Are you struggling to find your perfect study strategies? You’ve run out of ideas or you’re worried that your current study techniques just aren’t that efficient or effective.

In this episode, we'll uncover the unique challenges adult learners face, such as time management amidst busy schedules and limited study time – and just why it’s so important that your study strategies work for you…and not just take up your precious time each week without yielding epic grades. 

This episode will equip you with mindset strategies to overcome imposter syndrome and boost your confidence and motivation. We’ll also delve into the power of a growth mindset and explore how this belief in your ability to grow can transform your academic journey.

You’ll discover a step-by-step process to unearth and find your perfect study strategies that resonate with your learning style and commitments. You’ll learn the importance of self-assessment, starting small with experimentation, and embracing setbacks as opportunities for growth.

This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 151 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the podcast script.

Ways to listen:

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Five core challenges faced by adult learners

Let’s start by summarising the key challenges faced by adult learners. One of the common denominators of adult learners is that studying is most often *not* your main focus. You’re working full-time or part-time, you’re raising a family or caring for family members, you’re running a household, you’re working on your career…oh and trying to look after yourself and have a social life.

Which means time management is a BIG challenge and it’s important that you learn how to prioritise your tasks and plan your studying effectively to avoid burnout – and so you can find time for self-care, relaxation and time with friends and family.

Limited study time is another big challenge to navigate. With already busy schedules, finding dedicated study time can be a struggle. So, as an adult learning with limited windows of time for focused learning, efficient study strategies are crucial.

It’s pretty common for adult learners to feel isolated at times throughout their studies due to learning online, meaning you don’t meet your peers often or at all. Also, it’s likely that you’ll be one of a few (or maybe the only) of your friends, family members or colleagues furthering their education. Therefore, it would really help to find a supportive community or network of fellow learners who are facing similar challenges.

Many adult learners experience imposter syndrome, doubting their learning abilities and feeling like they don't belong in the academic environment. Imposter syndrome can hinder your confidence and motivation so mindset strategies are also key in the toolbox of an adult learner.

Finally, if you’ve been out of formal education for a while, your study strategies may be outdated – or maybe you don’t believe you were taught them in the first place. But don’t worry, because I can help you find the perfect study strategies for *your* learning style, goals, subject and non-studying responsibilities.

So it’s pretty clear then that developing a strong mindset and learning effective study strategies are key to graduating with your dream grades, without burnout. Learn how to study smarter so you don’t have to work as hard or study as long – but you’ll get epic results.

Understanding your mindset:

Let’s look at mindset first. There are two key mindset concepts I want to introduce or reintroduce you to in this episode.

1. Imposter syndrome

I’ve got a whole episode about imposter syndrome for more info about this concept. Imposter syndrome is the inability to believe that your success is deserved. You fear that you’re not good enough to be doing what you’re doing and there’s a fear of being ‘found out.’

There are a few relevant strands for adult learners. If you decided not to go to university straight from school then returning to education years or decades later might make you feel that you’re not good enough, that you were never good enough, or that you’re older now so for some reason that makes you less able to learn (it doesn’t – it actually makes you better equipped).

Another strand is that you might have accumulated some evidence that you’re not good enough – that your inner imposter is mistakenly taking as indisputable proof. Failures in previous education, low grades, being told you’re not smart or academic by teachers, parents or siblings. These can be really painful experiences – I refer to them as education scars because despite fading, they can sometimes show up again in a certain light and knock our confidence.

But previous academic failures or people not believing in you doesn’t need to have *any* impact on your future academic success. And to highlight that, I need to introduce you to the second mindset concept…growth mindset

2. Growth mindset

Growth mindset is the belief that you can grow in all areas of your life. That every ability and quality of yours is changeable. You can become a better essay writer, you can become a more organised student, you can become an epic essay taker. Even if you’ve struggled in these areas up until now, today you can start to write a different story.

