As the weather starts to think about turning warmer in the coming months, focusing on schoolwork can become more and more difficult. Spending more time outside on a beautiful sunny day is often more tempting than studying for that upcoming economics exam or writing a term paper for English. Even though we’re not at the beginning of the academic year or even the start of the semester, it’s always a good idea to pick up some new study habits. You never know what will work best for you.
Good Study Habits You Need to Try:
As a former academic overachiever who hasn’t entirely lost that trait, there are so many study habits I’ve tried over the years. I’ll share some of my favorites here, as well as some that didn’t necessarily work for me. But, just because they did not work for me does not mean they will not work for you. Let’s jump in.
1. Understand Your Learning Style
This isn’t necessarily a good study habit, per-say, but understanding how you learn and study best is an excellent place to start. Do you learn best from watching a video or looking at diagrams? Or does listening to your professor or teacher lecture about a topic suddenly make everything click? Are you someone who can read a chapter and understand how cells work in the human body?
There are a few main styles of learning:
- Auditory (you prefer listening to the material)
- Logical (you thrive on reasoning and systems)
- Verbal (you are most comfortable talking through or reading about topics)
- Visual (you benefit from watching a video or seeing pictures)
- Kinesthetic (you use touch or movement to learn)
- Social (you learn well with others)
- Solitary (you learn best alone)
Maybe you read through that list, and you think that a few of these could apply to you. That’s okay! Personally, I am an auditory and verbal learner. Typically I need to read through something, have someone tell me about it, and then I talk about the same subject. That’s just what works for me.
The important thing here is that once you understand your learning style, you can adapt your study habits to match. If you’re an auditory learner, ask your professor if you can audio record his or her lecture so you can listen to it again in the future. If you’re a social learner, you can put together a study group before the big exam.
2. Create a Plan
Whether it’s a big exam or a 25-page thesis paper that you’re preparing for, it can be beneficial to write out a plan for your project. Break it down into manageable pieces, and put those pieces on your calendar. We have some great weekly layout ideas if you want inspiration for a beautiful way to plan your project. As I mentioned, I was a bit of an overachiever, and even I got overwhelmed when I would look at a massive, project in front of me. Creating more manageable pieces (Research for one hour. Read chapter one. Write an outline.) made big projects much less intimidating.
Once you have your project broken down and scheduled on your calendar, resist the urge to reschedule or miss those self-imposed deadlines. Treat these individual pieces like a meeting with your professor, class time, or any other event you wouldn’t want to miss. By carving out time to work on your project pieces, you’ll be well on your way to completing your assignments.
3. Use the Pomodoro Method
This is one of my favorite study habits and one that I still use today in my work. More than once I’ve sat down to work on a piece of a project and then felt like it would never end. This worry would get into my head, and I’d often procrastinate getting started.
The Pomodoro technique is a method of time management created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. With this method, you set a timer and work for 25 minutes; then you take a five-minute break. Research has shown that after we work for too long without a break, our productivity starts to decrease. Knowing that we will be getting a break in no longer than 25 minutes can also make the idea of starting less imposing. I typically use my five-minute breaks to take a short walk, get away from my computer, and stretch.
4. Choose a Place to Study
Yes, you certainly can study anywhere. And yes, if it’s a beautiful day outside, taking your books and laptop out to the quad, front yard or even a bench near a fountain can be a great way to get some fresh air while also being productive.
However, if you want to create an excellent study routine, you should have a designated place where you study most of the time. Our bodies and brains thrive on routines, and we associate areas where we spend our time with the things we do in that area. For instance, we associate our beds with sleep and relaxation. We associate our dining room table with eating. We might even associate the couch in the living room with family time or TV time. This means we need a separate space to study.
Whether you have an office in your home or apartment specifically for studying, or if you have space for a desk in your bedroom, create an intentional study spot. Studying in bed will make you sleepy. Studying in the living room might tempt you to turn on the television. Having a place where you always go to study, and you do nothing but study there, will help your mind begin to focus as soon as you sit down.
5. Take Good Notes
This is especially important for my fellow people who prefer verbal learning methods, but it’s a good study habit in general. Make sure you take effective notes in class. That’s more difficult than it sounds, actually, and I’m sure some of you already understand that. The first class I ever took notes in was social studies in sixth grade while we were being taught how to take notes. I honestly believe that was one of the most worthwhile things I learned in grade school, and in general.
Before I was taught any better, I would frantically try to write down everything my teacher said. Yes, even the random stories and tangents she would undoubtedly go down to try to get our attention. I told you – I was an overachiever. As the class went on, I was taught to write down the main idea and then anything that didn’t sound like common sense to me.
However, there will be some classes where nothing sounds like common sense. Since I was a verbal learner, I would often be the one who actually did the reading before class. In that case, a few things we discussed would sound familiar to me. Eventually, I developed the note-taking style that worked for me, and that’s what I encourage all of you to do. Play around with some different ideas – there are plenty of note-taking guides online. Whatever you do, make sure it works for you.
6. …Then Review Those Notes
Spend some time reviewing your notes. If you never look at your notes again, they haven’t done much other than keep you from falling asleep in class. Reviewing your notes is more important than taking those notes in the first place. For those of you who might not learn best from reading, consider turning your notes into whatever format works best for you. This might mean drawing pictures based on the information in your notes. Or maybe you could use a text-to-voice program on your computer to have your notes read back to you. However it works out for you, make sure you put your notes to good use.
7. Take Care of Your Health
The mind and body are so closely connected that it’s impossible to learn well if you’re neglecting your body. If you’re exhausted, it’s because your body is tired and desperately needs a nap or an early night’s sleep. Listen to it. Don’t just try to push through.
Also, coffee, energy drinks and anything else with caffeine is only healthy in small amounts. Some people would argue that they’re not healthy at all and should be avoided. I won’t go that far. I loved coffee and drank it nearly every day in college. Now I also have about two cups a day. However, I would very rarely drink coffee after about 2 p.m. or so, and I’d recommend the same for you.
Having a healthy diet is also crucial for your good study habits. Vegetables are good for you, and fish or eggs are great things to have to boost your brain activity. My mom used to give my sister and me salmon the night before a big test.
A quick disclaimer before we go on: obviously, I am not a doctor. None of this section should be taken as official dietary or medical advice.
8. Review Material Before and After Class
While it might sound counterintuitive, reviewing before and after class puts you ahead of the game. When you’re just about to go to class or immediately after you leave, that seems like the most unnecessary time to study. However, taking a few minutes before class, even if it’s just to briefly skim over the subtitles in the chapter you’ll be discussing that day, you’ll be more prepared to join in the discussion or understand the subject of the day.
Reviewing your notes after class is one of the best times to do so. First of all, the material is still fresh in your mind, so if there are any notes that don’t make sense, now is the best time to fix them. It’s no fun to get to the week before the test and not be able to make sense of your notes. Secondly, reviewing the information right away is one of the best ways for it to stick in your mind, making your job easier when you go to study.
Give These Study Habits a Try
These are some of the most effective good study habits that I’ve come across, but I’d love to know if you have any other tips I might have missed. Are you going to try out any of these habits? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure you tell us how it worked for you! Remember, everyone learns differently, so just because something worked for me doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Experiment with it, and enjoy your new good study habits.