Our habits guide around 90% of what we do each day which makes our study habits pretttty important to our academic success. That means conscious and rational thinking guides only a small amount of our actions.

Why does this happen?

Conscious thought consumes a lot of energy. When you first learn to drive it’s exhausting as you’re focusing so intensely on everything you need to do. After a while though your actions become intuitive and habits form (good and bad). Suddenly you can drive without having to make conscious decisions about your road position or which gear to be in.

This blog post explains why study habits are valuable but why they can also hinder your success.


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Habits can be split into three types.

Habits that make your life BETTER

  • Brushing your teeth morning and night
  • Writing in your journal each day
  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.

These are habits you've developed over time that improve your life.

Habits that make your life EASIER

  • Driving the same way home from work
  • Wearing the same outfit to work every day
  • Picking the same seat on the bus.

These are relatively pointless habits but they make your life easier by reducing daily decisions. It’s less taxing for your brain to gravitate towards the same bus seat than to get on and think about which seat you would like to sit in.

Habits that could HINDER your life

  • Always reaching for something sweet after dinner
  • Scrolling through your phone whenever there's a free moment
  • Making study notes in the same way because that's how you've always done it.

These habits are easy but can be damaging.

These three types show not all habits are created equal. Continuing a habit doesn’t always make sense.

Do you always write your notes in the same way?

Do you follow the same method for writing essays?

Do you revise in the same way for every exam?

If you regularly score almost full marks for essays and exams, then maybe you’ve found your superstar study habits.

But if you want to improve your grades and understanding at all…looking at your techniques is a good place to start.

Success starts with two things – motivation and the right methods.

If you’re already motivated and eager to work hard then maybe you need to look at your methods?

It’s important to focus on your goals for this year but try different methods to get you there. Be flexible with how you get to your goals and you might find you get there faster.

If you want a first/distinction/A – try different essay, note taking and exam techniques until you find what works for you. You can always improve and the quickest way to do this is to try something new. Try a new form of note taking for a few weeks. This could increase your understanding of the material and gain you higher marks in essays and exams.

Similarly, the quickest way to lose weight it to switch up your routine. Try different exercises and diets until you reach your goal.

One objection I hear all the time – and I’ve shared – is that some people like to take all their notes in the same way as it looks more uniform.

I understand this objection.

It’s a good feeling to have notes that look the same as they can be filed neatly and look less messy. What’s the point in continuing with a note taking method if it’s not getting you the results you deserve?

Let me repeat that.

Sometimes we develop habits that make ourselves feel good but are a bit useless.

I used to want my notes to look perfect so if I made a mistake I would just start my notes again. I felt like I couldn’t bear to see crossed out and messy notes. But now I’ve realised I prefer imperfect notes to wasting hours on tasks that get me no closer to my goals.

Highlighting the books makes for pretty notes but is it getting you anywhere? Long notes may look impressive but is your time better spent elsewhere?

Try and step away from perfectionism to try something new.

Open University modules are split into one month blocks. So for one of my modules I picked a different note-taking method for each block. I was still able to file them in the same way and by the end of the module I found a new method that increased my understanding AND my essay scores.

At the start of this new academic year, be brave enough to try something new. You’ve already taken this massive step to learn new things, do more with your life and open up new opportunities – so what’s a few more new things?!

If you've enjoyed this post I'd love it if you could share it with a fellow student.


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

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