How to Improve Your Study Habits
There’s an important test coming and you’re not ready. You’ve decided to hunker down and study. But when it comes time to study, you can’t focus, you’re easily distracted, and decide to give up on studying and take your chances.
This situation is a reality for many students in high school and college. It’s much easier to say you need to study than it is to actually make the time to do it. With so many distractions such as phones, social media, streaming services, and video games, it can be hard for teens to focus on the things they need to do. Having good study habits gives students an advantage over students who don’t study regularly.
The road to developing good study habits has several requirements. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as sitting down in a comfortable chair and starting to study. But thankfully, there are simple steps students can take to help them slowly start to develop the studying habits they need to succeed.
Figure Out Your Learning Style
It might sound strange to anyone who doesn’t work in the educational field, but not every person learns the same way. In fact, some students find it incredibly more difficult to learn in some ways than others. Before you decide to create better study habits, it’s important to determine how you prefer to learn new things. Of the styles of learning, the most common types include:
- Visual Learning: learning by seeing. This includes looking at diagrams, videos, or color coding important information in a book or in your notes
- Auditory Learning: Learning by listening. Auditory learners prefer to absorb information by listening to lessons, speeches, music, rhymes, or by other sounds.
- Reading and Writing Learning: Classic learning by both reading and writing.
- Kinesthetic Learning: Learning by doing. Learners of this type learn best building models, drawing diagrams, or making flash cards
Once you’ve determined which type of the learning styles is the best for you, you can begin to better prepare for your study sessions with better efficiency.
Create a Productive Place to Study
Making sure you have an appropriate place to study is just as important as discovering your particular learning style. A proper studying environment is critical to reduce the amount of distractions that could keep you from completely focusing on your study materials.
Each studying environment is different for everybody. For example, some people prefer complete silence when studying, while some are fine with having music playing in the background. Some are able to study with some sort of background noise like a television, and some require specific background noise like that in a busy coffee shop.
If you absolutely have to be able to focus when you study, picking the proper environment for studying is crucial. If you know you do best when studying in silence, and that’s not possible at home, consider studying in a library for a few hours. If silence is more distracting, consider a place like a coffee shop or joining a study group.
Remove the Things that Cause Distractions
After you’ve created the perfect studying environment, you can’t bring things with you that will cause the distractions you’re trying to avoid. As mentioned previously, digital distractions are some of the worst offenders when it comes to pulling our attention away from what we should be doing.
First, start by removing the electronics you don’t need. If you don’t need your phone in the room to read your books, place it in another room on vibrate and ignore it until you’re done studying. If you absolutely have to have some form of technology while you study, restrain yourself from using it for anything other than studying. Facebook will still be there long after you’re done studying.
Another tip is to grab up all of the study materials you’ll need so you don’t have an excuse to get up and interrupt your session. Make sure to give yourself few excuses to stop studying. Getting up in the middle of studying increases the chance you might be distracted by something going on and delay getting back to studying.
The Internet is the biggest offender in terms of things that can cause a major distraction. If you need to use the internet for studying, consider using a program to block access to websites, such as social media pages, that you know will take your attention away from what you should be doing.
Study at a Regular Time
Setting a regular time for studying is just like setting a regular sleep time. Making a particular time set aside just for studying is one of the best habits to keep. Try to keep it around the same time you’ve completed your homework so you continue to be in the same frame of mind.
Of course, if you’re burned out from homework, it’s fine to take a small break and then get back to studying. Don’t take too long of a break or you might decide you’re too tired to do anymore studying for the night.
Balance Out Your Life
Just because you’re making sure to study more doesn’t mean it has to take over your life. Creating a time to study should flow naturally into your normal everyday routine just like brushing your teeth.