In contrast, there’s a fixed mindset – the idea that your skills and abilities have a ceiling so continued effort to improve is not worth it. This entire perspective is disproven if you’ve ever achieved something that you didn’t think possible – which we all have 100 times throughout our lives.

I regularly work with students who’ve been stuck with essay grades in the 50% range. For essays and essays, maybe even multiple modules, they’ve not been able to increase their grades by much. If this applies to you, it would be easy to believe that grades in the 50s must be your ceiling. But the ceiling on your abilities and intelligence that you or other people believe is there…isn’t. It’s BS. You are capable of incredible things and incredible levels of academic success IF you commit to developing a growth mindset.

These same students I mentioned? That were feeling stuck with mid-range essay grades? They committed to developing a growth mindset and their grades increased to the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. To develop a growth mindset you must believe in your innate capacity to change, embrace challenges, learn from feedback, persevere through setbacks and seek support from experts and people who’ve achieved what you want.

Find your perfect study strategies exploration process

So now that you understand the connection between mindset and achieving the grades you really want in a confident, positive way, we’re going to look at how we can apply these mindset concepts to find your perfect study strategies. 

One-size-fits-all study strategies?

There are a number of super smart study strategies that I recommend and teach to all students. This is why my membership, my new workshop series, The Kickbutt Study Camp, and my other study skills trainings are suitable for students studying any subject. While that is true, two other things are true. First, you need to learn to tailor these core techniques to find your perfect study strategies. Make tweaks and adjustments until they allow you to achieve your goals.

Second, there are also a TON of study techniques out there for you to try to see what works for you. This is where the variance comes in between subjects, course formats, assessment structures. And the differences that make up your unique studying situation – your learning style, academic goals, non-studying commitments. This means you need to embrace experimentation to find your perfect study strategies. You need to step into a growth mindset and adopt trial and error to discover what works for you.

All too often I speak to students who’ve tried to plan out their studies rather than winging it. They’ve tried the pomodoro technique to structure their study sessions. They’ve tried planning out their essays before starting writing. But when the method hasn’t worked the first, second or third time, the students have deduced that those activities just don’t work for them.

But this is the wrong deduction. Planning out your studies rather than winging it IS what smart students do. A variation of the pomodoro technique IS the best way to study to manage your focus during study sessions. Planning your essays before writing IS the way to ensure your arguments are strong and actually answer the question. But maybe the ways that you’ve tried to do these things haven’t worked yet. That’s not a reason to walk away from the overall strategy, it’s a sign to keep searching for new techniques, keep iterating and tweaking until you find the way to make these strategies work for you. Go against a fixed mindset and instead embrace a growth mindset as you explore and find the perfect study strategies for you.

How to find your perfect study strategies

It’s time for some action, studying pals. I’ve got 5 techniques you can use to explore and then find your perfect study strategies.

1. Self-assessment

One of the things I talk about A LOT – reflection. It’s time to think about and reflect on your current study habits and mindset. What strategies have you already tried for managing your time, scheduling your studies, deciding on your task list, reading and note taking, planning assignments, writing assignments, editing assignments, learning from assignment feedback, revision planning, active learning and revision…and so on.

How have these strategies worked for you? Can you make tweaks to improve these strategies? Or do you need to try some new methods? What hasn’t worked for you? And then go deeper on the why. What is it about you as a person, your preferences, strengths, struggles that make or break your study strategies? This introspection lays the groundwork for change by teaching you more about yourself and then opening up your mind to the choices available to you to achieve even better results.

2. Start with one

Pick one area of your study skills to experiment with initially. Maybe it’s scheduling your studies, maybe it’s note taking, maybe it’s essay planning. Then focus your improvement efforts here, looking for different techniques and tips and methods you can try to ultimately find your perfect study strategies. Starting small reduces the overwhelm for sure and it encourages you to go deeper and embrace a growth mindset by not expecting to stumble upon the right technique immediately.

