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5 Study Habits You Should Be Practicing

5 Study Habits You Should Be Practicing

With exams, quizzes, essays, projects, and myriad deadlines for different things, effective study habits are critical for keeping stress at bay during college. Having these great study habits can make things easier and alleviate some of the stress looming overhead. If you are in need of a bit of an improvement, or just want to get some new ideas, keep reading for the top five study habits that you should be practicing.

1. Make and use flashcards.

Flashcards are designed to promote active memory recall of information. By using flashcards with a question or term on one side and the answer or definition on the other, you will force your brain to recall the necessary information. Even if you struggle a bit with a card, you will still be actively reviewing the necessary material.

One of the other reasons why flashcards are effective is that they utilize spaced repetition learning techniques. Spaced repetition has been proven time and time again to be one of the most effective ways of building up memory and increasing recall of information. By studying the information again and again, at spaced intervals, you will be able to recall the information faster and far more easily.

2. Revise, revise, revise!

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    Many students put off studying until just before the exam, with the more diligent students giving themselves a week or two prior to a test. While this may sound effective and like a good manner of planning, it’s actually an ineffective method of preparing and studying. It’s best to revise the information a little bit every day, so that you are not overwhelmed when a test (or pop quiz!) comes around.

    One method of revising is to make a mind-map. This is a bit like a flowchart, in that you start with one core concept in the center, and then branch off into connected sections. This will help you to connect everything together and associate the terms with one another. When it comes time to take the exam, you will be better prepared and the key terms will jump out at you.

    Read aloud to yourself and, as silly as it may seem, pretend you are teaching a student. Read your notes aloud, pretend you are lecturing. Do this over and over, until you no longer have to look at your notes. Once you have accomplished that, do it again.

    Take one of the main concepts and turn it into a little story. Make sure you are able to explain this concept, no matter how complex it actually is, to someone who has never heard of it before. For example, if you are studying the industrial revolution, write a story that is written in such a way that it would explain that concept and events to someone who has never heard of it before. While this may sound silly and tedious, it’s an incredibly effective means of going over the information and looking at it in a new light. This, in turn, creates new associations and gives your brain a visual representation of the information, thereby making it easier to remember and recall.

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    Finally, come up with a keywords list. Take each of the main concepts for the subject you are studying, and reduce it into a ONE-word sub-topic. Study this list and memorize it. Incorporate it into the above methods, especially when using your flashcards. When it comes time for the exam, write down your list of keywords the moment you have that test in front of you. This will ensure you easily remember each topic and sub-topic, as well as providing a frame of reference if you get a blank during the test.

    3. Watch related lectures and videos.

    light apple books desk large

      One of the most effective—and the most fun—methods of studying is to watch related lectures and videos in order to supplement the material. Watch documentaries or videos on YouTube and educational websites. You may be surprised at how much you can learn from videos, and just how much information is available online.

      On a related note, you may also be able to download or stream podcasts that cover a large range of topics. Depending on what you are studying, you may find this to be very useful and entertaining.

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      4. Create practice tests based off previous tests.

      You should save all of the graded papers, quizzes, tests, assignments, and handouts that your teacher hands back to you. This will not only show you how well you did, but it will also highlight what you need to work on and where your strengths lie in that particular subject. You will also be able to learn the format of the tests, the structure of the questions, and whether or not to predict the inclusion of tricky True/False questions.

      Use these graded tests to create a new practice test. Include the questions you got correct, for some variety, but mainly focus on the questions you answered incorrectly. By focusing solely on these parts of the required material, you will turn your weaknesses around and even out the dents in your recall. Come test time, you will be far less stressed and feel more prepared.

      5. Re-write your notes.

      Studies have shown that writing information out by hand increases your ability to recall the material. This makes the recall go hand-in-hand with muscle memory, and you will be able to picture your written notes when you are taking the exam.

      One of the best ways to do this is to prepare for each class far ahead of time. Before the lecture begins, stake out your spot and go back over the assigned reading, your notes from the last class, and any homework you completed the night before. Right before the lecture starts, scan through the notes from the previous lecture as a means of gaining a sense of context that you will be able to build the new material on. This way, you will be able to focus on the lecture in order to get the information you will not be able to just look up in the book later on after the class has ended.

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      When you take the notes, write the information in your words rather than just blindly writing down what the professor says. This will help you to better grasp and retain the information. After class, re-write your notes in a more organized manner. This will help you to go over the information, as well as to ensure you have a sold set of notes for studying later on. As you go through the notes, summarize each section. This will sum it all up in your own vernacular, and show that you truly do understand the concepts. It will also show where any gaps in your understanding of the material may be.

      coffee desk notes studying

        Using outline formats with bullets, indentations, and numbering in order to make the hierarchical relationship between different points even more obvious will further solidify the information in your mind. Leaving space between the lines will also makes your notes easier to scan and study later on.

        The Cornell method is also extremely effective, especially if you do the summary at the end of the page. Fold your paper to have a large section on the right, and a smaller section on the left. On the right, jot down the pertinent information, points, or definitions during class. On the left, write questions for the information on the right, as you would read on a test. The left section is also the place for terms that are defined by the information on the right. At the very bottom of each page, add a summary of the above information. Later, when you go to study the notes, you can cover up the right column and make your notes a great means of preparing for exams.

        These are the five most effective study habits, and something all successful students do. Make sure you are on top of your game by following these study methods!

        Featured photo credit: pexels via static.pexels.com

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        Last Updated on March 21, 2019

        11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

        11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

        Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

        You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

        But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

        To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

        It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

        “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

        The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

        In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

        Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

        1. Start Small

        The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

        Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

        Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

        Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

        Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

        Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

        It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

        Do less today to do more in a year.

        2. Stay Small

        There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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        But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

        If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

        When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

        I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

        Why?

        Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

        The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

        Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

        3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

        No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

        There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

        What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

        Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

        This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

        This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

        4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

        When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

        There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

        Peter Drucker said,

        “What you track is what you do.”

        So track it to do it — it really helps.

        But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

        5. Measure Once, Do Twice

        Peter Drucker also said,

        “What you measure is what you improve.”

        So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

        For reading, it’s 20 pages.
        For writing, it’s 500 words.
        For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
        For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

        Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

        6. All Days Make a Difference

        Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

        Will two? They won’t.

        Will three? They won’t.

        Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

        What happened? Which one made you fit?

        The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

        No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

        7. They Are Never Fully Automated

        Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

        But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

        What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

        It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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        The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

        It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

        It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

        8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

        Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

        Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

        When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

        The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

        Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

        9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

        The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

        Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

        You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

        But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

        So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

        If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

        This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

        The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

        Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

        10. Punish Yourself

        Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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        I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

        It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

        You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

        No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

        The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

        But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

        11. Reward Yourself

        When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

        Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

        The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

        After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

        If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

        Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

        If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

        In the End, It Matters

        What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

        When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

        And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

        “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

        Keep going.

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        More Resources to Help You Build Habits

        Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
        [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
        [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
        [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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