We all know that the start of a semester is a great time to start new study habits, just like the new year. It is usually the time of the year which you are most motivated, and starting the right study habits at this point may help you to keep this motivation going and eventually have a successful semester. Want to make a change this year? You are at the right place.
1. Give yourself a day to plan and review your week.
Ever found yourself feeling frustrated in the middle of the year because you lose track of your tasks, or that you have fallen behind of most of your classes? This happens to a lot of us, and one way to change this is by keeping up with your tasks constantly. This is why you should give yourself a day to sit down and review what you have done in the past week, and what you should do for the next week.
Here are some suggestions on what you should do on this day – I would recommend doing the things below on Sundays.
The “Review” Part
- Check your to-do system (I use Todoist as introduced here). Figure out what you have not completed last week.
- Review what you have done – you may use a journal or any other system you like to note down everything you did in the past week. I use Evernote for this.
- Prioritize the tasks from last week. Delete those you would not like to continue doing, and highlight those you wish to complete them next week.
The “Plan” Part
- Check your syllabus, write down all the tasks, assignments, and readings you have to do for each course next week.
- Make sure to note down any commitments or other tasks you may have so that you will be able to assess your availability.
- Plan those tasks (as well as those from last week that you have highlighted) according to their importance, urgency, and your own schedule.
- Highlight important and urgent tasks so to remind yourself to complete them as planned.
In fact, I find having a to-do system not only allows me to be more organized. By having a list in front of me, it actually motivates me and allows me to keep track of my productivity. This is great because it would reduce the tendency of me procrastinating, and it is a constant reminder for me to keep working.
2. Write a Learning Journal.
This is one study habit that almost changed my high school life. I loved writing what I have learned in each class when I was in high school.
What I did with my learning journal:
- Once I arrive at school, I write down the classes I have that day.
- After each class, we have a short break so I would use that time to write down what I have learned in each class:
- e.g. the number of pages that the teacher covered
- The handouts we have gone through
- The topics covered
- The activities (e.g. lab session) carried out.
- After class, I would go through this list and review everything according to the journal.
- I would cross out or tick the class after I have reviewed it.
Why I love this study habit:
- It doesn’t take you much time after all
- You would know exactly what you have learned and you can keep track of your classes (and how much you have studied/reviewed)
- It motivates you to review your classes every day
If you a person who would like to be more consistent with your study, but find it difficult to keep up, try buying a notebook and do a learning journal!
Also, don’t just restrict your learning journal to what you have learned in class! You may also note down anything that you have learned, either from newspapers, blog posts, magazines, talks, or daily conversations. You will be surprised by how many more things you are able to retain and remember, and how much you have learned in the year!
3. Review your class regularly.
If I were asked to give one of my best study tip or one study habit that would help you the most, is to study regularly. I know what you will say – this is not even a study tip! But really, this is the one that helped me the most – it allowed me to go from a student who almost failed my classes to be one of the top students. Don’t think it is worth the hassle? Try it, and you will know.
But what does it mean by studying regularly?
- The day after class: like I said, I use the learning journal to mark down what I have learned each class and review all the classes at home after school. I basically go through my notes and the textbook/readings to make sure I have understood everything clearly. If I find myself stuck in some areas, I would ask my friends, or email the professor, or speak to the tutor/teacher the day after.
- Weekends: I like to quickly go through what I have learned that week to put everything together and have a better picture of what I have learned. This is also the time for you to refresh your memory of the past week. You can also make your study guides this time (as you should have more time for it during weekends).
- After the entire topic is taught: when, after a few classes, the teacher or lecturer has gone through the entire topic, it would be a great idea to go through the whole topic again. This time, you would have the entire vision of the topic. At this stage, I like outlining the topic on a post-it note and stick it in my notes or textbook. You may also draw a mindmap to summarize the whole topic.
By doing so, you are overcoming the forgetting curve, and this would allow you to retain the information. An even better way is to do practice questions regularly so that your brain has to not only recall the information but also actively use them and apply them. As such, you will be able to recall most of the things before the exam, and studying for exam won’t be as hard as you thought it would be.
4. Read something not within your studies every night for 15-30 minutes, or listen to a TedTalk or podcast.
I know, I know. You have already done a lot of reading during the day. But why not take around 15 minutes before bedtime to read something else? Reading is a great way to enrich yourself, and I believe that acquiring information in different fields will be crucial to your success. This is a way for you to expand your vision. Similarly, listening to a short TedTalk or a podcast can also give you great information that you would not otherwise have gained. Thus, spending just a 15 minutes every day would be fundamentally beneficial, and let’s imagine how much more you would have learned after a year.
And if you think that you won’t be able to use what you have learned through these readings or podcast, you may be wrong. You never know when the things you have learned here can be used in some of your essays or interviews, and this is when you can show people how knowledgeable you are. Being able to present some examples and theories you have acquired would you make you more convincing, and it is definitely helpful in a long run.
5. Learn 3 vocabulary every day.
Similarly, learning vocabulary is a great way to enhance your writing and reading skills. By just spending a small amount of time every day (which you could do when traveling to school, or during some short breaks), you would be able to learn some new words and may use them when writing. To learn a vocabulary, you should:
- Know the word and its pronunciation.
- Understand its definition.
- Know how you can use the word by reading some sample sentences.
Again, this habit is going enrich your writing and reading skills, and will not only help you to get better grades but also in all different areas – from drafting reports to writing cover letters and college essays, and more.