It is easy to think that some students are born to excel and others were born to just “get by” in school. While it is true that we are all born with different strengths and abilities, there are actually some habits we can all practise to ensure that we excel in the things we set out to do in life.
Even if you do not think you are a “good student”, adopting these habits might change your mind and put you back on track towards reaching your academic goals. We have broken down the common habits of every successful student into three main categories – mindset, management, maintenance.
Set Your Mindset
The mind is a beautiful thing. It has the unique power to change the course of your life. Starting with the right self belief is imperative to living your best life. According to extensive research* done on the learning habits of students, it is proven that students who believe that they can become smarter actually do become smarter.
The mind is that powerful. Essentially, intelligence is a trait that you can develop with time. Refrain from labelling yourself as “dumb” or “not academically inclined”, because with the right mindset you can become more intelligent. Brains and talent only give you a little head start, but dedication and hardwork can surpass them all.
It is important for us to recognise that all capabilities are not static but have the potential to be developed overtime. Through experience and training, anyone can grow and learn. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”, which only serves to emphasise how hard work plays a pivotal role in our success.
Another important habit is to direct your thought life to positive places. How you regulate your thoughts and emotions especially in light of disappointment will determine your outlook. One of the ways to adopt a more resilient and positive mindset, is not playing the victim and placing the blame on others (parents, teachers, government) for the end results.
When you select this approach toward your student life, you will see that there is always something you can do to improve the situation. Some questions you can ask yourself include:
- Are these thoughts factual?
- Am I taking this too personally?
- Are these thoughts constructive or destructive?
- Is there good that can come out of this?
- Do I need to forgive the other person?
- Do I need to forgive myself?
- What productive actions can I take to improve the situation?
Other options that contribute to a positive attitude is keeping a “done list”. This allows you to keep track of completed tasks while instilling a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Focusing on your progress instead of what is pending ahead of you is a simple but effective way to stay motivated along the course.
Additionally, spending a mere few minutes reflecting on your day and keeping a gratitude journal are also easy ways to practise positive thinking. We do not stress this enough, but enjoying life is just as important as studying. Remember to take pockets of breaks in between long study blocks and engage in things that bring you happiness.
Some of these things could include listening to music, exercising, reading a book and spending time with friends regularly. Sticking a couple of goals/inspirations on your study wall will serve as a constant reminder of the person you are striving to be.
Last but not least, take time to analyse mistakes you have made. Asking yourself questions such as, “Was the mistake due to carelessness? Did I forget a key fact?, Did I have a poor understanding of a certain concept?
How can I make sure I will not repeat the mistake?, What should I do to be better prepared in future?” puts you back in the driver’s seat and gives you control to change the outcome of future tests and examinations. Students with a growth mindset are able to achieve more than students who are discouraged by their mistakes.
Manage Yourself Well
Good self-management is marked by setting achievable goals, aiming to reach them and recognising the need for help and solutions when problems are encountered along the way. Getting your life in order starts with basic planning. It is helpful to create a study schedule that works best for you. Don’t rely on motivation. Find a routine and stick to it. Get work done even if you do not feel like it.
Fill your calendar and write down everything. It is best not to rely on your memory to have everything organised. Be it extra-curricular activities, exams, tests, projects, deadlines, remedials, competition dates, family events, check that everything is recorded for yourself and your family to keep track with you. Students who are not organised often end up wasting precious time looking for items or notes, or working on last-minute assignments they forgot about.
This brings us to good organisation skills. Creating a conducive work environment is equally important. Before you begin, check that you have a neat desk, relevant stationery arranged, shut your room door, or use ear plugs if needed and invest in a comfortable chair with good back support. Once you have done that, get rid of distractions.
They are all around us and remind us of their existence almost every minute of the day. As strong as your willpower can be, it cannot be the only thing you depend on. Delete apps that might tempt you, switch off notifications, and keep your phone in another room. For foolproof efficiency, find an accountability partner who will encourage you in your goals and someone who is not afraid to call you out if you are deviating from your plan.
Always make time to recap notes from the day. This helps to reinforce the concepts taught in class and leaves a more lasting impression in your memory space. Test yourself periodically and take practice exams under exam conditions to gauge how well you are doing.
Maintain A Healthy Well-Being
Believe it or not, good mental health is linked to good physical health. If any one swings out of balance, the whole body suffers. Practicing regular exercise ensures that you do not feel sluggish and increases blood flow for better memory and alertness.
Pairing it with a healthy diet of whole foods and good nutrition further fuels your brain and body. Do also head to bed early and set your alarm so that you get a good eight hours of sleep. When you have good rest, you will have the energy to function at optimum and easily recuperate after a long day.
Studying does not have to feel like a bore or chore. Create happiness by giving yourself little rewards such as a short youtube video after 45 minutes of studying or meeting a friend for a fun day out after a week of studying. Using a variety of sensory tools further stimulates a healthy learning experience and makes studying less mundane.
Listen to audio lessons, watch television shows surrounding the topic, read a book, test out theories with home experiments – the list to be creative is endless and fun. Further memory tools such as acronyms, spaced repetition and visualisation (amongst others) will provide you with opportunities to find one that fits your learning style.
In the process, you get to learn more about yourself and what works for you. Everyone is different and the way your classmates study might not be the same way you learn material.
Finally, maintain a positive social circle. Hang out with people who motivate you. Good peer pressure will push you in the right direction. Being successful (in school or life) does not happen overnight. It involves a conscientious effort towards cultivating the right choices and habits along the way.