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Adopt a “Study Smart Mindset” and Have More Fun When You Hit the Books

Tips to becoming a more engaged and successful student.

When it comes to being a good student, perfectionism is your biggest enemy because its offspring – anxiety, self-doubt, delay and distraction – will keep you from achieving your educational goals.

One of the upsides of the pandemic lock-downs is that more of us are enrolling in online educational courses. Learning is no doubt a rewarding endeavour, but if you haven’t studied in a while, the prospect of having to consistently read five-inch-thick textbooks and write thousand-word essays with references and citations every week or month can be frightening.

If you want to enjoy studying, fully engage with your education, absorb and apply the knowledge and skills you learn, complete your assignments and presentations, get good grades, and earn a degree you can be proud off, you’ll need to start with the right mindset.

American leadership and productivity leader Michael Hyatt once said, “Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination”. Indeed, when it comes to being a good student, perfectionism is your biggest enemy because its offspring – anxiety, self-doubt, delay and distraction – will keep you from achieving your educational goals.

Here are four simple tips to help you develop a study-smart mindset:

1. Aim Just to Pass

Tell yourself that you only need a pass grade to get your degree, and that if you get a B or A, that’s a bonus. This doesn’t make you a slacker. Contrary to how this statement may sound, telling yourself it's OK if you "just pass" won’t encourage subpar work. What it will do is reduce the overly demanding expectations you have with regards to your study performance. This in turn will help you approach your studies with more calm and confidence.

2. Use What You Learn

Find a way to apply the material you read to your professional or personal life. By doing so, you’ll see that your reading is not just as a means to getting good grades, but also a way of securing practical knowledge to help you work and live better.

3. Don’t Compare

Don’t compare yourself to your coursemates. It’s wise to stay connected and ask for advice or suggestions on topics you need help with, but comparing is not the same thing. You know you’re comparing when you asking questions like “What grade did you get on our last assignment?” or “How many questions have you completed?” Chart your own study course and resist the urge to constantly “check-in” to see if your coursemates have received better or worse grades or feedback than you, or if they’re ahead of you with homework.

4. Create Your Own Study System

Create a study routine, a study process and set deadlines.

  • A routine is all about deciding which day of the week you will study, what you will study, what time you will study, and for how many hours. Block off a chunk of time to dedicate solely to reading or answering questions and stick with this. You can do anything else you want outside of this time, but for the hours that you’ve set aside as “study time”, do nothing but study-related tasks.

  • A study process is a system you will use to approaching your reading and writing so you feel less fearful and disoriented when you sit at the table with your books or laptop. An effective study process might include making a list of the specific chapter or chapters, you will read on a given day, taking and filing notes in a way that will help you to retain the information you’ve learnt, or creating outlines for your essays so when it comes to writing it out, you already have all your key points on the page.

  • Setting deadlines keeps you accountable so you can breakthrough resistance created by perfectionism and stick with your study routine even when you don’t feel like it.

If perfectionism, anxiety or lack of motivation is making your studies feel like more of a painful chore than an exciting and meaningful activity, cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy can help. Once you change the way you think and feel about studying, you’ll be able to move more quickly and smoothly towards your goal of graduation, and you’ll also have fun in the process.

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