7 Habits of Highly Effective Students

It’s the beginning of a school year and those of us who are students are thinking about classes and courses and books and essays again. I study part-time and long-distance and, after a year of juggling my studies with two jobs and the rest of life, there are a few things I’ve learned about the habits a student needs in order to be effective in college as well as in life. Please note that none of these ideas constitute medical advice. They are simply suggestions drawn from my own personal experiences and observations.

1. Sleep Well

The National Sleep Foundation says that adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. When your body and your mind are rested, you can concentrate on reading books and writing essays. Hopefully, you’ll also have energy and enthusiasm to spare for working or socialising with family and friends. I’m often tempted to stay up late studying — especially when an essay is due — or socialising when I’ve finished studying, but I feel tired very quickly and my ability to study (or do anything else) is reduced. Aim to sleep well and consider the possibility of changing your lifestyle and getting more sleep if you’re always tired.

2. Eat Wisely

Sometimes I get so busy that I forget to eat. When I forget to eat, my body and my mind get more tired more quickly. When I eat, I feel energised. I try to avoid sugary snacks because they give me a short burst of energy, but later that day and next day I feel tired and short of energy. Whole foods are good and so are vegetables and fruits. There are many books available about healthy eating. Eat wisely and your body and your mind will have what they need to study.

3. Exercise Regularly

You don’t need to go to the gym if you don’t want to, but go for a walk every day. I find that I have more energy when I exercise regularly. I also find that, after an intense period of study, a walk clears my thoughts and refreshes my heart. I feel refreshed. This isn’t always possible, but try it if you can, because I think you’ll find it beneficial. The investment of a few moments in a walk is more than worth the sacrifice of time. Exercise regularly and you’ll appreciate the benefits in your studying.

4. Read Widely

Students, of course, usually do a lot of reading anyway. Don’t just read the books you have to read for your course. Read as many other books as you can get and find time to read. Reading widely isn’t just good for your essays, as you can quote from many more sources, but good for your head and your heart. When I read books that have nothing to do with studying, it fills my head with new thoughts and my heart with new dreams, which is restful. Reading widely stretches the depth and breadth of my education.

5. Pray

Pray about your studying, your assignments, your grades. I’m not suggesting that you don’t do any (or much) work and pray, “Please God, let me get As anyway!” You could, however, pray:

  • For motivation and the energy and enthusiasm you need.
  • For concentration. For the ability to focus. For the strength to resist distraction.
  • For the ability to absorb and understand the material you are studying.
  • For the ability to communication clearly and concisely — and ask for a dash of creativity and the wisdom to know when it’s appropriate!
  • For God to grant you blessing and favour and help you to do a good job and get the marks your work merits.

By all means, work as if it depends on you, but don’t forget to pray as if it depends on God.

6. Unplug

Turn the phone and the internet off.  I speak from painful personal experience when I say that the phone and the internet can be a huge distraction when you’re studying. This might be because you’re tempted to browse the internet and text your friends instead of studying. Or it might be because you have deadlines in your email inbox that you need to ignore while you finish an essay and lovely team members who want to chat and need, instead, to leave a voicemail message while you prepare for a lecture. I find, personally, that turning the phone and internet off for most evenings and one day every weekend is a blessing. It gives me a little bit of quiet. It enables me, in the stillness, to really rest.

7. Study!

Isn’t this obvious? Well, maybe, but it’s easier to plan to study — to think and talk and pray about studying — than it is to study. It’s easier to do all those things than it is to make studying a habit. Do the work. Meet the deadlines. Complete the course and get the qualification. If you’re planning, someday, to study on your own, then make a plan and set some goals. Buy the books. Do the reading. Don’t wait. Study!

What habits do you cultivate that make you an efficient student?


  1. Thank you Chantel, I already have a really good accountability partner, this is something I think i’ll bring up when we next meet.

  2. Perfect timing for me as this month I go back to studying…!
    Very good and important ideas, thanks for sharing!
    It is good to be able to have a place to study quietly without distractions too.

  3. Thanks for posting on this. I have started studying part-time to be beautician and these tips help. The course is only one evening a week but it is very intense in such a short space of time. When I have studied previously I have always left assignments to the last minute and got really overwhelmed. Do you have any tips for being organised for a procrastonator (like me)?

    1. Here’s two things that help me! πŸ™‚

      Write a list and break down your assignments into chunks if you can. Take on one at a time and before you know it, it’ll be done!

      Also, if you are prone to procrastination, outside of being overwhelmed, I’d look for a reliable accountability partner. A friend, a parent…someone who can help you keep on track and stay focused until it becomes a habit all your own. πŸ™‚

      Having an accountability partner is very motivating to me, too!

      Good luck with your studies! πŸ™‚

    2. Hi Racheal! I’m so sorry for not answering your question – a great one, by the way – sooner. I really like how Chantel answered your question and I think the only thing I’d add is that I find it helpful to:

      a) Remind myself of the goal. I want such-and-such a qualification. Therefore – even if its an act of will done with gritted teeth! – I WILL schedule time to work and concentrate / focus in order to get a good grade.

      b) Reward myself with, say, a chapter of the book I’m reading for pleasure right now … WHEN I’ve reached such-and-such a goal in studying. For example, I’ll read this chapter of this book today, then go for a walk. I’ll outline this essay tomorrow and then read my favourite blog. I only do the fun things, however, WHEN I’ve done done and work and met the deadlines. This helps me motivate myself when I’m tempted to procrastinate.

      I’d also pray about the temptation to procrastinate and ask for God’s help to do the right thing – study – when it’s hard.

      I hope this helps! πŸ™‚

      1. Thank you for your advice Elizabeth. I think I am going to set a reminder on my phone to fill in a work book later on this evening and then i will have a hot chocolate drink to reward myself πŸ˜€

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