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Phoenix Forward magazine

How to develop good study habits

High-achieving students understand that having good study habits means figuring out how to balance school with work and personal obligations, says Amy Lisk, MA, a technical writer and an online instructor in the University of Phoenix® English program.

“If it really is a priority for you to earn your degree, then use that [acknowledgement] to view everything else in your life,” Lisk says. Here, she shares her advice on how to incorporate good study habits into your schedule:

Budget time carefully.

One of the most critical skills that successful students must possess is time management, Lisk emphasizes. “Schedule your [study] time in advance,” she suggests. “It’s the same principle as budgeting your money. Only you determine how to spend your time, so do it purposefully.”

For example, she says you can “take 15 minutes from your lunch hour to do your reading and discussion questions, or schedule 15 to 30 minutes each weekday after the kids have gone to bed.” Make sure you include time for recreation to avoid burnout, she adds.

Keep your emotions in check.

Instead of agonizing over how hard an assignment is and letting your fear of failure paralyze you, “just do it.” Lisk says.

“For example, my daughter used to spend 20 minutes crying each night because she had to do math homework, and then spent 10 minutes actually doing it. We used to tell her that she could save herself 20 minutes each night by not feeling sorry for herself and just doing the work.”

Lisk also encourages not waiting until you’re in the right mood to study — just set a time to do the work, and stick to it.

Maintain a positive mindset about priorities.

While many students plan to put their studies first, some may have trouble sticking to that goal because they don’t view schoolwork in a positive light. “Sooner or later, you’re going to rebel if you keep making yourself do things you don’t want to do,” says Lisk, who likens the process to dieting.

“Saying, ‘I choose not to have that doughnut because I want to [slim down],’ works a lot better than, ‘I can’t have that doughnut because I’m on a diet,’” she argues, noting that you can apply the same philosophy to studying. “Say to yourself, ‘I choose to stay home and study because I want to earn my degree,’ rather than, ‘I can’t go out tonight; I have to study.’”

Use all available resources.

If you’re struggling with an assignment, ask for help.

“I find that many students are not [sufficiently] prepared to write a paper, so I try to make them aware of the resources that are available to them,” says Lisk, who also is a University writing tutor. Among those resources are the Center for Writing Excellence and the University’s complimentary Riverpoint Writer® formatting tool, as well as other student support services.

If you’re not sure where to turn for help, Lisk suggests talking to your academic advisor.

Break tasks into manageable chunks.

If your assignment workload seems insurmountable, attacking it bit by bit can be less intimidating, Lisk often explains to her writing students who are stumped.

She recommends making lists, which can give you a sense of accomplishment when you check off an item. Also, she suggests, “see if anything can be done simultaneously, like ‘watch kids’ soccer game and read assigned textbook for class,’ or ‘cook dinner and respond to class posts.’”

Appoint a study boss.

Sometimes you need an extra boost to keep your studies on track, so “make yourself accountable to someone,” like your spouse, friend, parent or classmate, Lisk advises. “Tell him or her that you are going to spend two hours per night on your classwork, and ask him or her to help you follow through on it.”

Learn from mistakes.

Even the most disciplined students will run into roadblocks from time to time. The key is how you respond to the situation, Lisk emphasizes. “If you did poorly in a class because you didn’t allow enough time to study, learn from that and do better in your next class — don’t just drop out,” she says. “Those who stick with things tend to prevail.”

She also recommends making a point of enjoying the learning process rather than just seeing your degree as a means to an end. “I’ve found that the students who are the most willing to appreciate the journey,” Lisk says, “… rather than just get the grade and move on are the ones who are getting the most out of their investment in education.”