17 Quick and Easy Once-a-Day Habits That Will Provide a Massive Boost to Your Studies
Many students wish there was an easy shortcut to achieving better grades, but labour under the idea that transforming themselves into exceptional students takes a great deal of time and effort.
In fact, you can achieve better grades simply by implementing one or two small changes and getting into a few new daily habits which, once acquired, you’ll hardly even notice. The suggestions in this article all take no more than around five minutes out of your day, but provide a major long-term boost to both your studies and your general knowledge. Pick one or two of your favourites to start with, and see how you get on.
1. Look over five words of vocabulary
One of the biggest hurdles you face with learning a language is simply the sheer volume of vocabulary you’re required to learn. You can give your studies a daily boost by looking over five words of vocabulary, either new words or refreshing your memory on words you’re finding trickier to remember. Look them over once, then cover them up and see how many you can recall from memory. Repeat until you can remember them all by heart – for so few words, it shouldn’t take long.
2. Read a poem
The reading of poetry shouldn’t be limited to English Literature students, even though it is these students to whom it is naturally going to be most relevant. Poetry is something everyone can read and enjoy, and reading it will increase your general knowledge. You don’t need to read a poem the length of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to benefit from this. There are loads of poems out there that are short enough that they only take a minute or two to read, so if you factor in five minutes of your day to read one, you should also have a little time to contemplate the meaning of the poem and perhaps read it a second time and see what more you notice about it. You might be surprised how much you end up enjoying it, even if you didn’t think you were a poetry person!
3. Listen to Thought for the Day
Thought for the Day is a segment on Radio 4’s morning current affairs programme, the Today Programme. It’s described by the BBC as a “unique reflection from a faith perspective on topical issues and news events”, and speakers are brought in to present it from all the world’s major religions. It’s an excellent way to get yourself thinking about different perspectives on the world’s problems, and it teaches you about religions other than your own, in a way that’s helpful to anyone, not just those studying Religious Studies or theology. It lasts three or four minutes and it’s broadcast around 7.45am each day (or you can listen online), so it’s easy to tune in before school.
4. Subscribe to an On This Day email
Pick any day of the year, and you’ll find something interesting that happened on it in a previous year: a lesser-known battle, the first time man flew, the signing of an important treaty – you name it. Learning about what happened ‘on this day’ in the past is a great way to find out about historical events that you might not otherwise have heard about, enriching your knowledge of history in the process. Subscribe to an ‘On This Day’ email, such as this one from History.com, and you’ll receive a daily email that you can take a few minutes out of your day to read and learn from.
5. Take stock of how far you’ve come
When you’re working towards an exam, the temptation can be overwhelming to think about just how much you still have left to do. This way of thinking can discourage you, so why not set aside a few minutes each day to remind yourself how much you’ve already learned? You could keep a list of topics you’ve mastered and keep adding to it as and when you feel confident in a topic. Then you can spend a minute or two each day reading through the list and trying to recall what you can about each of the topics (this will aid your revision, too). This way, you remind yourself that you’ve already come a long way – and you have the motivation of being able to add new things to the list. By the end of term, you’ll have a satisfyingly long list of everything you’ve achieved.
6. Impose a five-minute Facebook rule
Boost your studies by spending five minutes on Facebook? We bet you like the sound of that! In fact, what we mean is that you should only spend five minutes on Facebook per day. It’s a site that has a habit of eating into your time in dramatic fashion, so limiting your use to just five minutes a day will free up lots more time to focus on your studies.
7. Revise what you did yesterday
An excellent way of keeping your studies fresh in your mind is to revise on an on-going basis, rather than saving it all up for one big revision-fest in the immediate run-up to the exam. When your days are packed, it can be hard to remember what you did this morning, let alone a few terms ago, or even the previous day. So, to keep what you’ve learned fresh in your mind, try spending a few minutes each day revising what you learned yesterday. A second exposure to it may help it stick in your mind, and it gives you a more solid foundation upon which to add further knowledge. At the end of the week, spend a little longer revising everything you’ve done that week. It’s easier to revise in short bursts like this, and it doesn’t take long.
