Tips for Effective Study Habits
Plan a schedule of balanced activities.
Using time to think and plan is time well-spent.
Organize in a way that makes sense to you. If you need color and pictures, use a lot on
your calendar, planning book, or To Do list. A good first step in planning is to determine
which items are your highest priorities and schedule those first beginning with those at
fixed times. Be sure to provide time for an appropriate balance of study, attention to
personal needs, and social time.
Plan enough time for studying to do justice to each subject.
Most courses will require 8 – 10 hours of study per week. If you are a slow reader or have other study
hindrances, you may need to plan more time for studying. Of course, you may also
find that some classes require less time.
Provide time for study soon after class meetings.
One hour spent soon after class can do more to facilitate your understanding than
several hours spent a few days later. During that hour, review your notes, class handouts,
or your memory of the class while the class’ events are still fresh in your mind. Write a summary
of what you learned in the class, describe how it connects to the rest of the class material and
the course objectives, begin practicing any new skills that you learned, and write
down your reflections on that day’s class activities. Write down any questions that
come up so that you can review them with your classmates or the instructor. If you
received an assignment, start work on it while your memory of the assignment is still
Limit your study time to no more than 2 hours on any one course at any one
time. After 1½ to 2 hours of study you begin to tire and your ability to concentrate
decreases rapidly. Taking a break and then switching to another course will provide
the change necessary to keep up your efficiency. Do difficult work when your mind
Trade time—don't steal it.
When unexpected events arise that take up time you had planned to study,
decide immediately where you can find the time to make up the
study missed and adjust your schedule for that week. Consider the three weekend
evenings. Most students can afford no more than two of them for recreation, but may
wish to use different evenings on different weeks. This “trading agreement” provides
for committing one night to study, but rotating it as recreational possibilities vary.
Eliminate the urgent.
Urgent tasks have short-term consequences while important
tasks are those with long-term, goal-related implications. Work towards reducing the
urgent things you must do so you'll have time for your important priorities. Flagging
or highlighting items on your To Do list or attaching a deadline to each item may
help keep important items from becoming urgent emergencies.
One technique to try is the "Swiss cheese" method
described by Alan Lakein. When you are avoiding something, break it into smaller
tasks and do just one of the smaller tasks or set a timer and work on the big task for
just 15 minutes. By doing a little at a time, eventually you'll reach a point where
you'll want to finish.
Provide for spaced review.
Schedule a regular weekly period when you review the work in each of your courses
to be sure you are up to date. The review should cover briefly all the work done up to
that point in the semester. Make sure that you know when all upcoming assignments are
due and that you are on track to complete them on time.