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Fresh out of the holidays with deadline season long forgotten, the start of term feels like the perfect time to reassess all of your study habits. This term will clearly be the best one yet. You’ll be three weeks ahead on reading thanks to going to the library every day and will never need to turn to coffee again, taking all of your energy from your 7am daily runs. But while such impressive discipline may work for some, many of us (myself definitely included) can fall into the trap of making hugely ambitious goals we can never realistically hope to achieve. Instead, as is often the case, it’s baby steps that are the key. Gradually making small but significant changes to your routine that help you to study in the long term, not just for the first few weeks back.

While not directly a study habit itself, one of the key things to take control of going into a new term is your sleep schedule. With the promise of social events or the discovery that your lectures don’t start until the afternoon, it’s easy to let a consistent sleep schedule fall by the wayside but the problem is that in doing so, everything else does too. Sleeping at different times each night means eating at different times each day, changing the structure of every day dramatically. So while you don’t have to vow to stick to a set bedtime, a little consistency can go a long way in setting you up well for a productive day’s work.

The easiest way to hold yourself accountable for being consistent? Not to take it too seriously. Often if we set strict rules for ourselves we can feel defeated or like we’ve failed if we don’t quite achieve what we set out to, sometimes leading us to abandon the crusade altogether. Flexibility is key. While we need to be consistent, we’re much more likely to follow through on our aims if we accept that sometimes our schedules need to be adaptable. Going to bed late one night after a friend’s birthday but sleeping well for the rest of the week is always going to work out much better than not trying at all.

Another part of your routine that also needs to be adaptable is your study space. Everyone has a preferred location (the library is infinitely superior) but sometimes it has a positive impact to mix it up. While it’s good to have somewhere you associate with work and study, this can also prove to be a problem. At times when you’re not in the mood to work, going to that place can fill you with dread and put you in a bad mindset before you’ve even begun. If you can find a few study spaces that work for you, you can rotate between them, making motivation much easier to come by.

Once your study spaces are sorted, there are easy ways to make the experience of studying itself much more positive. We’ve all been guilty of setting one day of the week aside to do all the reading for a particular class, getting it finished in a block. The disadvantage of this style of working is that it can lead to one or two very long days where things don’t get absorbed very well, with articles merging into each other and focus drifting. To avoid this, it’s best to even things out. Assign each day a chapter or a set number of pages to read so you can study little and often rather than having a mountain to climb in a day. It can also help to mix up your work between different modules or classes for some variety, helping you to stay engaged and really absorb the content.

The other best way to help your focus is by having times when you don’t do any work at all. This doesn’t mean getting up late and scrolling through Instagram, but using your time intentionally, setting it aside for something that really brings you joy. As many have said, sometimes it’s in the moments where you’re having fun that the best ideas come, as you’ve given yourself the chance to properly relax and process information. So taking a break to do something you enjoy mid-essay writing can not only make you feel better and help you to focus when you do go back to work but can also benefit your study.

It doesn’t have to be ‘new term, new me’, just new term, better habits. You don’t need to become a drastically different student overnight, all it needs is a commitment to being more intentional about how you spend your time, whatever that looks like for you. This term doesn’t have to be the best yet, but simple changes can help make it a little more positive and productive than the last.

Jenny is a current Theatre and Performance Studies student and English Literature graduate with more opinions on both subjects than most are willing to listen to. A lover of all things creative, literary, theatrical and anything in-between.
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