5 Bad Academic Habits You Had Last Year (& How To Ditch Them!)

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Last year, you snoozed your alarm one too many times for that 8 a.m. Calc class, you were on Facebook during your entire lecture instead of taking notes and the hardest literature you read was a Chinese takeout menu. Every collegiette has a couple of academic habits she wants to change for the upcoming year. Luckily, Her Campus is here to show you how to fix even your most set-in-stone practices!

1. You procrastinated… all the time. 

We’ve all had that one assignment we just couldn’t get done until the last second, whether it was due to time constraints or just a general feeling of apathy towards the material. Some people, however, have more trouble than others when it comes to completing tasks in a timely manner. If you’re one of those people, don’t stress! There are several steps you can take to become an on-task academic in no time.

Allison Raven, a recent graduate of Rice University, advises collegiettes to buy a special notebook or planner and organize like your life depends on it! “I’m really big on writing things down,” she says. “I use a organizer to write down everything and make a plan of prioritization so that I can figure out what is actually essential versus what isn’t as important to finish first.” Figure out exactly when your assignments are due and what dates crucial events are happening, and schedule them in your planner immediately. As soon as you’re handed your syllabi from professors during your first week of classes, put in all of your assignment, project and exam dates to avoid confusion (and massive amounts of stress!) later on.

Caroline Creasman, a recent graduate at the University of Dallas, also explains the importance of creating your own deadlines so that they fit your schedule. “I like to make my own plan,” she says. “I usually just have way too many things going on and get overwhelmed. But if I sit down and set my own deadlines so that I’m able to manage my schedule, that helps a lot!”

If you have a paper and a presentation due on Friday, it can be stressful trying to do them simultaneously. Instead, create your own deadline and say that you want to get your paper done by Monday so you can focus on your presentation on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. By creating your own system, you will able to juggle way more tasks at once.

Jillian Feinstein, a senior at the College of William & Mary, explains how crucial it is to do your assignments in increments. “It’s so stressful to think, ‘I’m going to sit here for four hours and write this paper,’” she says. “I would totally rather sit on Facebook than do that! But if you break the paper down by the number of pages or paragraphs you want to get done each day, it’s a lot more manageable.”

2. You didn’t get enough sleep.

It’s easy to say, “Just sleep more if you’re tired!” But any collegiette who has struggled with long, sleepless nights knows that just isn’t true. It’s hard to find time to rest with so much going on!

Luckily, there are a couple different ways to stay sane and still get your beauty rest in. First, form a nightly routine. Sure, you could stay glued to your computer screen updating your Pinterest and checking Her Campus instead of going to bed, but it’s time to tear your eyes away!

“I need a very regimented sleep schedule where I’m resting between midnight and 8 a.m. to function,” Allison says. “I know I have to get stuff done to be able to sleep, so I stick to my routine and make sure my work is completed before I go to sleep, so I’m not up late stressing out.”

Decide on an order of events for before you go to bed and stay with it. Maybe brush your teeth and wash your face, drink a warm mug of tea and then read a book for 30 minutes. The trick is to go to bed without your mind racing at a million miles per hour so that you get more restful sleep. Find a routine that’s relaxing for you.

Still can’t get into a set sleeping routine and cycle? Try napping! Research shows that even 15 to 20 minutes of napping can really help you recharge if you’re having an especially stressful or long day.

3. You wasted your weekend time.

Work hard, play hard seems to be the motto of college students everywhere. But what happens if you play a little too hard and waste your weekend away? Sure, there should be some time to party during the weekend, but the weekend is also a great time to work on papers, finish assignments and attend extracurricular meetings.

One easy way to make sure your weekend time isn’t wasted is to set aside specific time every Saturday or Sunday to do work or accomplish whatever other goals you have, no matter what’s going on. Even if it’s only for two hours, that’s better than no hours spent doing work.

Allison uses this tactic to get the most out of her weekend time. “Every single Sunday morning, I get up early (around 9 a.m.) and go to a coffee shop off campus and spend three or four hours just working,” she explains. “It’s really good for me to get away from campus to clear my head and really focus. It also helps me start my Sunday in work mode instead of lay-in-bed mode.”

