How to create healthier study habits
Good study habits are healthy study habits. These top tips and tools will help you not only find balance, but be more productive.
Any student knows that the only way out of studying is getting through it. The problem is, studying can be overwhelming, even for your favourite courses or with your favourite professors.
We’ll debunk something for you right now, too: there’s no single trick or one-size-fits-all solution to making studying more bearable or less stressful. But lucky for you, today there are a ton of resources, tips and ideas to help you manage your study habits in a way that is healthy and productive for you.
And that’s exactly what we’ve done for you here — rounding up all the most helpful ways you can create healthier study habits, not just during exam weeks, but year-round. If you do it right, you’ll learn how to incorporate these skills (which is what they really are) into your future career, too.
Healthy study habits start with your lifestyle
It’s important to understand that you have to cultivate a healthy lifestyle around your study habits so that you can strike a balance. Some of these tips might seem obvious or what your mom tells you to do to create good study habits. But hey — mom always knows best. So, hear us out.
- Eat a well-balanced diet
We understand that as a student your budget and food options can feel limited. All too often you’re reaching for quick solutions like frozen pizza and take out, and you drink so much coffee your blood type is caffeinated+. But if you’re not eating right, you could literally be starving your brain of essential nutrients, slowing down your cognitive functions. So to sharpen your focus…
+ Stop skipping breakfast and eat protein-packed eggs or berries, nuts and fruits to start your day
+ Try eating more leafy greens and lean meats like fish
+ Try eating smaller meals throughout the day for steady energy instead of heavy meals that leave you with energy dips
+ Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water throughout the day
+ Avoid high-sugar and high-fat snacks that spike your blood sugar
+ Don’t over caffeinate yourself. While coffee can help stimulate you, studies show it can also make you more anxious.
Get a good night’s sleep
Okay, we know this is kind of asking a lot. Between studying, working and having a social life, sleep is a rare commodity for students. But, without a good night’s sleep, your brain can’t function at full capacity. So take a good hard look at your schedule and sleeping habits and look for ways you can improve. The first way? Be consistent. And don’t just give yourself a bedtime, schedule rest before bed when you can unplug from your phone, binge on Netflix or finally read something for fun.
- Teach yourself stress management tools
Everyone handles stress differently. For some people, a rush of endorphins from a workout is enough to help refocus and release tension. For others, it’s taking time to disconnect and do something with their hands, like make a healthy meal. Take the time to understand what really helps you recenter, relax and manage overwhelming feelings or anxiety. Sometimes it’s as easy as a 20-minute nap or meditation or grabbing a coffee with friends that makes you feel supported.
- Take breaks
It’s no coincidence that the stress management tools we mentioned above require you to disconnect and take a break. Even small micro-breaks between chapters or assignments can help you manage stress and refocus on the task at hand, like taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea, or taking a little walk to get fresh air.
- Create work-life balance
In line with our last two tips, you have to find the balance between studying and living your life. Of course, as a student, studying is a huge part of your life and schedule. But without time for friends, sports, enjoying your city and school activities, you could burn out. Taking time away from studying to enrich the rest of your life is just as important as studying itself.
- Take care of your body
Studying these days requires a lot of screen time which can be quite straining on your eyes — especially when you consider that you’re already in classes online, watching tv-screens, TikTok videos on your phone and more. So, don’t forget to care for your eyes, too. That means positioning your screen at least an arms-length from your face, taking screen breaks and maybe even investing in blue-light glasses that filter computer screen light for you.
You also need to take care of your posture. How are you sitting right now? If you’re hunched over a laptop or textbook, you need to make some easy, healthy adjustments. Sit with a straight back and elevate your screen or textbook so it is at the same level as your eyes. If you can, invest in a laptop stand, or simply prop it up on top of some books so your screen is at eye-level. As for your textbooks, a cheap cookbook stand can easily prop it up right, allowing your shoulders and neck to sit straight as you read.
Finally, if you’re going to prop up your laptop, we definitely suggest investing in a separate keyboard and mouse, too, so that you can really keep your posture straight as you work.
The easiest ways to improve study habits: discipline and organization
Okay, admittedly, these habits take practice before they’re ever easy. But, once you learn how to teach yourself discipline and organization, all of your study habits are going to get a lot healthier and easier to manage.
Create a daily routine
We know every day is different with new assignments, study groups, workout classes and social events. But, you really need to create a daily routine so that you have a sense of control as new things are thrown your way and stress starts creeping up. That means sticking to your sleep schedule, following regular (healthy) mealtimes and scheduling free time into your day that you can use to work out or have a catch-up with friends.