If you don’t feel like studying, don’t study. Taking a day off from studying if you’ve been doing it consistently is fine. The same can be said for studying for hours on end. If you know you you start to lose focus after studying for two hours, don’t study for so long. Ultimately, what matters is the quality more than the quantity. If you’re retaining more information by studying for an hour everyday, there’s no reason to do more beyond that, especially if you know it won’t be effective.
Believe it or not, it’s counterproductive to study for long hours. It’s better to study for shorter periods of time, take a break doing something else, then go back to studying with a fresh mind. Do that until you feel you can’t do it anymore and stop. The point is never to force yourself to study as you’re more likely to become suddenly sleepy, bored, or easily distracted.
Remember: Your brain is a muscle just like your biceps. And just like your biceps, you can overwork it and make it tired. Setting a schedule and sticking to it can keep you from burning out or becoming frustrated.
Set Priorities for Assignments
Chances are you won’t have to study for everything at once. This will allow you to schedule your study sessions more effectively.
Take a look at all of the assignments and tests you’d like to prepare for. Then schedule adequate study time for all of the, with more difficult subjects getting more time, and less important and and easier studying time later on. This allows you to focus on one thing at a time and prevents you from becoming burned out by too much studying.
Useful Notes are the Best Notes
Finally. You’re in class. Your instructor is about to give the lesson for the day and it’s time for you to start taking down the notes you’ll ultimately need to study. But taking actual notes isn’t just writing down everything you hear or read on a screen. Taking notes mostly depends on how well you retain information.
Before you head to class, make sure you have everything you’ll need to take proper notes, whether it’s pens, loose leaf paper, index cards, or spiral notebooks. Make sure your laptop battery is fully charged if your school allows you to use laptops or tablets in the classroom.
If you’re taking notes the old fashioned way, make sure to start the lesson’s notes on a new page and give the page a proper title and date so you can find it easily among the rest of your papers. Do your absolute best to pay attention to everything being said so you don’t accidentally miss something important you might want to notate.
But just because you hear everything, doesn’t mean you need to take everything down word for word. When you’re writing, use abbreviations or shorthand versions of words you’ll understand. Never write in full sentences because it will only slow you down. If it helps, you can even draw pictures instead. Make the notes your own and write in a way that makes complete sense to you.
If you’re an auditory learner, make sure to bring a way to record the lesson, but always make sure to check with your teacher or instructor before you begin recording. Some instructors do not allow recording devices during their lessons and would not appreciate you recording without their consent.
Find a Study Buddy
If studying in silence bothers you, consider finding a study partner. Finding someone who needs to study the same material as you or already knows the best ways to study for a test or an assignment can be much more beneficial than studying on your own. For students in college, consider joining a study group or ask friends if they know someone who might be willing to study with you.
Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water and eating good, nutritious food isn’t just good life advice. It’s great advice if you want to keep your mind and brain sharp. Making sure you get a good night’s rest and eating a nutritious breakfast in the morning will help you stay focused and alert so you can do your best.
Staying hydrated is also just as important. Drinking enough water can combat anxiety and can even increase your short-term and long-term memory, making it easier to retain information and recall it when you need it.
Study Hard, Play Hard
Once all of your studying is over and you’ve hit the goals you’ve been working hard to achieve, always make sure to reward yourself somehow. Creating a reward system for yourself for hitting your studying goals consistently can really motivate you to keep pushing yourself to study more.
For example, if your goal is to study for two hours every night, Monday through Thursday, you are free to have Friday night to do what you want. Or, if you study for an hour, you get an hour to play video games or watch TV. Make the reward something you would like to do that you might be doing anyway if you weren’t studying. As another example, if you study for an hour, you could reward yourself with fifteen minutes on social media.
It’s important to remember that developing study habits takes significant hard work. For the first few weeks, it may seem more like a chore to study. But take little steps to improve your habits and gradually add more time until you’re making the most of it. Set goals for yourself so you don’t study for too long and reward yourself for hitting your own goals.
Ultimately, the time you spend studying will benefit your academics and help make classwork, tests, and exams much easier.