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5 of the worst study habits to avoid this exam season

Balancing out student responsibilities alongside a fulfilling personal life can be a challenge. It’s possibly the first glimpse that students have into the ‘real life’ of adults and finding the right balance between achieving required tasks and happily enjoying distractions can be a tough ask. It’s all too easy to slip into poor study habits, but if you can get a handle on them early on it will make life a lot easier down the track. Here’s what you need to look out for.

1. All night cramming

We’ve all been there. Those deadlines are creeping up on us and the clock is ticking – but still the work remains undone. Life is super busy, right? And there are always so many other fun things to be doing. But it finally reaches the point where you have no other option but to pull an all-nighter – simply to get the work in on time. Yes, you may meet the deadline or make it to the exam, but it is never going to be your best work. Here’s why. Sleep is an incredibly important part of the biological cycle where your brain processes and retains information from the previous day. Denying your body this activity means that you cannot possibly hope to remember huge amounts of important information and will only be able to recall snippets or generalisations at best. In short, we all need a good amount of sleep every night to function efficiently.

Quick tip: Use study apps to plan out your time more efficiently in the run-up to exams and assignments. Study smarter with My Study Life or Exam Countdown

2. Procrastination

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we all like a little procrastination. Why is this so? Well, the tasks that lie ahead such as exam study and assignment research are often pretty daunting prospects, and they simply don’t spark much joy. So, our instinct is then to turn away from them and seek out other activities that help us to feel better – even if we know that ultimately there will be consequences at some point. Like deadlines and exams. Procrastination is tied up in emotional anxiety as well as organisational time management issues. If we are feeling behind with our work it might feel like the task is too huge to address, or that it will just reaffirm what we don’t know. And therefore, it is simply too hard to know where to begin. For others, feeling anxious around not being on top of their study is enough to motivate them to simply crack on with the work. Chronic procrastinators will know all too well how this behaviour can affect sleep patterns and create a spiral of negativity so it really is one of the worst study habits to avoid if you can.

Quick tip: Write out a task list that identifies and prioritises your workload, and try some mindfulness apps like Headspace and Calm to manage any stress and anxiety.

3. Poor diet

It’s all too easy to reach for the quick-fix sugary snacks when your head is buried in revision and study notes. Who doesn’t love a packet of iced VoVos? That burst of energy and pleasurable taste is just what you need to fire you onwards and combat the stress of exams. But is it? Research has proven that these products can do your concentration levels more harm than good once that sugar high has worn off. Food stripped of nutrients will lead to a quick energy crash shortly after, resulting in you feeling washed out, tired and lacking focus. Junk food can also be a real mood-killer leaving you feeling lethargic and unmotivated. So back away from the corn chips and reach for the fruit bowl instead – you won’t regret it!

Quick tip: Aim for a balanced diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables every week. By planning your meals in advance, you can stock up on more nutritional snack options.

4. Digital Distractions

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at the amount of people that study with their phone on the desk right next to them, or with their favourite tunes cranking out the speaker. You might think it’s OK and that you are not overly distracted by the interruptions, but research would suggest otherwise. Although music can create a positive environment, if you are that person who is easily distracted the lyrics will simply draw you away from the task in hand and impact your focus. Similarly, constant reminders on your phone about the whole fun world happening out there without you are not conducive to effective study and getting work done. It can affect concentration levels and importantly contribute to negative emotions. Ditch the technology unless it is directly aiding your study and take regular breaks to refresh your mind.

Quick tip: Try some blocking apps for social media that will reduce the temptation to engage such as Offtime or Antisocial.  Change up the schedule and study with friends for a social fix.

5. Locking yourself away and overworking

Whilst the ultimate aim of a study session is of course, to study, there is a real danger that the desire to do well can lead to over-studying and overworking. Neither of which are beneficial to your health. In the first instance, although you may think you’re being super productive, you’re slowly exhausting yourself and depriving your body of much needed rest. Your ability to retain information is then diminished and the whole experience becomes counter productive. Secondly, it’s incredibly important for your mental health to take regular breaks and interact with the world around you. Not only will you gain social and health benefits from seeing friends and physically moving around, pressing pause on your studies allows you to reflect on your work. To absorb, rethink and retain.

Quick tip: Study to understand, rather than remember. Use different techniques such as mind maps to break it up, and plan in regular breaks to refresh your energies.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Click here to check out our recent tips to help you stress down and get your studies back on track.


Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

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