Good Study Habits for the New Year

The start of a new year is a time for evaluation and change. While you may have already made resolutions to stop eating so many Oreos, consider turning your attention to your study habits.

Analyzing how you study is a great way to boost your productivity and increase your abilities!

Before studying

The habit: Give yourself plenty of time.

Being assigned a project or notified of a test can flood your brain with anxiety-driven questions: Why did I ignore that chapter on Functions? Where did my notes from last week go? What’s a semicolon?? Relax.

Getting an early start is an excellent (and easy) way of giving yourself more—more time to fix things you don’t like, more questions to be asked and answered, more ideas to be brainstormed.

You can never predict what part of completing a project or preparing for a test will take the longest or where you’ll encounter snags, so overestimating how much time you need gives you peace of mind and wiggle room to accommodate that omnipotent curve-ball thrower: Life.

The habit: Make a plan.

Write down everything you think you’ll have to do to make that diorama or ace that test. Then, space out tasks according to overestimates of the required time.

None of this has to be set in stone. Even if you make adjustments as you work through your to-do list, breaking down projects or study schedules can make the task at hand less daunting.

Instead of a big, snarling chemistry exam, you’ve got a few pages of notes to work through every day for a week. Not so bad, huh?  

Make sure you understand what’s expected of you. Don’t assume that simply reading all the instructions will make everything clear, and don’t guess at things you’re unsure of.

This will give you a better idea of how long things will take you and maybe even relieve some stress!

Ever looked at a word problem and panicked at its length, only to soon realize it just takes a few simple calculations? Me neither, but ignoring an assignment will only cause you to imagine the worst possibilities about what is being asked of you.

Maybe your math teacher wants you to simply solve for x or a set of irrational quadratic functions. How do you know until you look? You don’t.  

The habit: Commit to ten minutes.

Having trouble getting started?

Spend just ten minutes on your project. You can use these few minutes to brainstorm, read over the assignment page, or make one or two flash cards.

This will  relieve pressure associated with picturing yourself slaving away for hours by only telling yourself you have to suffer for ten minutes.

Chances are your relaxed mindset will allow you to start building momentum that will carry you through more tasks than you planned for the day, getting you even closer to that finish line!

During studying

The Habit: Listen to your body.

Is your mind wandering? Are things that are usually easy suddenly difficult? Do you have a headache? Did you just accidentally read the same sentence twice? Did you just accidentally read the same sentence twice?

These are signs that you need a rest.

Pushing through exhaustion can be tempting so that you can finish working for the night, but you won’t be producing your best work—you won’t retain as much information and end up making silly mistakes that don’t reflect your true capabilities.

The Habit: Take breaks and eat snacks.

If you’ve taken this post’s earlier advice on overestimating how much time you need for something, then you definitely have enough time to take a break.

Taking breaks gives you a chance to clear your mind and take stock of what you’ve accomplished so far. Are you ahead of, on, or behind schedule for today? Think about what you can realistically accomplish either before your next break or stopping for the night.

Think about what you can realistically accomplish either before your next break or stopping for the night.

During your break, recline and admire all your flashcards and dioramas. Have a healthy snack. Close your eyes. Rub your temples. There is no magic amount of time to break for, but taking more than 15 minutes might be too far to come back from, so try not to fall into the “just one episode” trap.

After Studying

The Habit: Treat yourself.

Now that you’ve finished studying for the night, revel in your accomplishments and treat yourself!

Try not to indulge in activities that might negatively affect your health, like binging Netflix until three in the morning or eating two sheets of Oreos, but feel free to choose from the following relaxation techniques: go for a walk; meditate; punch a pillow.
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The Habit: Analyze.

Think about which parts of your study plan worked and what you want to change.

How do you feel? Are you exhausted? Stressed? Or do you still feel a fiery passion for knowledge? Were you too ambitious or not ambitious enough? Where did all your pencils go?

No matter the case, adjust your study schedule (and take stock of your writing instruments) accordingly to match your unique pace and needs.

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