of failure?
At Studytime, we believe in the power of preparation. There is no better way to do that than getting into good study habits early. This is not only great for exams, but as learners (and valuable members of society in general). Whether further study is your goal or not, it is always good to be well equipped for whatever the world throws at you. Developing good habits is the key to building that armour.
So why is it important to start early?
The beginning of the year is universally known as the “laid-back” season in school terms. Exams are but a distant worry, and you’re trying to recover from the mental shellshock of hard-resetting your brain for work after holidays.
However, even just a little bit of regular revision outside of class can be super beneficial for retention of information. This will not only broaden and solidify your knowledge of subjects, but will also prove super helpful at the end of the year so that study becomes a case of revision, rather than starting from scratch (especially if you’re learning external content in Term 1).
Our habits make us who we are, and what we do everyday will ultimately define whom we become. A good writer isn’t someone who was born with genius writing abilities, but rather, someone who carves out time to write everyday. A successful student isn’t usually born with superhuman intelligence, but someone who has good study habits that they implement regularly.
So, without further ado, here is our tips for creating and keeping good study habits.
Plan that study
Our first tip is simple: plan that study!
Hold yourself accountable for your study sessions. It’s very easy to make vague plans at the beginning of the year to study that slowly dwindle off as our motivation declines and boredom grows (we’re all guilty of it, don’t worry).
We need something more concrete, otherwise that goal will only remain the abstract realm of your brain, alongside your wish to get into DIY and take up knitting.
According to science, habit formation comes down to a simple loop of cue, repetition and reward.
Your cue needs to be something regular and fixed. For example, if you rely on your own motivation as a cue, you might find yourself skipping your intended study session when you’re not in the right mood.
Stay tuned for a future article about study planner creation from us!
Action Step: Make a promise
Make a realistic promise to yourself, such as: “At 5pm every week-day, I will do half an hour of focussed revision to cover what I learned in class that day”.
Use the clock app on your phone or an online timer to remind you at 5pm to start studying, and tell yourself how you’re going to plan your study, in a concrete, specific and manageable assertion.
Once the clock strikes five, you know that’s your cue to start studying, and since five occurs everyday, it allows you to repeat the cycle consistently until studying becomes your daily routine.
If you stuff up, don’t punish yourself excessively or give up. Simply pick up where you left off the next day.
For bonus points, build on your cues! For example, you can have a coffee or a green tea at 5pm with your study, and your cue becomes a combination of both time and caffeine!
Rinse and repeat
The second challenge when creating a habit is to keep the routine. Make a schedule for your study, and stick to it.
Study should be treated like any kind of extracurricular activity – a regular commitment.
But unlike social netball – study doesn’t impact anyone else but us. We don’t have a team we’re letting down by not showing up – so it’s much easier to skip the session.
Further, it’s important to be realistic with yourself. You wouldn’t go to a sports training for 4 non-stop hours, and studying is no different. Allow yourself some breaks. Studying requires a lot of mental energy, so listen to your body if it’s trying to tell you something.
A way to tackle this is to utilise spaced learning in your study habit. Spaced learning means studying in shorter, regular sessions, rather than just one big block. It’s proven more effective in both obtaining a habit and actually learning the material.
This not only makes it easier to plan in your day, but also gives your brain a chance to consolidate what has been revised in previous sessions.
When creating any kind of habit, it takes time for our mind to accommodate it into the fold of automatic actions. We have to persist through this and it may be where we need to focus on staying motivated.
Action step: Track your progress
At the end of each week, review your initial study promise and assess how closely you stuck for them.
For example, if your goal was to study for half an hour every week-day, go back over your calendar and mark off the days that you achieved your goal. For extra points, colour in the days that you studied, and cross out the days that you didn’t.
For every day you missed, ask yourself why you didn’t keep your promise that day, and what you’ll do to avoid that next time.
- Why didn’t I keep my promise that day?
- I got caught up with friends at the foodcourt after school.
- What will I do next time?
- Either leave the foodcourt early enough to get in some study, work for one hour the next day, or simply fulfil my promise when I got home a little bit later.
Often, visualising your own study habits can help you to track your progress more accurately. If you’re not reviewing your own work, your mind can trick you into thinking you’ve done a lot of study, when in reality you’ve just thought about all the promises you’ve made to yourself a lot.
Furthermore, making note of where you might’ve had difficulty makes it much easier to see where you have improved (and therefore celebrate it!). Bonus: there’s no feeling more satisfying than looking back on your week entirely coloured in, and knowing you kept your promise to yourself!
It’s important to remember that no matter how pretty our study planner is, if we don’t sit down to do it, it doesn’t count. Setting the intention is just the first step.
Treats, Treats, Treats
The final (and best) part in creating a study habit is reward. It’s always great to reward yourself for your hard work.
Rewarding yourself as opposed to punishing yourself is not only more wholesome, but also more productive in solidifying this new study habit.
It’s critical that no matter how well you think your study session went – from productive to downright useless – make the effort to give yourself a reward (even if only to trick your brain into associating pleasure with study).
Action step: treat yo’self
Make a list of different things to do once you’ve finished your mahi for the day. There are heaps of potential options but we’ve created a small list to kick-start the process:
- Food (although maybe cap at some point, chocolate bars for every study session may create more problems than it’ll solve)
- Going out to do an activity
- Watch Jordan videos
- Tag friends in Jordan videos
- See friends
- Do that thing that you’ve wanted to do for ages but haven’t found the time for
- Take some aesthetic Insta pics for your aesthetic Instagram
- Use the tips in this list to pick up a new habit that isn’t studying
The bottom line is: creating new study habits early in the year is mad important in ensuring we are pacing ourselves well throughout the year for our big event.
Train that brain well enough, and you won’t think twice about sitting down to study after a long day at school. It’ll be second nature – like brushing your teeth or browsing StudyTime memes.
Plus, you’ll have an excuse to reward yourself everyday. What’s better than that?