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7 Bad Study Habits and Easy Steps on How to Break Them

Check out seven bad study habits and some simple proactive solutions to help you break out of them as a college student.

A photo of a young male college student reading a book in the library to study for a class for the bad study habits and how to break them blog article

How you study does more than just affect your grades. Research shows that students with good study habits also tend to have more positive life outcomes. So, one step toward creating a better life is to break your bad study habits. With that goal in mind, here are seven bad study habits to start working on today, as well as a few ways to turn them around.

#1: Not Following Basic Good Health Practices

When you get behind the wheel tired, do you drive as well as when you are all rested up? Of course not. The same is true with studying. The more rested you are when taking in new information, the easier it is to retain and recall that information correctly. Diet and exercise can also impact your ability to study successfully.

Get your body primed for studying by following good health practices. Set a sleep schedule that enables you to get the recommended 7-9 hours per night. Choose foods that are high in vitamins and minerals and engage in some type of physical activity daily. The better you feel physically, the better you feel mentally. The better you feel mentally, the easier studying becomes.

#2: Allowing Notifications During Study Sessions

Notifications on your electronic devices can help keep you in touch with what’s going on in the outside world. Yet, they can also contribute to bad study habits. When you’re in the middle of a lesson and receive a notification, it creates a distraction. At a minimum, this distraction disrupts your train of thought, requiring more time to get back into the flow. If the distraction is compelling enough, it can take you away from your studies completely.

To overcome this bad study habit, turn off your notifications during study sessions by putting your mobile device on silent. Another option is to put the device in another room. That way, you can check your notifications on study breaks without distracting you during the session itself.

#3: Studying in Front of the TV (or With Music Playing)

The television is another great distractor. You may feel that the background noise is good, but how often do you look up at the TV to see what is going on? Chances are it’s way more often than you think. Studies have found that even music playing in the background disrupts concentration more than studying in silence.

When it’s time to study, turn off anything that makes noise. Find a place that is quiet and allows you to focus on the information in the lesson. A library is good for this purpose. You can also set up a quiet space at home.

#4: Starting an Assignment Right Before It’s Due

If you’re a procrastinator, this is one of the bad study habits you’ll want to break. The problem with starting an assignment right before it’s due is that many times, assignments take longer than you anticipated. If you haven’t given yourself enough time, you risk missing the deadline. Waiting until the last minute also increases the likelihood of making unnecessary mistakes.

Create a calendar of when each assignment is due, then plan to start it at least a week before. (You may need longer if the assignment is bigger or more time intensive.) Doing this also gives you a wiggle room in case something unforeseen comes up in your schedule, such as getting sick.

#5: Limiting Exam Study to the Night Before the Test

The more times you see a piece of data, the easier it becomes to remember it. So, if you wait until the night before a test to review the information, you’re losing the opportunity to reap this benefit.

Avoid this bad study habit by giving yourself a few nights to go over the test information. One night, you can use flashcards to test your retention. Another night, create an outline of what will be on the test. Another night, read through all your text highlights.

#6: Having Notes All Over the Place

Imagine going to the kitchen to make a recipe yet having the ingredients you need stored all over the house. You must go to the bedroom for flour or the living room for oil. How much longer do you think it will take to cook? The same principle applies to studying. The more places you must go to find the information that will be on the test, the longer it will take. That’s what puts this one on the list of bad study habits.

The solution is to get organized and keep your notes together. That way, when you get ready to study, you’ll have everything you need right in front of you.

#7: Not Asking for Help When You Need It

Studying doesn’t do much good if you don’t understand the information being presented. Like in grade school, this sometimes requires taking a step back and reviewing the basics, then building on the information from there.

If you don’t understand a lesson, idea, or approach, talk to your instructor. Let them know that you are struggling and ask for their help. It may be as simple as them explaining the information differently. Or it might involve spending some one-on-one time to go through the information together.

Correcting these bad study habits can not only improve your grades but, based on the research, it may even improve your quality of life.

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