Is a coffee shop too noisy for you? Jillian suggests taking advantage of your school’s library for intense study sessions. “I'm a big fan of library lock-ins when I have a lot to get done,” she says. College libraries tend to have all sorts of nooks and crannies, so if the main floor is too distracting, find a nice desk, table or carrel on a different floor or spot of the library. And besides, what gets you more into studious mode than the smell of old books?

However, Allison also believes in the importance of balance when scheduling your weekend time; make sure you have a little fun, too. “In exchange for my Sunday morning study sessions, I almost never do work on Saturdays!” she says.

4. You didn’t pay attention in class.

So you dragged yourself out of bed after snoozing your alarm four times, trudged across campus with your eyes half-closed, plopped yourself down in a seat next to that weird kid who hasn’t showered in several weeks and pulled out your laptop. Should you open a Word document to take notes, or Facebook? Facebook seems to win every time. Obviously, going to class is fantastic; it’s already an accomplishment over sleeping in. But what you do in class is just as important as going!

If you know technology distracts you easily, Jillian suggests taking notes the old-fashioned way (pen and paper, anyone?) and sitting far away from your friends. But if you absolutely need your laptop for the class, Claire O’Connell, a junior at Wesleyan University, suggests turning off your Wi-Fi and sitting in the front of the room. “There's nothing like a professor's eye contact to make you sit up and pay attention!” she says.

Lucy Cruz, a senior at the University of Florida, faced the problem of being unfocused when she took a psychology class last semester. “It was just such an easy class that I felt like I never had to pay attention. I would just sit on Facebook and Twitter the entire time,” she says. “However, the class got harder, and I started having to actually listen to what was going on, but I found it difficult because of the habits I’d grown accustomed to. It was like my body was craving Facebook instead of psychology!”

To keep herself on task, Lucy downloaded the SelfControl app on her computer, which blocks selected websites for an allotted amount of time. “I know a lot of people use it to get homework done, but blocking myself from social media sites during class definitely helped me focus a lot more than me just saying to myself, ‘Pay attention!’ would have,” she says. SelfControl is only available for Macs, but you can try Freedom, a similar app, if you have a PC!

5. You just didn’t go to class.

Motivating yourself to go to class is half the battle. Sure, you know you’re supposed to attend lectures, write papers and learn, but what if the class you’re taking is boring or easy or at 8 a.m. (who wants to be in a calc class at 8 a.m. in the first place)?

In addition to her struggles once she was in class, Lucy also faced trouble just going to her psych class at all. Why go to an easy morning class when she could just sleep in? After sleeping through several lectures, Lucy decided she had to make a change.

“One of the easiest steps to take when trying to make yourself go to a class is reminding yourself why you’re taking that class in the first place,” she says. “Even if it’s just for a graduation requirement, at least you’re actively thinking about why you’re in school.” It’s easy to get lost in the midst of classes and extracurriculars and part-time jobs, but think to yourself: what does your education mean to you?

Lucy also recommends trying to find incentives to go to class. “These can be meaningful incentives, like getting on the Dean’s List at the end of the semester,” she says. “Or just goofy fun incentives, like ‘I will reward myself with this Jolly Rancher if I go to this class,’ work too. Start small and work your way up!”

Of course, some collegiettes need something a little bit louder to keep them from hitting the snooze button. Try a more creative wake up call!

You could buy a Clocky ($39), an alarm clock on wheels that hops off of your nightstand and runs around your room beeping until you get out of bed to turn it off. Or, if you’re looking to get into shape this school year, try the Amico Digital Display 30 Times Lift Plastic Dumbbell Electronic Alarm Clock ($20.85). This little dumbbell-shaped clock needs to be pumped 30 times before the alarm turns off. Think of it as getting up while getting great arms at the same time!

The school year is up to you!

Your bad academic habits don’t have to be set in stone! Think about what you want to change, and set out to actively change it. There are always ways to improve your organization and time management, so put some thought into how you can create the best academic experience for you!

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About The Author

Lily is a member of Wesleyan University's class of 2016, where she double majored in government and sociology. She's a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect (www.theprospect.net), the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her work with Her Campus, she also serves in editorial roles at HelloFlo and The Muse.