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How to establish good study habits for life

Ethan Hildreth, Superintendent at the Nord Anglia American International School in Abu Dhabi, says building good study habits at the beginning of the school year can help students achieve in and outside of the classroom, as well as pave the way for success in other areas of their life.

  • Habits of study ISR
  • Habits of study
  • Habits of study

Two bricklayers were building a wall. A passerby asked, “what are you doing?” The first bricklayer scowled and said, “what does it look like? I’m just laying bricks.” The second bricklayer smiled and replied, “I’m part of a team constructing a school that will serve this community for generations, bringing people together in learning and friendship.”  

The first bricklayer saw no further than the job at hand and the day’s wages. The second bricklayer, however, radiated optimism and energy. What is the difference between the two? In short, attitude and vision. These traits promote success in all endeavors, including our efforts to learn, study and achieve educational goals. These and other practices I have noted below can pave the way to success for our students in school now and in the future. 

Build vision. Students should have a vision beyond assignments, grades, or school itself. When we have a vision borne of passion, study transforms from obligation to opportunity; it brings purpose. Are you striving towards a goal, to help others, to gain important skills? Identify the “big picture” that motivates your child to learn, and dream big.   

Leverage time. We cannot increase hours in a day, but we can make time more valuable. Start by maximizing time during class. Listen and participate. Focusing at school reduces time needed for external study. Outside of school, meet learning goals by making monthly, weekly, and daily study schedules. Plan short lessons, studying no longer than fifteen minutes before switching subjects or activities. This keeps you alert and refreshed. Short lessons significantly improve retention.    

Create a healthy environment. Keep study enjoyable with an environment conducive to learning. Daily life is inundated with screen time, so study offline when possible. Reduce distractions by having two or three pleasant study spots. These should have good lighting, comfortable seating, and easy access to the resources you need. Also, create a foundation for success by eating well and getting plenty of sleep.  

Teach others. As Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” I was reminded of this recently when my daughter described chemical compounds to me as she prepared for a final exam. I learned more about chemistry, and she aced her test. Research shows that students who tutor others score higher on exams. Reflection and repetition enforce learning. Share your knowledge with friends and family. 

Balance life. Life is much more than just study and work. Imbalance leads to exhaustion. Balance study commitments with other interests and passions. Take walks in nature. Read great books. Practice that instrument or language you have been wanting to learn. Make balance a practice now, and you will find that studying becomes not merely a seasonal effort for school, but a way of learning for life. 

Conscientiously practicing these study habits will lead to effective learning and success at school as well as in life. Keep in mind that it takes approximately six weeks to form a new habit. Work steadily at these practices, and you will find that after several weeks they simply become part of your daily journey — a pathway to lifelong learning.