Not all study habits are right for you.

Good study habits help you reach your academic goals.   They are specific to you and the goal you want to reach.  So, when you select study habits, connect what you want to learn to how you learn best.  When you do that you’ll create powerful study habits that work for you.

A habit is an automatic action you take without thinking about it.  Brushing your teeth in the morning is a habit (at least your dentist hopes so).   You do it without questioning if you should brush your teeth or how you should brush them.  Your brain doesn’t use up willpower making that decision.

Willpower is the energy you exert when you decide to do something or not do something.   And willpower is limited.  It’s why you feel drained at the end of the day.  You’ve been using up willpower.  Studying is harder when you rely on willpower, especially if you study later in the day. Habits don’t need willpower.

So, if you have a study habit you’ll be working toward your academic goal(s) every day without thinking about it.   And students with good study habits have an advantage over other students because they don’t have to consciously decide if they should study.  They just do it.

Do you want that advantage too? Here is a step-by-step process that guides you in creating effective study habits.

5 Steps to Creating Study Habits


Step 1: Select Your Study Habit

The first thing you need to do is to decide what study habit will help you achieve your specific goal.  I took Silviu Marisk’s class, Habits Mastery: How to Create Bulletproof Habits.   He advises people to brainstorm answers to this question: If I want to reach my goals, what are the activities that I need to do on a consistent basis?

This is a great question to help you generate ideas.  List answers to this question.  Those answers are all possible habits you can develop.

For a study habit, you also need to consider how you learn best.  I learn by writing things down by hand.   So, when I create a study habit I select activities that involve writing things out.

Also, think about the time at which you are most alert.  I know many people who swear by getting up early in the morning and studying. My best study time and work time is in the afternoon.  Other people are night owls with a peak energy time late at night.

It’s important to focus on your goals and your learning styles.  Spend time thinking through all these elements. Then select a study habit you want to try.


Step 2:  Be Specific and Define Your Study Habit

Write down a clear definition of what you want to do and how it will help you reach your academic goal.  Then write out every part of your habit.  Every habit has 3 parts: trigger, action, and reward. Be specific about each part.

  1. Trigger—This initiates the action. The trigger starts the activity.   Find a trigger that makes sense and connects to the activity you’re doing.   For example, if the activity is to summarize what you learned in chemistry class, then the trigger might be when the class ends.
  2. Action—This is the activity that you do. It’s the main part of your habit.  So, for the habit above, the action is writing a summary of what you learned in class.
  3. Reward—This is how you indulge yourself after you’ve completed the action. After you finish writing the summary you could reward yourself with a cappuccino (or any other little reward).

It’s important to write a description of your study habit because when you write something down you absorb it better.  It’s a way to remember your habit and keep it in your mind.


Step 3: Do Your Study Habit Every Day

Repeating your study habit every day is what makes it become automatic.  It’s important not to skip a day.  If you do it will take longer for the study habit to be routine.   There are different views on the number of days it takes to acquire a habit.  I have seen advice that says 28 days, 30 days, 60, days and even 90 days.

I focus on 30 days.  I keep track of my habit for 30 days, and usually, by then, it is an unconscious activity.  But, I believe there is no set standard for how long it takes.  We all learn and acquire things at different rates.  Experiment and see how long it takes you.


Step 4:  Track Your Study Habit

I track a habit for 30 days.   You can record your habit in a journal, in a program on your computer or an app for your tablet or smartphone.   It doesn’t matter what you choose.  Track your habit.

I created the 30-Day Habit Tracker.  Here I write a specific description of the habit.  I include the trigger, activity, and reward.

Then I have 7 columns:

  1. Day number (1-30)
  2. Date
  3. Time
  4. Trigger (yes/no) –In this column, I don’t write what the trigger is because I already defined it the description. I only write “yes” if I did it or “no” if I didn’t do it.
  5. Action (yes/no)
  6. Reward (yes/no)
  7. Comments—In this column, I write any notes about how easy or challenging it was for that day. I also add any other ideas.

Habit tracking is an important part of creating a study habit.  It helps you see your progress over time.  It’s a way to see yourself achieving more and moving closer to your academic goals.


Step 5: Evaluate Your Study Habit

After 30 days analyze the success of your habit. Did your study habit become automatic?  If not, then continue doing your study habit.  Try tracking it for another 30 days.  Also, consider if the study habit is helping you learn something.  Have you gotten closer to achieving your academic goal?

It’s important to evaluate study habits at the end of 30 days.  You want to make sure that a study habit works for you.  If it’s not helping you achieve your academic goal(s) then change your study habit.


Great study habits are habits that lead you to achieve your academic goals.   If a study habit doesn’t do that then it’s not right for you.  Go back and list other activities that will help you progress toward your goal.   Then create one of those study habits.  It may seem like hard work, but the great thing about habits is they turn into consistent actions.  And that consistent action is what takes to be a great student.

Think about your goals and the activities that will help you reach those goals.  Create a study habit and track it.

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