A guide on how to implement an effective study routine...
Over the past fortnight I have had countless emails from staff, students and parents/guardians regarding home study routine. Specifically what it is and how we do we effectively implement it. The definition that I will provide is essentially what I say to parents/guardians and importantly to my students. Home study is essentially a process at home where you try to consolidate the knowledge and skills acquired at school. This may include working on homework, completing tasks, however there is a bigger emphasis on the process of consolidation and retention, allowing for a deeper understanding of the content and /or skill. The ‘routine’ part of the Home Study Routine’ is a concentrated effort in applying these processes on a daily basis.
As much as this seems logical and easily manageable, the issue is that for most of us the application of ‘study routine’ rarely sticks and can be ineffective. Students actually do study, most (if not every) night. Although what they study, how they study and where they study can contribute to how effectively they studied.
Another reason for ineffective study routine or study in general may be directly related to procrastination. Or specifically academic procrastination, which can be defined as “intentionally delaying or deferring work” (Schraw et al, 2007). Prevalent amongst adolescents and generally considered a sub-branch of general procrastination, academic procrastination is the most researched form of procrastination and the highest form of procrastination linking to the negative impact on a student’s wellbeing (Janssen, 2015).
Preparation before Application.
I will say that, in general, the most reliable way to employ an effective study routine for the long-term is to use a systematic approach (the preparation), where students identify the distractions (environment, procrastinations, etc.), the non-negotiables (entertainment, sports, work dinner etc.) then create a plan of action (study timetable) and then put into practice daily (application).
Below are a few effective techniques that I have personally used and shared with students in preparing and applying a home study routine. It’s never too late.
• Define your goals as clearly as possible; abstract goals are more likely to lead to procrastination than goals that are concrete and well-defined.
• If you're faced with a large and overwhelming task, break it apart into a set of small, actionable pieces that are relatively easy for you to handle.
• If you don't feel sufficiently motivated to perform a task, you can often benefit from imagining your future-self receiving the reward for completing that task (or experiencing the aftermath for failing to do so).
• Figure out the times of day when you're most productive and when you're least productive, and schedule your tasks accordingly whenever possible.
• Create a study timetable. This probably the most effective form of preparation however students mistakenly begin making a timetable by zealously filling it with study. This can be mistake. By putting in the study blocks first, students overcommit to hours that are unrealistic and that can't be adhered to. This often leads to students getting stressed, overwhelmed, and ultimately giving up on the entire process of using a timetable at all.
The suggested approach that you list all the activities that you love doing during the week and the things that you just don't want to compromise on. Then you should nominate a time that you would most likely allocate to these activities. For example, a list might look like this:
• Basketball: Mondays, 6pm - 7:30pm and Sundays 2pm - 4pm
• Xbox: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7pm - 8pm, Weekends 3pm - 6pm
• Seeing friends: Weekends, 11am - 6pm
• Netflix: Mondays and Wednesdays, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
• Social media: Daily, 5pm - 6pm
• Work shift: Saturdays, 10am - 2pm
Of course, it's difficult to know in advance each activity you will do. Nobody wants to live life on such a tight schedule, but getting a rough estimation of when you do things will be a good start. Once you have identified the key times for activities, you can move to the application.
• Before starting your study routine remove all possible distractions from your environment (if your distractions are digital, block your access to them).
• Get yourself started by committing to only make a tiny bit of progress; for example, you could commit to only write a single sentence on your paper, or exercise for only 5 minutes.
• Another technique that can help you motivate yourself to get started is the 'countdown'; this involves counting down from a certain number (e.g. 7), and at the end of the count you have to get started on your work.
• Before indulging an impulse to procrastinate, count to "10" in your head; you're not allowed to do anything other than work while you count.
• Mark down streaks of days on which you successfully manage to complete your goals; this will motivate you to work, in an effort to continue the streak.
It is important to keep in mind that your routine with the assistance of the study timetable should be used as a guide, not as a rule book. The aim is not to stick to it 100% and live life by such regimented time-slots. If you can stick to the timetable 60% of the time, that should be considered a 'win'. Sometimes you will get to a study timeslot and you will just feel like relaxing - that's fine! Equally, you may get 30 minutes into an X-box game or find that you've had enough snapchat for the day and decide it's time to hit the books. Either way, plan in advance and stay flexible too!
Closing words and further advice
Implementing a study routine is a complex and varied task. Different students study in different ways and for different reasons, which is why different solutions work better for different people.
From a student point of view it can be pretty frustrating to hear your parents or teachers say, "are you doing enough study?" A great way to get around this is to print/email your study timetable, give your parents and teachers a copy and say "this is my plan. I will try my best to stick to it. I still need my week to be flexible, but here's a snapshot of the times I plan to be studying in."
The techniques listed here are some of the most simple and effective ones you can use in general, and should be highly beneficial in most cases.
However, keep in mind that there are many other techniques you can use, some of which might work better in your particular case.
Mr. Ashwin Pillai- Assistant Principal- Learning and Teaching
1. Janssen, Jill, "Academic Procrastination: Prevalence Among High School and Undergraduate Students and Relationship to Academic Achievement." Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2015. https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/epse_diss/103
2. Schraw, Gregory & Wadkins, Theresa & Olafson, Lori. (2007). Doing the Things We Do: A Grounded Theory of Academic Procrastination. Journal of Educational Psychology. 99. 12-25. 10.1037/0022-06188.8.131.52.