Aug. 26, 2021

Creating a Study Routine

A study routine is a strategy to help you build habits that promote focused attention. By walking through the same routine every time you plan to do school work, you train your brain to zero-in on the task. Ideally, you would go through your routine every time you sit down to a task. If you lose focus, go through your routine as a means of getting back on track.

Below, we offer a basic outline. If you have other things to add to your study routine, go for it!

1. Go to my place

Your place is where you are able to get work done. Unsuccessful study time often happens when we try to study in places that don’t work for us. Your place is a structured environment that limits visual/auditory distractions (i.e., other people, music, technology, other tasks) as much as possible. It’s great to have a backup place if your usual place isn’t available.

2. Write down a SMART goal

(S)pecific: I will read chapter 7 for BIOL 430.

The task is clear. “Study for BIOL 430” is not specific because it doesn’t identify the exact task.

(M)easurable: I will read the first 5 pages of chapter 7 for BIOL 430.

At the end of your planned time, you should be able to say, “Yes, I accomplished this” or “No, I didn’t finish.”

(A)ttainable: I will read the first 5 pages of chapter 7 for BIOL 430.

Reading 60 pages in 30 minutes is not an attainable goal and sets you up to fail. Set goals you know you can reach.

(R)elevant: I will read the first 5 pages of chapter 7 for BIOL 430.

If you’ve got two papers and an article to read that are all due before you need to have chapter 7 finished, it’s not a relevant goal. Try to work on the things that are most pressing time-wise.

(T)ime-bound: I will read the first 5 pages of chapter 7 for BIOL 430 starting at 4:00 until 4:30 when I have to leave for work.

Have a clear window with an end point at which you can assess whether you accomplished the goal. Setting small goals is a way to experience incremental progress and can help prevent feeling overwhelmed.

3. Get out only what’s needed

Once you know what you’re working on, any other school materials are a distraction. Put away anything that is not directly related to your identified SMART goal. Productive procrastination is still procrastination.

4. Electronics off, away, or blocked

Can you leave your phone in another room? Can you put away your laptop if you’re reading a textbook? Can you try a self-control app or plugin if you’re working in the course D2L site to help minimize distractions online?

5. Plan the breaks

Pick an activity that’s easy to stop. A five minute break can easily turn into an hour break if you don’t decide what the activity will be. Examples: go grab a snack, walk to the bathroom, do 20 push-ups etc…

6. Set a timer

Setting a timer can help sustain your energy. Knowing that you’ve only got to do this for more 20 minutes can sometimes help you power through. It can also help you build up you attention span by gradually increasing your window of focused attention. The best timers are ones not connected to the internet: an oven timer, a digital watch, etc.

Your study routine is unique to you, make sure to reflect on what’s working (or not working) about your routine and adjust your practice accordingly. Spend some time considering what your study routine looks like today!