8. Open a dictionary and learn a word
Effective communication in academic essays requires a good vocabulary, but we’re often so focused on trying to learn vocabulary for other languages that we neglect our own. It’s not difficult to build on your vocabulary, however. All you need to do is set aside a couple of minutes each day to open a dictionary and learn a random word and its definition from whichever page you happen to open it on.
9. Do some mental arithmetic
Quick mental arithmetic is a useful skill for life, not just exams. You can keep yours in practice – even if you’re no longer studying maths – by doing one or two sums in your head each day. This keeps the maths part of your brain in gear, and you never know when it will come in useful. If you’re not studying maths, you could try simple sums applicable to real life, such as working out the tip owed on a fictional restaurant bill, or splitting that fictional bill between different numbers of people. If you are studying maths, you could try something more complicated, such as working out a particular maths problem each day or practising a formula.
10. Write a To Do list
At the start of the day, set aside a couple of minutes to write a ‘To Do’ list for the day ahead. This helps you get organised and allows you to focus on the tasks you need to achieve each day (and you can tick them off as you go along, which is always satisfying). Planning out your day in this way also enables you to keep on top of your workload, which is a vital part of academic success.
11. Watch the headlines
Keeping yourself abreast of current affairs may not seem to have direct relevance to your studies, but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, as you never know what relevance it may have to your studies. There may be a major scientific discovery one day that has a significant impact on your biology studies, for example, or a legal case that overturns previous thinking on a particular issue that you’ve been studying in law. Watching the news – or at least the headlines – doesn’t take long, but it’ll keep you informed (and more able to answer news-related questions your teacher might throw at you).
12. Back up your laptop
In a previous article, we recommended that you back up your laptop on a regular basis to prevent the loss of valuable documents such as notes and essays. Get into the habit of doing this at the end of each day, and you’ll minimise loss in the event of a laptop failure. It doesn’t take long at all, especially if you do it every day, when there won’t be much to copy across to an external hard-drive, USB memory stick or online storage.
13. Listen to a piece of music
This one’s mostly aimed at music students, but would be beneficial to anyone looking to improve their general knowledge. Listening to a piece of music each day – or just a movement from a piece of classical music – is effortless, yet it allows you to grow your knowledge of an important part of our culture. What’s more, you’ll be more likely to ace the music round of University Challenge, whether you’re a viewer or you one day take part with your university!
14. Eat breakfast
It’s easy to achieve, but it makes a big difference to your concentration levels and therefore how effectively you’re able to absorb new information in school. Make time to have breakfast each day so that you don’t spend the morning thinking about how hungry you are rather than about what you’re learning. If you have to, set your alarm for a quarter of an hour earlier each day so that you have time to eat.
15. Ask your teacher a question
This one doesn’t even take any extra time out of your day, but it’s a great habit to get into. For each class you go to, make the effort to think of an intelligent question to ask your teacher about what you’re learning. This doesn’t just show you to be engaged in the topic, and a confident contributor (both things you’ll want your teacher to notice about you so that they write about these aspects of you in your university reference); it gives you extra knowledge that you might not otherwise have acquired. What’s more, the need to ask intelligent questions forces you to think about the topic in depth, and shows your appreciation of its complexities.
16. Look at an atlas
Improve your geographical (and general) knowledge by picking up an atlas each day, choosing a country you don’t know much about and studying it for a few minutes. What is its capital city, and what other cities are prominent enough to be featured on the map? Perform a quick Google search on that country. What’s the political situation there at the moment? What’s it famous for, and what does its economy rely on? Are there any particularly famous historical events that have taken place there? You’ll learn lots about the world by doing this, and you never know when that knowledge might come in handy.
17. Start a Twitter account giving facts about your subject
If you’re struggling with a particular subject, you could make things more interesting by setting up a Twitter account that disseminates an interesting fact about that subject each day (such as “Daily Geography Facts”). Twitter involves communicating in 140 characters or fewer, so by its definition, it’s not going to take long to compose a tweet each day. Committing to tweet a fascinating fact everyday forces you to find and learn something about the subject on a daily basis, teaching you useful snippets of information that you can drop into your exam answers. The process of tweeting it to other people makes it seem more fun and worthwhile, providing more motivation to keep you going.
Do you have a suggestion for a quick and easy daily habit to add to this list? We’d love to hear it in the comments below!