We all know at least one student like this: they get good grades, they don’t run around constantly stressed, they make getting through high school or college look so easy and we wish we could be just like them. The good news is that we can! Successful students have assembled an arsenal of good habits that set them up for success – and you can use them, too. Here are seven habits you can implement in your own life if you’d like to improve your own academic performance.
If your schedule is packed full, it can be easy to fall off on your studying. As a high-school or college student, one of the most vital skills you can teach yourself how to manage your time. This may be completely new to you-you may not have had to worry about being so busy you have trouble getting everything done.
One great way to develop time management is by taking one week and keeping a small notebook with you to write down what you do and when. The key to this is to be 100% honest about what you’re doing and how much time you’re spending; don’t note that you studied for three hours if you were also watching TV at the same time (you should note both activities down for the same time period). Once you have your weekly schedule, you can sit down and see where your time and attention go each day – and if you’re like most people, you’re going to find a few surprises in there, such as how much TV/streaming you watch each day, or that you spend two hours on a bus every day (the latter might end up being a great time to do your needed reading or listen to a recorded lecture).
Now that you can see your current time habits, you can work to design a new schedule that makes sure you’re allotting enough time for all the things you need to get done each day. Only after you’ve blocked out time for classes and studying (and sleep!) should you block in time for other activities – this might sound like you’ll never have time for fun, but in actuality, the exact opposite will happen because when you know you want to go to the movies with your friends on Friday night, you’ll schedule your studying for the week to ensure you’re finished in time to go.
Research has shown that we aren’t good at multi-tasking (even if we think we are – basically, we’re just really good at convincing ourselves we’re good at it when we’re anything but). You might think you can study and chat with your friends at the same time with no problem, but you really can’t.
When you’re studying, you also need to remove distractions. Turn your phone to vibrate-only and put it in another room (or at least far enough away that you’re not tempted to pick it up and check it). Close down social media tabs on your browser, and turn off the TV, music, and internet streaming. If you absolutely must have some sound in the background, then we recommend using instrumental music without lyrics (because your brain can start to focus more on listening to the lyrics than on your studying) and keeping the volume low.
Marathon study sessions and “cramming” are neither effective nor efficient ways to study. Your brain can only absorb and retain so much before it needs a break – so if your current study habits have you sitting down for hours at a time without a break, you need to rethink your studying strategy.
30-45 minute focused study sessions followed by 10-15 minute breaks is much better for your brain (and your body) than one long three-hour session without a break. That can seem counter-intuitive, and there is a caveat in that you have to be mindful about those breaks – it’s easy to get distracted and end up taking a longer break than you intended. An easy way to prevent this is to use the break time to accomplish some small task or chore that needs to be done – like taking out the trash. If you have a larger chore, like cleaning the bathroom, you can use multiple breaks to accomplish one part of the chore until you’re done. The end result is killing two birds with one stone – you get your studying and chores done in the same time period!
If you run into a new concept or idea, or you just want another viewpoint on something presented to you in a textbook or during class, Google is your best friend. While Google can’t be your primary source of information, it’s an incredible tool for helping you to find further information or get a better understanding of a concept.
Yep, that’s right. Don’t ditch class or skip school.
We know that sometimes, the class can be boring. But you should still go – and when you do, do everything to make the best of it. Bring the textbook, ask questions, and take notes (preferably on paper, not a laptop) – all of these things will help you stay engaged. If you have the opposite problem and often have trouble keeping up with lecture, invest in a digital voice recorder and sit somewhere that it will pick up the professor’s voice. Even if you’re recording the lecture, you still need to work to stay engaged – in fact, by eliminating the stress of having to try and write everything down, you could open up the opportunity to ask more questions and participate in class discussions more, which will help you get a better grasp of the material.
We’ve talked about this before, but if you want a healthy, focused mind for studying and test-taking, you have to have a healthy body. Your body needs good food, exercise, and sleep to function at its best.
Don’t leave taking care of yourself to chance! Schedule time for meal breaks, exercise, and even bedtime – and stick to them. Don’t brush them off when the notification that it’s time to go eat or get to bed pops up.
Many of us have a very hard time admitting it when we’re struggling and we need help. But if you’re having a hard time at school – be it with a specific class or with getting a handle on your schedule – don’t be afraid to go to someone and ask for help in understanding the topic.
Tutors and study groups can be super helpful if you’re having trouble with a specific class or subject and don’t be afraid to go to your professor during office hours to get help from them.
You can always come to us here at NerdPro Writing! We understand how busy students are and that sometimes, you just need a helping hand! That’s what we’re here for. Whether it’s a homework assignment or a paper, we can help – get in touch today!