Advertising
Advertising

10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester

10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester

A fresh, new semester is right around the corner. And that means a chance for us students to start with a clean slate, forget whatever happened with that Chemistry lab last semester, and upgrade our study habits so that we can really crush it this time around.

Here are 10 ways to get you started.

1. Develop “true grit” when it comes to studying

150909-flickr-AlanLevine-Grit

    As it turns out, the highly-esteemed, much debated “IQ” is actually a pretty poor predictor of academic performance.

    This is good news for us, because there’s a different characteristic – one the we are in control of – that researcher Angela Duckworth has identified, called “grit,” which correlates much more highly with success.

    Duckworth defines grit as, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly effective. Your stick-to-it-iveness will not only up your chances for sticking with math homework, but can actually predict, with a high degree of accuracy, things like which incoming cadets will make it through West Point’s grueling training program.

    Action Step: See how you stack up on the grit scale, and then work to “up” your grittiness.

    2. Build “tiny” study habits

    How many times have you said to yourself, “This is the year I get it shape,” only to promptly quit on your new gym habit a few weeks into the new year? For a lot of us, establishing new habits is tough, especially for things we know we “should” do, but don’t necessarily want to (like studying).

    Well according to behavior scientist BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, it might be that we just have the wrong approach. Taking on big behavior change usually fails, but only because we try to take on activities that are too difficult at the beginning. Instead, Fogg’s “tiny” habit method focuses on establishing the habit first, and then increasing its duration and difficulty.

    Advertising

    Each habit is composed of cue, routine, reward. The more you reinforce this cycle, the more likely it is that you’ll keep with it over time, ingraining that new activity into your psychology. So to accomplish this task, we want to do something so small that it will be trivially easy to repeat this habit cycle each day. This “tiny” habit could be as simple as doing 1 pushup each day (if you’re trying to start an exercise habit), or flossing just 1 tooth each night (if you’re trying to become a flosser, per your dentist’s recommendation).

    Then, once it becomes a behavior you can reliably repeat (after a few weeks), you can start to increase the difficulty and/or duration until you reach your ultimate goal. And we can apply this same method towards studying.

    Action Step: Try adding a 5-minute study session to your morning routine. Anybody can study for 5 minutes a day, so start there. After you’ve been able to do this for a few weeks, increase to 10, then 20…

    3. “Gamify” Learning with a Habit RPG

    150909-flickr-MarcoArment-VideoGames

      Think of how easy it is to sit yourself down to play a video game. (Hell yea, Call of Duty here we come!)

      That’s because the designers have “gamified” the process to make it more enjoyable. Gamification is a “process of making systems, services and activities more enjoyable and motivating”.

      Well, it turns out that you can “gamify” learning and study habits in the same way, and that’s exactly what the people over at Habit RPG have done. Make progress on your new habit each day, and earn experience points, so that you can “level up” and progress through the game. And this works GREAT for getting yourself to study more.

      Action Step: Join Habit RPG, set a learning goal, and get started.

      4. “Bind” Yourself to Studying Using Beeminder

      Advertising

      150909-flickr-rychlepozicky-OneDollar

        As much as we like to rely on motivation to get us through difficult work, you don’t need to wait to get motivated to sit down and start cranking through homework problems. And once way to make this easy for yourself is to create reliable motivation with negative bets. What does that mean? I’m talking about putting stakes on the line (e.g. cash) to keep yourself on track.

        One way you can do this is by using a site like Beeminder to create a daily goal for yourself (e.g. study for an hour), with a penalty if you don’t keep up (e.g. you pay Beeminder $10 if you miss your goal 2 days in a row). This decreases the temptation to procrastinate, and gives you that extra “push” to get up off the couch and sit down to start on those practice problems.

        Action Step: Set up a daily study goal (e.g. 30 minutes) on Beeminder.

        5. Use the “Goldilocks” Principle to unlock your brain

        In his book Why Students Don’t Like School, professor Daniel Willingham explains his guiding principle for learning:

        “People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.”

        This is the basis of what I call the Goldilocks Principle: Solving problems brings pleasure if they are hard enough that the answer isn’t totally certain, but no so hard that we can barely get started. Not too hard, not too easy, just right.

        Action Step: If you find yourself getting bored with your work, make it more interesting by asking yourself questions that you don’t yet know the answer to. If you find yourself overwhelmed or unable to get started, think about how you can break down the problem into small 30-minute chunks.

        6. Do practice problems before you’re ready

        We all know, as students, how horrific tests can be. I still have nightmares about walking into class and completely blanking on physics finals. But it turns out that giving ourselves tests is one of the most effective ways to ensure that we’ll retain what we’re learning about.

        Self-testing, according to the research, can significantly improve the amount of material about a subject you retain later on (like, when a mid-term rolls around), and this effect is strongest when you DON’T review the material beforehand (i.e. you have to rely on your long-term memory to retrieve facts and procedures). It turns out all of those homework assignments you did as a kid could have paid off.