3. Expect setbacks

Think of setbacks as the plot twists of TV shows and movies that keep you on your toes. The main characters have to go through challenges and upset to develop the resilience and uncover the very strategies that will help them achieve success later. A one-time trial might not reveal the true effectiveness of a method. The Pomodoro method might not work if your phone is next to you while you study so you can’t resist the temptation to not pick it up. The productivity method might not work for you if you stay wedded to the intervals of 25 minutes of studying and a 5-minute break and don’t switch it up based on your task, preference and energy levels. Don’t give up when a strategy doesn’t yield immediate results. Instead, take a beat to rest, reflect on anything that could be impacting its effectiveness, embrace your burgeoning growth mindset and keep on keeping’ on until you achieve success.

4. Reflect and adjust

Reflection isn’t a one and done thing. Build the habit of asking yourself often, what’s working well? What could be improved? Don’t slip back into the hopelessness of a fixed mindset but instead problem solve and remind yourself to keep adjusting and hunting until you find your perfect study strategies.

5. Seek inspiration

Maybe you’re down for this approach. You understand that if something’s not working in your studies you need to keep going until you find the method that’s going to work for you. But you’ve run out of ideas and don’t know what else you could possibly try. This is where you need to seek external support. Learn new strategies from experts and seek inspiration from other students’ experiences to gain insight into strategies worth trying.

The important point here is NEVER to adopt a technique without considering whether it is actually the best study strategy for your situation. I encourage critical thinking from my students. Take my advice, knowing that it’s solid and smart and coming from an expert, but do not just accept everything I say and apply it without question to your studying. You’re smarter than that and YOU are your best expert. Take all those possible techniques and work out the next one that’s worth trying.

Enrol in the Kickbutt Study Camp to find your perfect study strategies

The best way to do this? I’d recommend joining my upcoming Kickbutt Study Camp which I mentioned at the beginning of this episode.

The aim of this programme is to set you up for success for the new academic year. Whether you’re a brand new student, eager (but terrified) to start your course, or you’re an ol’ timer gearing up for your next module which you want to be smoother and more successful. You’ll learn core, best-practice study strategies in four key areas, to allow you to study smarter, not harder, spend less time studying each week AND achieve higher grades.

The four workshops will be held on Zoom on four weekday evenings in September. If you can’t make them live, don’t worry. They’re all recorded and you’ll have lifetime access to the replays so you can catch up and then dive back in throughout your later studies.

And for two weeks over the span of the live workshops, I’ll be running a private community where you can ask me any and all your questions about the workshop topics, so you can create a personalised action plan to support you in your upcoming studies.

The four topics of the workshops are:
– Goal setting and study habits
– Confidence and growth mindset
– Efficient reading and note taking
– Strategic studying 

If this episode has resonated with you and you want to improve your mindset and find your perfect study strategies to make this academic year way easier and more successful, be sure to join the waitlist.

Enrolment opens Tuesday 29th August and there will be a special early-bird offer for those who join by Friday 1st September. Click here to join the waitlist.

So there we have it.

The key takeaways to ensure you find your perfect study strategies are:

1. Your mindset matters

Imposter syndrome and a fixed mindset are going to keep you stuck as you won’t see the value in trying new strategies which means your grades and overall studying happiness won’t improve. Search for my previous episodes and blog posts to find out more about mindset or join the waitlist for the Kickbutt Study Camp for an entire epic workshop on Confident Learning.

2. Trial and error is essential

You’re unlikely to stumble upon or find your perfect study strategy straight away. And that’s OK because you know that the best study strategies are out there, you just need to hold your nerve enough to keep looking.

3. Work out if it’s a persistence problem or an ideas problem

Is it that you aren’t being persistent enough to adapt your current strategies to make them better? Or is it that you’ve run out of strategies to try? If it’s the latter, take action to discover new strategies by enrolling in one of my study skills programmes, including the upcoming Kickbutt Study Camp.   

Ultimately, I believe in your ability to find your best study strategies. You are a persistent, resilient problem-solver and you’ve got this.

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