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Five Tips for Breaking Bad Study Habits

Sep 27, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 4 Comments

If your grades are suffering at school, it could be that you’ve developed bad study habits. Some negative study habits are difficult to break—and can seriously affect your grades. Here are five bad study habits that can harm your academic performance—and how to get past them.
Putting fun before school

When you have a choice between partying and studying, studying usually loses.  This isn’t unusual—even top students have to cut loose and have fun sometimes. But if your grades are slipping because of your social life, you could have a problem.

Instead of setting yourself up to fail by always having to choose between study time and fun time, schedule your study time so that it isn’t in direct competition with your social life. If you know that your friends never wake up before 1pm or that the party never starts before 11, set aside late mornings and early evenings for study time. Track the way you spend your time and set an established study schedule that cuts into your social life as little as possible.



Getting distracted

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re studying. Whether you’re a compulsive email-checker, a Facebook-crastinator, or addicted to HBO, you can always find something to pull your attention away from your studies.

Sometimes you can’t get work done unless you actively remove yourself from distractions. Get out of your dorm room. Get off campus. Go somewhere where you don’t have an Internet connection, a television, or friends who might randomly stop by. Give yourself truly nothing to do but study, and you’ll be amazed how much work you get done.

Chronic procrastination

It’s tempting to leave things until the last minute, and every college student has done it a few times. But if you regularly find yourself guzzling Red Bull at four in the morning while pulling an all-nighter before the deadline of each big paper, you need to find a better way to work. You may be able to pull this off a few times, but the more challenging the assignment, the more difficult—or impossible—it is to do it all the night before.

Most students procrastinate on large projects because they seem so big and overwhelming. To combat this, break the project down into small—and doable—chunks. You might get stressed even thinking about writing a twenty-page paper, but if doing two pages per day doesn’t freak you out, set that as your goal. Break down the assignment into manageable chunks and set mini-deadlines for each one—and you’ll be the one kicking back and relaxing while your friends freak out the night before deadlines.

Skipping required reading

Sometimes professors assign so much reading that it seems impossible to do it all. But if you skip some reading and try to concentrate only on the texts that matter most, you could find yourself missing key information—that will hurt you later.

Instead of skipping reading entirely, simply develop good study skills. Whether you develop the study skills on your own or with the help of a qualified takelessons tutor, well established study skills are important for success in any field. For example, read in small chunks. Skim the text—read quickly down the middle, and make notes at the end of key sections about what you picked up. The act of writing may cement a concept into your mind better than simply reading alone. Break up long reading assignments into manageable sections.

Being inefficient with your time

Many people don’t use their time to best effect, especially when you’re new to college and haven’t had a lot of practice with time management under heavy schedules. If you’re regularly finding that you don’t have enough time to study, examine your life to see where you could fit more in. Switch to a campus job that allows a lot of down time for studying. Study on your commute home for the holidays. You never know where you can carve out a little extra time for studying.

Instead of trying to break bad study habits through sheer will, work with your own natural inclinations. If you know that you’ll always choose friends and fun over studying, schedule your study time for times when you aren’t likely to run into your friends. If you know you’re easily distracted, take yourself out of distracting environments when you study. Pick methods you’re more likely to stick with over the long term—and the good study habits you develop later are more likely to stay with you.



The Expert Over a year ago

There is little doubt that no two people study the same way, and it is a near certainty that what works for one person may not work for another. Everyone is different, and for some students, studying and being motivated to learn comes naturally. Effective study skills must be practiced in order for you to improve. Thanks.

Hannah / 한나 Over a year ago

I have found that as a full-time student I'm much more inclined to keep up with my studying and not be distracted when I keep my goals right in front of me at all times. For example, I have my personal calendars marked with weekly, monthly and semester-length goals--always. Once I can see where I need to be studying, and where I have free time, I can relax and get both work & play done! Having a wall calendar, as well as a calendar synched to my laptop & phone helps a great deal.

AGibson Over a year ago

Though student may, at times, complain about group work, being part of a learning or study group in person or online can help foster motivation, share effective practice tips, and provide great encouragement for students. Collaboration through informal learning can help set standards and goals outside of and beyond the classroom. I believe information should be included to help students know they do not have to do this alone. Thank you.

Pat B Over a year ago

For me, writing the key ideas down help solidify them in my mind - much like writing down directions. Once I've written the directions, I rarely need to refer to them as I can remember them. Also, I read an article years ago that said studying right before going to sleep helps you remember better, and it really does work.

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