The Key to Acquiring the Right Habits in College
Whether we achieve success or not is largely determined not by our inherent abilities or circumstances, but by our everyday behavior. What actions do we repeat from day today? How do we react to different situations?
What do we do with our free time? All this has a tremendous effect on how much we achieve in life and how long it takes us to do it. College is an excellent time to acquire some of the good habits that can come in useful both in the course of your academic career and later in life.
However, how do you go about developing the right habits? In this article, we will cover a few ways that can make it relatively easy.
1. Make Old Habits Harder
The problem with doing the right thing is that people spend most of their time on autopilot. Our brains are hardwired to save as much energy as possible. We always automatically look for the easiest line of action, which is always the one we are used to.
If we have a bad habit, we default to it; doing something different calls for a conscious effort. Most research on the subject says that developing a new habit should go hand in hand with removing an old one.
This, in turn, is based on making the old habit harder to act upon. For example, if you tend to get distracted by YouTube when you sit down to write an essay, consider turning off your router or installing an app or browser extension like RescueTime or LeechBlock.
You will still be able to visit YouTube if you really want to do it, but you will have to make a few extra steps to do it.
2. Make New Habits Easier
The opposite is also true. The more conscious effort you have to apply to follow a new habit, the less likely you are to do it. Here are some examples of how you can tweak this difficulty:
- If you want to start jogging in the morning regularly, set out your running clothes the night before;
- If you have trouble getting up on time, put your smartphone somewhere high and far away from your bed when you go to sleep. When the alarm goes off, you will have to get up and reach out to turn it off, which will make you less likely to get back to sleep;
- If you want to eat healthily, keep only healthy foods in your fridge;
- If you want to prepare for a test, but the printout with the questions on your table where you are sure to see it.
3. Start with an Insanely Small Habit
When students decide to change something about themselves, they usually want to change everything at once. They have dozens of ideas of how they can make their lives better.
Get up early, go for a jog every day, change their diet, spend an hour every day practicing writing papers on different topics, and stop using social media – all at once! If they are motivated enough, they may even stick to this new way of life for a couple of days. Eventually, they usually make a misstep and everything falls apart.
It is the worst possible way to develop new habits, be it in school or at work. If you want to make a habit stick, you have to start small – incredibly small. Make a habit so easy to follow that you need zero motivation to follow it. Practice paper writing for five minutes daily. Jog for three minutes every morning. Study science literature on your chosen topic for five minutes every evening.
4. Increase the Habit in Very Small Increments
Rather than trying to do something outstanding from the get-go, start small and improve slowly. One percent improvements add up unexpectedly quickly, be it in education or in work. For example, start with practicing your problem discipline for five minutes daily and add a minute every week. You will see how it affects your grade faster than you can expect.
5. Never Miss Your Habit Twice in a Row
If you slip, get back on track immediately. If your goal is to work on your thesis every day, and you miss a day, make sure you get back to work tomorrow. You don’t even have to stick to the habit in full – just show up. Don’t spend an hour writing – work on the title or your thesis proposal or consider related prompts for research essay topics instead.
It is never too late to develop the habits that will help you achieve success in your academic career and in life as a whole. Whether you are in middle school or in the university, you will do yourself a favor if you start working on it right now.