Your Study Routine
Take command of your ‘untrained’ self.
The simple definition of a routine is: “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.”
You have to run your college studies like working on a job. People show up at work and they know what they are going to do and how they will do it. They have established a certain routine over time that works best for them to get things done.
When you are working a job, you are there 8 hours straight. In college, your study schedule may vary hour by hour, many times each day. It takes discipline to shift yourself into study mode and stay there. I call it flipping the switch. You have to be either on or off. Work or fun.
The best way to flip the switch is to establish a consistent daily routine. That is doing things at specific times, places, and ways that don’t vary.
This is why doing a detailed analysis of how you use your time each day is so important.
You have to really understand your own personality and will power and be honest with yourself. Far too many students tell themselves that they are going to do things that just don’t match up with reality.
Same Way Every Day
A study routine by definition means consistency.
Having a consistent routine starts with getting up and going to bed at the exact same times every day. Most students vary their wake up time on when their morning classes are.
I know I’m probably not going to win this one, but try going to bed and getting up at the exact same time every weekday no matter what time class starts. When you have a job, you’ll have to, so start practicing.
It’s very hard to have widely varying sleep patterns. Most people just can’t do that. A system requires consistency and widely varying sleep times doesn’t create that.
Just get up at the same time, every weekday, no matter when you have your first class. I don’t care if you have class at 8:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. Try to get up.
As I’ll discuss later, early is always better than later. Get as much out of the way as early as you can so you have the evenings free. That’s when things are going on. It is always better to have time ahead of you so you can deal with the unexpected things that will happen.
Set Your Study Times
For many students, studying is what you do after everything else. The most important routine is identifying specific study times and treating them as more important than anything else you have to do. We refer to these as Study Time Blocks.
Setting study times starts with taking the time to think about everything else that you do every minute of every day. Literally. I know that I say it often, but minutes matter in college.
Look at the things you do, when you do them, and how long they take. How does each of them affect the quality and quantity of your study time? Try to create the largest continuous study blocks that you can. One two hour block is always better than two one hour blocks. Is it possible to move other things around to accomplish that?
Establishing a routine is really about two different things. The first is when you are going to do things and the other is how.
A Study Routine Isn’t Just About Time
Most people think of a routine as sticking only to a specific schedule. Knowing WHEN you are going to do things is only half of it. The other half is knowing HOW you are going to get them done. That is often where students struggle the most.
A routine is about consistency, but it is also about getting the desired result as efficiently as possible within the time you have. Everything you do during your study time should be done in a way that maximizes that efficiency.
The way you read your textbook should have a routine.
The way you take notes should have a routine.
The way you study for exams should have a routine.
When you start on a specific task, you should know why you are doing it in the way that you are. Far too many students are great at planning and using time, but then squander it with ineffective study methods.
You should do each task a certain way because you expect a good result for the time and effort you put in. If it doesn’t deliver that, then figure out why and change the routine.
We created Shovel Study Time Planner to help you plan your daily routine, but it is equally important that you use the study advice on this site. How To Study In College about both managing time and creating study habits that make the best use of that time. Before you sit down to start working on a task, know exactly how you are going to do it to get the best result.
Plan Your Routine
One of the most common things I hear from students is that it’s impossible to plan their time in college. College is so spontaneous that you just can’t schedule things so tightly.
My reply is always the same—of course you can. You already do.
If class is at 10:00 a.m., do you plan to be there? When the coach says practice starts at 3:30 p.m., do you arrive late? When the boss says work starts at 8:00 a.m., are you there or do you prefer to get fired?
Nobody is going to yell at you if you skip a study block. You have to really own it yourself. Treat study time blocks just like any other firm commitment you have. Don’t be late. Ever.
If your evening library time starts at 6:30 p.m., that means in your seat, book open, head down, ready to go. Or even better, be there at 6:15 to get things set up.
We designed Shovel Study Planner to be anal about study time. We let you set your schedule to include even the time it takes to walk to and from classes and other activities. Seriously. The time you spend walking to and from your dorm, classes, and activities can add up to a lot of time. KNOW what that is.
Minutes matter in college. To make a good study plan you need to be as accurate as possible estimating the study time you really have.
Having a routine doesn’t mean you can’t change. I understand that things can and will change in college, especially in the first few weeks as you figure out your classes and activities. No problem.
Continually review your schedule. If the times aren’t realistic, then revisit your setup and change to a new schedule and a new routine. Then stick with that one.
Know The Value Of Time
One last thing before we move on. The whole issue of sticking to a study routine really revolves around making choices. Students are continually pulled to do fun things they want to do now and putting off work until later.
When you start thinking about putting something off, stop and think about what you might want to do later. Is that time worth more than whatever you are going to do now? Probably.
Get it in your mind that time spent studying now is always worth more than doing it later. Get thing done and out of the way as early as you can so you can do the things you really want to do later.
A concrete study routine schedule is the best way to make sure you don’t have to make these kinds of choices.