Habits are Easy, Discipline is Hard

study habits study skills time management Jan 05, 2020


In my last post, I talked about the need to review previously learned material in order to retain it. I am quite certain many of you thought, “Exactly WHEN am I supposed to do that?” when you read it.  I understand! Student’s schedules are beyond full! They have school 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Many have extra curricular activities such as sports, dance, band, music lessons and/or clubs. They already have assigned homework that can take anywhere from an hour to three hours depending on the course load and the teachers. There is also the little matter of eating, sleeping and maybe, just maybe, having some time for fun! So exactly how are you supposed to add in EXTRA review. 

The most important piece of studying efficiently, both assigned and review, is consistency. As the title of this post points out, Habits are Easy! There are lots of things you do by habit and you don’t even think about. 

Your brain is trained to do certain things at specific times. You know that you are in school Monday through Friday from 7:30am until 2:30 pm. Think about the first week or two of school after summer vacation. Getting up is HARD! Getting back in the routine takes effort, but by mid September, you are on autopilot. You have formed a habit. You don’t have to think about where you need to be each weekday morning. You also know that when you don’t follow your habits, you put your book bag in a different place, you set your phone down in the middle of doing something else, or you can’t remember where you left your shoes, you are frustrated and waste A LOT of time. The lesson from this is to set homework habits. That way when you come home tired from practice or dance class, you know what you need to do so you don’t have to force yourself ( self-discipline ) to get to work. If you already have a set time for homework on your schedule you are much more likely to get started quickly and work efficiently. If homework is something that you work around everything else in your schedule, you are going to have to force yourself to get started rather than take that short nap that you so dearly want. Effective studying takes commitment and consistency. If you view it as something to be done “when you have the time,” not only will you have to force yourself to do it at all, you will be less focused while studying so the time spent will be less effective, resulting in more time spent to achieve optimal results. 

While you may now see the value of setting aside homework time, you may still be asking, “How do I fit that into my schedule?” The first step is to HAVE a schedule. Sit down, preferably at the beginning of the semester and chart out your weekly schedule. Some activities have a specific time, such as, school, practice or dance class. Mark those hours off on your schedule. Don’t forget to include travel time. Now look at what you have left. How much assigned homework do you typically get each day? Block that time out. Oops, not enough time to block out for homework? Houston, we have a problem. I remember hearing on a talk show a long time ago, that frustration was the result of unreasonable expectations. If you know you have 3 hours of homework each day and you only have 2 hours in your schedule, you are setting yourself up to be frustrated. Now I am not saying that you have to drop out of that extra dance class that you love so much, or give up your starting spot on the baseball team, I am saying you have to find that time somewhere. Maybe the answer it to do more work on the weekends. Ask your teachers if you can have your assignments and test schedule a week in advance. This will allow you to look ahead and while you may not be able to get ALL the work done, you will be better prepared so the work will take less time. If the teachers aren’t able to accommodate your request, do it yourself! You know about how many sections your teacher covers each week and that you are likely to have a test when you complete a chapter. Set aside time on Sunday to look ahead for the week. Look at the example problems and give them a try. Read ahead in your science or history book. Are you near the end of a chapter? Review the material in preparation for the test you know is coming.  Not only will this decrease your homework time, you will understand the material better when the teacher goes over it in class. It is like previewing and reviewing. 

A slightly less regimented option is to make it a habit to use any free time you have during the day. If a teacher gives you time to start your homework, use it! If the homework is already done, do another assignment. If you have time between school and  practice, use it! Rather than chatting with your friends, find a quiet spot and get some work done. It may not be the choice you would like to make, but when you are able to get a good night’s sleep, feel confident about your work and not be stressed, you will be glad you did. While this is not as consistent as scheduled study times, if you develop the mindset of making studying a priority and see openings in your schedule as an opportunity to get ahead, it will be the first thing to pop into your mind when you have a few minutes. You won’t have to force yourself to study over other choices. It will be your go to move. Once you have your study time on your schedule, and have made it a priority it will become part of your routine and you won’t have to worry each day about when you are going to get everything done. Make studying a habit and it will be easy. Make homework and studying something you fit in around your other commitments and it will take conscious choices and discipline each time you do it. It will be hard. Take the easy road. You will be less stressed and your grades will improve. It is a Win Win! 



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