Study Central: The “Secret” To Success in School

More stories from Melissa Schmitz


I am constantly asked on my blog about my “study secrets.” But the truth is, these “secrets” are often not actual secrets; these are things you already know. I get it. Sometimes you need to hear this type of advice from someone else for it to truly register. I will sum it up for you in one sentence.

Start on day one and don’t stop until you’re done.

It’s a little late for “day one,” but you still have plenty of time to catch up before the semester really starts to kick up. There’s never a bad time to start organizing yourself. Remember; it’s always easier to push yourself to stay ahead than it is to catch up once you’re behind. Sometimes this doesn’t dawn on you until you start feeling the pressure of being behind. But I can tell you right now, I’ve been there. And the time to worry about it is now, not later.

Do you have homework to get done today? As much as you likely want to hang out with your friends or go on the internet after you get out of class today, resist it. Head to the library, your room, or whatever other place you like to get work done and just do it. At this point in the semester it may seem like you don’t have enough work to where you need to get started right away. However, this is a crucial time that can make or break your semester. Get into the habit of getting work done right away before it becomes daunting. If you can do that, procrastination will no longer be your life. Just think of all the free time you will have if you can do this, and how truly relaxing it will be if you have no homework to worry about doing later. If you’re concerned that this will be too overwhelming, try to stick it out for 30 days; establish a habit. You can even use this free printable to help you.

But perhaps you’re of the opinion that procrastination is totally fine, and you end up doing well enough regardless. Suit yourself. But think about how much easier studying would be if you didn’t procrastinate. If you kept up with all of your homework the first week, you already have all of week one’s material down. And you still have a few weeks until your first exam to review it rather than struggling to learn week one, week two, week three, and etc. in the last few days before your exam. If you’ve kept up and continue doing so, instead of struggling to have complete knowledge of what you’ll be tested on, you’ll simply be reinforcing what you already know. No all-nighters or Dunkin’ Donuts required. How relieving is that?

Perhaps the biggest problem here is not the fact that students procrastinate, but rather, the fact that there’s a culture behind procrastination that ends up feeding the habit. We all know the jokes about “getting to it tomorrow.” But the idea that procrastination is just something that everyone does and is expected to do is frankly unhealthy. Equally unhealthy, however, and contrary to popular belief, is the idea that you can never procrastinate. My point here is not to convince you to eliminate procrastination from your life completely. Even the most organized people in your life who seem to be on top of everything procrastinate. Your professors do it, too! So rather than seeing the fact that everyone does it as a reason to be lax about it, recognize that your goal here is to minimize. There’s no reason to stress yourself out about how you can’t completely eliminate your procrastination. Absolutely no one is perfect. Focus instead on maximizing your productivity.

You have it in you, whether you realize it or not. But no amount of motivation will be enough to change your habits. You need to adopt a sense of self-discipline, or else you will be forever relying on outside forces [such as inspirational quotes or looming deadlines] to get anything done. More on this topic next week!