Have you ever read a list of study skills that are supposed to be so wonderfully effective but really don’t know how to go about making them happen? Been there – done that! I remember reading a list of twenty study tips and thinking, ‘yes, I know that. I’ve read all that before’. I also remember two weeks later being just as stressed about study and wondering what I could do to improve my study skills!! Now, I realise that I had been reading that list of study skills and not really knowing how to put them into practise.
Then I had the idea to talk to family and friends who have been very successful in their careers and ask them what study habit they thought was the biggest help in their student days. When I spoke with my Uncle James he gave me two examples of how to implement study habits in a practical way.
1. Schedule ‘me’ time
Have you ever read this study tip and thought you really couldn’t trust yourself to go and watch TV or go to a movie with friends because it’s so easy to find yourself watching the next TV show and the next? Or it’s so easy to go to a movie and then want to keep hanging out with your friends because you’re enjoying yourself and when you go home you have to study?
Well here’s a way to get some controlled ‘me’ time. My Uncle James is a successful civil engineer and town planner; a business owner with global connections. This is the story he told me. Before he got his driving license, he had saved enough money from part time work to buy a car which needed some tender loving care. Uncle James said he was so proud of his car and working on getting it into good shape was a passion; something that brought a huge smile to his face. If he could have worked on that car all day, he said he would have been in heaven. But Uncle James also knew he still had a long way to go in his studies and that study had to be his priority.
He had previously worked out that he could set himself study tasks and stick to them if he had a great reward at the end of the study time. So he would study for about 40 or 50 minutes until he found his mind wondering and feeling a little fatigued. That was his cue to get up and go play with his car!! Fifteen or twenty minutes spend working on the engine, polishing the chrome, cleaning the upholstery or any one of the hundreds of little jobs he could do felt like a two week vacation (well…almost LOL!!). As an added bonus, when Uncle James came back to his studies, he said he found he was remembering more from his previous study session. Uncle James found out a few years later what was happening when he was working on his car; his brain had gradually been filtering and storing the information from the previous study session while he was absorbed in working on his passion.
2. Set small goals to achieve big goals
What Uncle James had discovered that year was that studying in this manner had a two-fold benefit. Not only was he able to tackle his study in a better way but he was able to see that, by breaking a big job down into small pieces and working consistently, a long-term big goal can be reached with the minimum stress. As he worked consistently on all his study commitments, he was regularly rewarded not only with the time spent working on his car but also by a growing sense of satisfaction as he watched his car turn from a dusty, dirty wreck to a shiny well kept car with a nicely purring engine. And then the ultimate reward came at the end of the year of being able to get his licence and drive his car!!