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.
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.
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.
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?