Quizlet is proud to partner with real students to showcase authentic voices on our blog. This guest post is by Trevor Mahoney, a Finance and Management Information Systems major at Santa Clara University.
At last, 2020 is behind us. A new year can feel like a clean slate, but for students, the new year also brings the second half of the academic year. Whether you are learning remotely or in-person, developing positive study habits will help you tackle your new classes and succeed this year.
Do habits really work?
I was skeptical about the necessity of creating good study habits for years. I preferred to wing it by studying and simply hope for the best. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best strategy.
A habit is just an automatic behavior. And habits work. Buckling your seatbelt to keep yourself safe is an example of a habit you have developed over time.
You can do the same thing with your academics. By creating study habits, you can improve your focus and stay dedicated to whatever academic tasks you may have on your plate.
How do you make a habit stick?
In a discussion of his book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg outlines three main components to building a habit: a cue, an action and a reward.
A cue is an action that directly precedes your habit, the action is the habit, and the reward is the positive result of the habit. For example, maybe you get out of bed every morning and throw on a pair of slippers without thinking.
The cue is getting out of your bed. The action is putting on the slippers. The reward is your feet being warm on a cold morning.
When trying to develop a positive study habit, you need all three of the above components. A cue to start studying, actually studying, and then a reward for your effort.
In my case, I began going to my campus library every time I needed to study. This put me in a productive mindset and allowed me to get all my work done. As a reward, I always bought myself a donut afterward from our library cafe.
Cue, action and reward.
By building all three of these, you can make anything you do a habit. Eventually, you’ll begin to do the action without needing to actively think about it, which greatly helps with improving overall motivation when it comes to studying.
With the above in mind, you’re surely wondering if there are any tips and tricks to use while trying to start forming your habits. We’ve got four of them to help you, so keep reading.
4 helpful tips to form great study habits
1. Organize your materials
To set yourself up for success, you’ll need to organize your materials. After all, if you’re gearing up for the library but have to stop to search for a textbook, you’re more likely to talk yourself out of going.
Instead, keep your books and other study materials organized and easy to locate. If you’re leaving your room to study, packing your backpack is a good cue to put yourself into a study mindset.
2. Start with small goals and build up
A surefire way to fail in building your habit is to take on too much at one time. Don’t overload yourself when it comes to studying. If you aren’t used to sitting down and hitting the books for long periods of time, start with short, 30-minute sessions.
Slowly, over time, build your sessions up until you can stand to be studying for an hour and a half or longer (but don’t forget to take short breaks). This strategy is called building a mini habit. As the name suggests, it’s just a smaller version of your large habit that is nearly impossible to fail.
You just set small and attainable goals for yourself until those mini habits become cemented, then you take it up a notch. Follow this pattern until you are at your goal habit.
3. Minimize external distractions
When you’re actually doing the action of your study habit, do yourself a favor and turn off notifications on your smartphone and laptop. Ideally, your phone should be completely off. If you’re anything like me and enjoy listening to music while studying, though, then this is impossible.
At the very least, unplug from social media and remove as many distractions as you can think of. The ideal study session consists of five minutes of light concentration, five minutes of moderate concentration, and 40 minutes of deep concentration.
By removing external distractions, you improve the quality of your study session. Make this part of your habit.
4. Pick a good reward
The final tip for building your new study habit is to incentivize it with a reward. If food isn’t your thing, consider leveraging social media. For every 30 minutes of uninterrupted studying, give yourself a five-minute break.
However, if you don’t meet your habit goal, you don’t get the reward. Keep yourself accountable or ask your friends to keep you accountable. The important thing is that whatever reward you pick needs to be something you genuinely look forward to getting.
You can’t build a habit overnight. It will likely take weeks, if not months, before you cement your study habit. But if you follow these tips and identify a cue and a reward, you will put yourself on the path to success.
Build your study habits today
Building a solid study habit can transform your grades. Focus on staying organized, setting manageable goals, minimizing external distractions and creating a trigger for your habits. In this way, you can adopt and stick with a powerful study habit that will take your academic career to new heights.
Trevor Mahoney is wrapping up his last year at Santa Clara University where he studies Finance and Management Information Systems. He has been an avid reader his whole life, which evolved into a passion for writing while he studied abroad in New Zealand last year. He is currently searching for a post-college job and hopes to work at the intersection of business and technology.