Learn how to take control of your life, one small decision at a time.
Have you ever thought about how you developed a certain habit — at what point did you just start doing something without even giving a second thought to it? Where you sit when you study, what time you study at, whether you keep your phone with you, how often you take breaks, — each of these is a small decision that you make, sometimes without even realising it, and eventually, they add up to a study habit. This sounds pretty simple — when you make the right decisions, you end up with good study habits. But when you aren’t even aware of when you make these decisions, how do you make the right one?
In the book “Atomic Habits”, the author James Clear made a simple claim that we decided to adapt to what matters most to students today, and here’s what we found — by taking control of your small or atomic study habits, you can spark a massive improvement in your performance.
Take a look at these 5 ways to make small changes to your study habits, because this is what taking control of your life, 10-minutes at a time, looks like -
1. Place hard-to-miss cues to trigger the small change in your habits.
We tend to forget what we don’t like, so if you want to make sure that you study every day, you have to place visible cues around you, making it impossible to ignore them. Try placing your books where you will constantly see them, or telling other people what time you plan to study, or setting an alarm to remind you when to start. Be as obvious as you possibly can, so that even you can’t talk yourself out of it.
2. Find ways to receive immediate rewards for good behaviour.
Habits are basically the result of a cycle of — cue, routine, and reward. You start by triggering a change, you repeat it until it becomes routine, and when you receive rewards, it becomes a habit. But instead of waiting for the eventual outcome, take matters into your own hands, and get yourself an immediate reward! If you decide to increase your study time by just 5 minutes daily, you would probably see an improvement in your scores weeks or maybe even months later. But meanwhile, you can always reward yourself with something small, like an extra 15-minute break, or maybe 5 extra minutes of phone time.
3. Tie the new change to an existing habit — one that you actually like.
For those of you who tend to procrastinate a lot (like me) when it’s time to study, but not when it’s time to watch Netflix, “habit stacking” is perfect for you. You just need to decide to do one of your least favorite tasks immediately before or after a habit that you actually like, and soon, studying will become just as much of a habit as watching Netflix is. You won’t enjoy it as much, but hey, at least it’ll get done.
4. Make sure that your change is actually “atomic” and easy to adopt.
If you are someone who finds it difficult to study everyday, then your “small” change cannot be to “study for 3 hours daily”. Instead, start with something achievable like “study at least 3 pages daily”, and build upwards from there. If your change is too drastic, then it might be difficult to make it a part of your routine, and you’ll be more likely to just give up. When you decide to start gymming, and you do 4 hours on the first day, what are the chances you’ll go back the next day?
5. Keep yourself going with habit tracking and habit contracts.
To stay motivated, you have to check your progress, no matter how “small” your change is. If you decide to do just two more pages daily, you must keep a record of whether you actually do it. And if you don’t manage to keep up, give yourself a penalty for it (and yes, do NOT go easy on yourself). Enter into a “habit contract” with yourself, so that if you fall short, you will have to make some sacrifice — whether it is an extra two pages the next day, or a shorter break.
For every time that you thought it was too difficult to change the way you study, why not just start with a 10-minute change tomorrow?
For access to a wide range of resources on topics that are of interest to all students, parents, and educators, visit us at thewhyacademy.org.