Establish Good Study Habits

If you study to remember, you will forget
But, if you study to understand,
you will remember.

Source unknown

All students, no matter their individual circumstances, juggle multiple and often competing priorities. It is often hard to find the time and energy to study and when time is found it is important to use that time efficiently and effectively Successful students have learned to study smarter, not study harder. They have established good study habits. Here are some study-smart tips:

Do Not Try To Multi-Task . . . You Can’t. When it is time to study, focus only on that activity. Don’t try to do laundry, cook dinner, and respond to emails, too. Your brain is very good at multi-switching which is quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. This can make you think you are being productive but what you are is being busy . . . busy accomplishing very little. Remember that being busy, is not the same thing as being productive.

Establish a Study Space. If you can, make this space school or study exclusive so that is the only thing that is done there. This dedicated workspace should have adequate lighting, a comfortable chair, and give you access to all the materials you need for an effective study session.

Reduce Distractions. In addition to a quiet, comfortable space to study, further minimize distractions by turning your phone off or muting your notifications; ask those you live with for some quiet, undisturbed time; set start and stop times for study; avoid studying while hungry or thirsty.

Find Your Prime Time. Consider what time of the day you find it easier to work and for how long you tend to be most productive before needing a break. This time may vary for everyone, so it is important to know what works best for you, and set your study time accordingly!

Set SMART Study Goals. As each study session begins, setting a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive will help you know when your study session is over, allow you to break down goals into manageable parts, and help you celebrate even the smallest of successes!

Write, and Re-Write Notes. There is much research around the benefits of taking notes during your classes, and study sessions, then re-writing and organizing those notes, and even reading your notes out loud. This repetition helps engage more senses which, in turn, helps synthesize information. Although many students have turned to typing or taking notes digitally, writing notes in long-hand (the old-fashioned way) continues to be the most effective learning strategy.

Use Mnemonic Devices. Anyone who has studied music will have used a mnemonic device to memorize the musical scale. For example, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (EGBDF) are the notes in the treble clef lines. In grade school, Canadian students may have used HOMES to memorize the names of Canada’s Great Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Keep in mind that these are useful recall tools for remembering lists or facts; they do not help with comprehension or synthesis of information.

Practice Self-Care. Trying to study while exhausted, hungry, stressed, or angry will make you less effective. [DP1] In fact, this will likely be completely wasted time. Take time each day to eat well, get enough sleep, get some exercise, and access mental health and wellness supports. Attending to self-care will help you be successful beyond your study sessions.

Just Say No. Guard your study time! A roommate, friend, or family member would not show up at your university class to ask for immediate help with a task. And if they did, you would say no! Insist on the same respect of your study time and set those clear boundaries. Set time in your schedule to help and spend time with family and friends, while ensuring your study time is sacred.