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Want to Study Smarter? Check Your Habits.

Why is it that some students breeze through exams with good grades, while others study like it’s going out of fashion only to end up with mediocre results? Is it simply, intelligence? The answer is perhaps, but smart study habits play an essential part according to teaching and productivity experts.

Former Secondary School Teacher turned Strengths Coach, Nicole Feledy, says her passion for helping frustrated students feel more relaxed and in control gave her insight on important strategies for studying for better results; she shares three of them with us.


  1. Self-Awareness

This refers to how alert a student is to their own patterns of thought, emotion and behaviour. How well do they know their strengths and are they leveraging them to achieve the best possible outcome?

The Social Learner.

Mary has strengths in building relationships. She recognises when someone has been left out and uses that to draw people together. Mary likes to be included in social groups. Therefore, one study strategy Mary could use is peer-to-peer learning. She could organise a study group and is likely to find it better studying in a library than at home.

The Quiet Thinker.

Jane is a high achiever and finds study groups frustrating because people don’t keep up with the pace she sets. She finds noise distracting. Jane is better suited to studying in a quiet place alone.

Understand Personal Motivations

Some students are motivated by competition, others by discovery of new information. Once a student understands their personal motivations and triggers they are more likely to develop a study pattern that works for them rather than twisting themselves to meet someone else’s version of a successful study pattern.


  1. Mindfulness

This is the practice a student uses to be alert to their internal state of being. Students who have a consistent mindfulness practice develop high levels of focus because they recognise when their mind wanders and are able to bring it back to the task at hand. Practicing mindfulness also alerts a student to the early signs of a toxic behaviour pattern. It is much easier to manage an anxiety surge in the very early stages than when it becomes a full-blown sense of circling worry.

Thinking About Thinking

In a similar sense, metacognition describes the process of thinking about thinking. Successful students reflect on what they’re learning and link it to elements of their own life or previous learning (this helps with building strong neural pathways). Metacognition involves asking questions, proposing possibilities and allowing the mind to play with ideas. It encourages a deeper understanding of the material rather than simply accepting something as fact. It is this additional thought play which gives a richer knowledge and it is from here creative ideas and solutions are born. Metacognition involves making your thinking visible. In a learning situation this is important because it allows others to see how you arrived at your ideas or answers. Metacognition improves the communication process.


  1. Establishing Daily Rituals

This takes the thought out of specific actions leaving the mind free for learning. It also reduces opportunity for procrastination – rather than thinking about ‘what to do’ you simply ‘do’. Daily rituals, rather than study plans can be effective for students with high adaptability talents – these students often resist goal setting and study timetables because they seem too rigid.

Patterns Become a Habit

A daily ritual can be actions bound rather than time bound. In other words, they can follow a sequence. For example, John wakes up and does a 10-minute mindfulness activity before getting out of bed. He gets up, makes his bed and has breakfast, then he does 10 minutes of course reading before taking a shower. The key is setting up a ritual that links three to four behaviours. These behaviours establish a pattern and the pattern becomes a habit. The more a ritual is bound to a habit the student already does, the stickier it will be. The ritual should also align with the student’s values and talents, which brings us back to the beginning!

Confidence, Resilience and Self-Determination

Successful students have self-awareness and they develop that self-awareness through knowledge of their strengths and a regular habit of mindfulness. This helps students be alert to patterns on thoughts, emotion and resulting behaviours. The more a student consciously directs their most successful patterns of behaviour, the more confident and comfortable they feel within themselves. This confidence has a positive impact on their ability to learn and apply that learning.

Self-awareness, mindfulness, metacognition and daily rituals give students an edge. They take away worry, doubt and procrastination and replace it with confidence, resilience and self-determination.


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