How to develop the study habit

Today’s university students are lucky. They have, at their disposal, a huge library of books, the Internet, online discussion groups that let you brainstorm with classmates in the middle of the night.

However, there is no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work. There is no gadget that is more effective than simple human discipline and determination. Unfortunately, many students fail in this regard. They have no study habits, and the independence of the college environment make it even more difficult to “obey” a rule when there is nothing except their own willpower to enforce it.

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The secret is concentration. Without this valuable still, it becomes near-impossible to master any subject matter despite reading the textbook over and over again. Thoughts wander, your attention distracted by phones, TV, your nails. Get to business. You have to clear your head of any other non-related thoughts and get into “the zone” where only you and what you are reading matter. Yes, sometimes it helps to be “narrow-minded” if it means narrowing your focus to what you are studying!

You will also need to set up your own study area, preferably in an area where won’t be any people moving around and talking in the vicinity. Sometimes a small thing like moving where your desk faces—so your back is to the noise, and you’ll face a blank wall—can make a difference. You can also get an answering machine so that you won’t hear the phone ringer, or if you’ve got a chatterbox roommate, playing instrumental music on your iPod to drown out her conversations on the phone.

Also, work around your body clock. Look at your natural patterns of activity. When are you more energetic and alert? What time of the day are you able to get things done really quickly? If you can work for long bursts during the early morning, then take a nap after dinner and wake up at one. You’ll get more done than if you forced yourself to study during the evenings.

It’s best to take breaks instead of forcing yourself to study for long chunks of time, where your concentration dips. Schedule 10-minute breaks.