Habit setting, one day at a time
It’s hard to get into good habits if you don’t know what you’re doing each day. Creating a study schedule is important to ensure you can balance work, study, and family life. You can use paper diaries or computerized calendars that usually come pre-installed on your hardware, however if you want to take your planning up a notch check out these apps.
My Study Life is a fairly complex, free free app for timetabling and organizing your studies, available for PC, iOS, and Android. This app takes a bit of work to learn how and where to input everything (following the inbuilt guide is highly suggested) but once the hard work is done, it is easy to use. The app syncs with other devices, and has a fair amount of customization, however it’s visual appeal is limited by its simple user interface.
A simple and free timetabling app for Android and PC. Once you've inputted all of your important dates/class timetables, it will automatically update you on your schedule for the day. There are issues with syncing the timetable to shared devices, and it takes some effort to put in all of the little dates. However, when it is set up it will keep you constantly notified and has a decent amount of customization in terms of how it looks featuring themes, timetable cycles and resizable widgets.
Two free, interlocked apps available for PC and Android. While technically two separate apps, they provide much crossover with each other, which allows for a smooth flow of information. CloudCal can be synced with various other calendars (such as Google and Outlook) and provides a simple overview of how busy your schedule is by displaying the days in rings (the more complete the ring, the busier you are on a certain day). CloudTasks, on the other hand, allows you to set goals and to-do lists which can be synced with CloudCal's calendar.
A free app for iOS, Fantastical 2 offers a large amount of flexibility and choice as to how you want your schedule to be set out. What's more this app offers the ability to use one's native language to create notifications and timetables, possibly making it very helpful for those who would prefer to not use English (full localization only available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese). It allows you to search via keywords for certain events in your calendar and has the bonus of accepting dictation if you would prefer to orally note down important dates.
This simple and free app is available for Mac, PC, iPhone and Android. While not as complex as the others, this simple app provides everything that is essential for maintaining a calendar. It can be synced with other devices or Google Calendar, has a few simple gimmicks such as the ability to create recurring events and reminder systems, and it is also usable offline which can be very helpful in emergencies when data is unavailable.
I’m a really organized person, but I’m also great at bad habits. I check Facebook way too much, I hardly exercise at all, and worst of all I leave important tasks to the last minute. When it comes to choosing between the apple and the chocolate, the chocolate will win hands down every time. Why do I always make life harder for myself by keeping the bad habits and not creating good ones? Getting into good habits makes achieving your goals so much easier.
When it comes to goal-setting – especially when studying – consistency is key: doing the work, every single day. That’s why good habits are essential to excelling in your studies. But how do you form and maintain good study habits, especially when you also need to work, look after children, or just generally live your day-to-day life?
Step 1: Create Realistic Goals
One surefire way to stand in your own way is to set unrealistic goals for yourself. If the habits you are trying to form are far too ambitious you’re increasing the chance that you fail to achieve them in the short term. In the long term, that means you will become frustrated and discouraged.
So, before you even start setting your habit goals, think about your life: how busy are you, how many commitments do you have outside of study, how many classes do you have? In other words: how many hours do you really have in the day? Realistic goals are your insurance against burnout.
The goals you decide to set will depend on your situation, but remember it’s all about consistency. Start with two 20 minute sessions of study every day and slowly increase your study time every week. You’ll be surprised by how much you can get done in 20 minutes, and it is much easier to plan around other responsibilities than longer study sessions.
Step 2: Accountability, Encouragement, and Rewards
Once you have decided on the habits you want to incorporate into your life, find ways to make yourself accountable. This might be through a study group, a few close friends who check in with you about your progress, or virtual accountability through habit forming apps. Friends and fellow students can be a great source of encouragement when you’re trying to build new habits to achieve your goals. This is very important – making any life change is challenging and going it alone is not a good option for most people.
Rewards help to keep you on track. Avoid the temptation to save all celebrations and rewards until your big goal – graduating, for example – is accomplished. Achieving a big goal consists in achieving lots of little goals along the way, and you should recognise that fact. Whether treat yo’self to your favourite meal after a month of meeting your daily study goals or a drink with friends as a reward for nailing an assignment, little rewards along the way help you stay focused on the big goal at the end.
It takes up to two months for new habits to solidify: being kind to yourself along the way will help you put in the time necessary.
Step 3: Look After Yourself
As is usually the case, your grandmother was right: you need to eat right, get enough sleep, and get some exercise. It might seem trite, but it’s true – if you don’t look after yourself properly when it comes to your basic wellness, you’re not going to be able to achieve your goals, or will do so at a great cost to your mental and physical health.
While you will likely need to make sacrifices to create new habits, don’t sacrifice your rest, proper meals, or physical activity. It’s also important to take care of your comfort and well-being while you actually study. Try mixing sitting and standing at your desk to avoid a sore back, take regular breaks to stretch, and wear clothes that you feel comfortable studying in for long periods.
Step 4: Write It Down
People who have productive habits and achieve their goals don’t simply rely on their memory – they write things down. As each evening approaches, write out a checklist for the next day. It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper, your computer, or an organisational app, writing things down will aid your memory, and keep you accountable. Checking things off will also give you a sense of short-term accomplishment. It’s also good to write down your long term goals and put them somewhere you can see them. This will help you contextualize every habit you work on as part of your broader mission to meet that goal.
Step 5: Create Keystone Habits
As well as creating habits that relate directly to your goal – studying every night if you want to excel in an exam, or hitting your word count every day if you’re writing a book – you should also focus on ‘keystone habits’. These are habits that will improve your productivity regardless of your goal. As Charles Duhigg, who wrote bestseller The Power of Habit, puts it keystone habits create “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold”. Some of the most important keystone habits are: active daily goal setting, time management, daily exercise, keeping a gratitude journal, and the humble habit of making your bed each morning.
Do you have any advice on how to create good habits? Or a way to help me get rid of my bad ones? Share your ideas or tell me your bad habits at Career Spotlight with CCI Training.