Plan out your assignments and study time
A planner (whether it’s digital or physical) is a great way to lay out all of your to-do’s and get a real overview of what you have to tackle that day, week, month or semester. Don’t forget to mark all your deadlines, too!
Using that bigger overview, you can now organize and break up your time into manageable chunks for each subject, class or assignment. Once you have a good outlook of all you need to do study-wise, you can then easily plan your free time, social time and breaks in between. Knowing when you have time to break or relax will be key to helping you manage stress and create healthy, good study habits.
Good study environments promote good study habits
The most important thing about your study environment is that you feel comfortable enough there to settle in, focus and implement all those good study habits you’ve been working on.
Some people prefer big open libraries flooded with light while others prefer to be snuggled under a blanket on the couch with their favourite lofi music playing on the speaker. Sometimes, it’s the buzz of a busy café that allows you to laser focus. But wherever feels comfortable to sit down and study, you should keep a few things in mind.
Give yourself space
If you cram yourself into a tight spot, you’re probably going to start feeling overwhelmed. And a major part of improving study habits is creating positive environments for you to get to work in. So, having room to spread out with your books, notes and papers allows you to have a good overlook of everything and not feel cramped or physically trapped.
But, make it organized
A messy study space can lead to disorganized thoughts and anxiety. Keep your workspace tidy with designated sections for drinks, books, papers and whatever else you need to study. Always remember to keep your drinks far away from the keyboard, too!
A good study habit is to take a minute to set up your space and make it comfortable rather than just plopping down and getting to work. If you’re at home, light a candle, grab your coziest blanket and sit in your favourite spot. If you’re out, make sure you’re wearing your favourite hoodie or that outfit that makes you feel like a total baddie who has their life together. It’s the little things that make you feel good that can also help motivate you.
And don’t be afraid to switch it up
You ever have that feeling of just hitting a wall when you’re studying? When you realize you’ve read that same sentence five times and it’s just not sticking, it’s probably time for a break, and maybe time to switch up your space. Maybe to refocus, you need to get off the couch and go work with your study group in the library. Or maybe sitting straight in the library chairs is getting to you and it’s time to cozy up at home. Don’t be afraid to make moves and switch it up throughout your study sessions.
Digital tools that are great for forming good study habits
These days you can easily find yourself overwhelmed by all the digital distractions around you. But there’s also a lot of awesome technology you can use to help form good study habits. Below are a few of our favourites we think you’ll love, too.
This app is most well-known for its guided meditations to help you sleep better. A great tool for students who can’t seem to ‘turn off’ their brains after a long day of studying, Headspace helps you relax, manage stress and refocus your energy on becoming more centred and well-rested. Beyond sleep meditation, they also offer breathing exercises and regular meditation you can use as part of your new good study habits routine.
A platform to create (free) digital learning tools and flashcards, Quizlet is a student’s best friend and ultimate study partner. Their flashcards are probably the most popular feature, allowing you to customize your cards, shuffle them and learn at your own pace. But, the learning platform also has pre-made study sets and a feature called Gravity that gamifies your studying. Totally addicting and helpful, Quizlet will definitely be a great addition to your new study habits.
Do Not Disturb Function
If you have an iPhone, you’re going to want to learn how to toggle its Do Not Disturb setting. Go to Settings > Focus > then tap Do Not Disturb. Here, you can customize what notifications are silenced while Do Not Disturb is on, like calls, texts and app notifications. You’re going to be pleasantly surprised by how much you can get done without all the distractions.
Sleep Schedule Function
While you’re poking around the settings of your iPhone, you should also take a look at the Sleep Schedule function in the Health app. You probably didn’t know this existed, but this function is a really great way to hold yourself accountable to your new sleep schedule. Simply input the time you want to go to sleep or wake up in the mornings (or the hours you’d like to sleep each night) and your phone will automatically tell you when your bedtime is getting close so you can start winding down. Once it’s your bedtime, your phone will even mute all your notification so that you’re not disturbed or distracted trying to fall asleep.
Trello is a great app to help enforce all that discipline and organization we talked about. Used on the web or downloaded directly to your phone, you can easily organize boards, lists and cards to take your to-do lists and good study habits to the next level. There’s even a section where you can structure your lists into To-Do, Doing and Done categories so you can keep track of your progress. Trello is also the perfect tool for group projects because you can assign people responsibilities and tasks. Goodbye awkward, disorganized WhatsApp group chats!
Plantje focus app
A little bizarre but weirdly fun, the Plantje focus and time management app helps you stay on task by growing your favourite fruit while you study, but then slowly killing it every time you exit the app. Forcing you to keep the app open and focus on your studying instead of Instagram (or other distractions), Plantje incentivizes you to keep pushing through until your next scheduled study break.
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