        Advertising

        Action Step: Next time you get home from class, instead of jumping right into the books, try testing yourself on the material you just learned. Do this without studying first, and even if you don’t get the answers right, you’re subsequent study sessions will be more effective, and you’ll remember more later on.

        7. Be lazy and sleep in

        150909-flickr-BurnoCaimi-Sleeping

          If you haven’t noticed, sleep is a bit of a taboo subject in our culture. Getting by on 4-6 hours of sleep is like a badge of honor, especially when it comes to work and school. Unfortunately, it’s quite possibly the dumbest thing you could do as a student.

          According to the research (but honestly, do we really need research on this to tell you how crappy you feel after a short night of sleep?) chronic sleep deprivation “impairs attention and working memory, but it also affects other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making. These are all things absolutely essential to learning. Besides, sleep itself is part of the learning process, consolidating new learning into long term memory as you progress through the different sleep cycles.

          So unless you’re a fan of throwing away all of the hard work you put into learning each day, 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep each night should be in your future.

          Action Step: Set a bedtime alarm. Childish? Yes. But if you back-calculate 8-9 hours from the time you need to wake up, and set yourself a reminder to go to bed, you can help ensure that you’re getting in the hours you need for optimum learning the next day when your morning alarm goes off.

          8. Become a Pomodoro master

          150909-flickr-JussiLinkola-Pomodoro

            If procrastination is your thing, maybe all you need in your life is a simple timer. Becoming a master of the Pomodoro Technique, and getting in the habit of putting in short bursts of work followed by short breaks, can help you break through that wall, and actually start studying.

            Action Step: Try doing one Pomodoro right now.

            Advertising

            9. Let tough problems “percolate”

            Sometimes you’re sitting there, banging your head against the wall, trying to wrap your mind around what is going on with this Calculus problem… But no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to crack it.

            It turns out part of the problem may be that you’re focusing too hard, and by doing so, not allowing your brain to access other thought patterns that may hold the answer to your problem. According to Benedict Carey, author of How We Learn, maybe what you need is to quit on your problem, and come back to it later, taking advantage of a phenomenon called “percolation.”

            By quitting mid-problem, you give your subconscious mind a chance to dig around in the background and find a new way to look at that problem you’ve been focusing so hard on. Then when you come back to it, you’ve got a new perspective, and possibly an answer to that problem you previously considered impossible.

            Action Step: The next time you find yourself frustrated with a difficult problem, and your progress has stalled, quit on it. Give it an hour or two. Then come back. You might be surprised how easy it seems once you come back to it.

            10. Space it out and mix it up

            150909-flickr-AlbaEstevez-exam

              How many of you have spent hours studying right before a test, taken the exam, and then promptly forgotten everything you just took that test on? It turns out spacing out our study sessions holds huge benefits beyond simply reducing stress and staying organized.

              By putting in shorter, spaced-out study sessions, rather than huge marathon cram sessions, what you do learn will be more robust (you’ll be able to remember more, more often), and you’ll also retain the information longer.

              Action Step: Engineer short study sessions into your schedule each week, even if it’s just 30 minutes in-between classes.

              Featured photo credit: Francisco Osorio via flickr.com

              More by this author

              7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It The 3 Things Elon Musk Knows About School That All Students Should Copy 10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester 20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter 10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

              Trending in Productivity

              1 Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress 2 How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money 3 7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It 4 How to Concentrate and Train Your Brain to Focus Better 5 How to Be Creative When You’ve Hit a Creative Block

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on January 2, 2019

              Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

              Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

              The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

              It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

              To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

              So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

              1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

              We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

              Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

              Stop focusing on the material objects

              Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

              Plan gifts in advance

              We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

              Suggest a better way

              If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

              Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

              You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

              Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

              Advertising

              2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

              It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

              If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

              How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

              Here’s what you can do:

              Set a healthier pattern

              For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

              Get a fitness watch

              Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

              Find a physical activity that you enjoy

              Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

              Try intermittent fasting

              This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

              Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

              You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

              3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

              In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

              But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

              Advertising

              These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

              Leave bigger intervals between meetings

              If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

              Plan time to relax

              As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

              Try to be a little pessimistic

              We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

              Try waking up earlier

              Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

              Plan your day the day before

              Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

              Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

              If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

              4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

              If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

              Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

              Binge-watching TV series

              Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

              You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

              Advertising

              Running on coffee

              Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

              As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

              Procrastination

              Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

              Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

              If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

              Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

              5. Stop over-consuming

              We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

              Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

              • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
              • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
              • Can I rent it?
              • Can I make it myself?
              • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

              For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

              Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

              6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

              Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

              Advertising

              But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

              Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

              Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

              For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

              Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

              Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

              Set your phone on flight mode

              When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

              Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

              You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

              The Bottom Line

              As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

              But this year, promise yourself this:

              Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

              Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

              Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

              Reference

              Read Next