The Unnatural Art of Studying

Early on in my career, I remember getting frustrated when I would give my kids time to study for an upcoming test or quiz and they'd bomb the assessment a few days later. I didn't get it. They had the info, they had the time to review, what was missing. After reading a few articles and giving my head a good shake (you'll see that to be a common theme), I came to a simple and embarrassingly obvious solution. It wasn't that the students weren't studying, the students didn't know how to study! That caused me to do some self-reflecting. Who ever taught me how to study? Did I ever properly learn?


I realized that my learning on how to study was done by either trial and error or by just looking at what other people were doing around me and copying those things, for better or worse. When I was in university, I met an instructor who really changed how I studied and my understanding of what it really means to study. The act of studying is not something that one naturally knows how to do, it’s something we need to learn how to do. Every year I make a point of teaching students a few of the basics on effective studying in the hopes that they don’t have to learn later like I do. Below are some of the basic tips for you and your student to work on to be a more effective studier.


  • Make a schedule. Time management is a skill that often goes overlooked but it’s value cannot be over stated. Organize your day into blocks of time. Start with the must haves (Sleep, eat, etc.) and build your day around that schedule. Ensure that you block off enough time for study that you feel you can be successful. Write the schedule down and put it somewhere you will constantly see it. I have one of my schedules on the door frame of my room and another on the fridge. It helps remind me what I should be doing at any given point during the day.

  • Stick to the schedule. I’m definitely guilty of scheduling and booking my time with the best of intentions and unfortunately not following it as closely as I should. Life happens and things will take you off your schedule, however, it’s important that you return back to that schedule when life calms back down.

  • Learn to take notes. Note taking and studying go hand in hand. The better you get at taking notes, the more effective you will be when you sit down to study. There is no one way to take notes and thats something you’ll need to experiment with to find what works best for you. Maybe I’ll cover that in a future blog post.

  • Go low tech. I LOVE tech! But I’m extremely aware that tech has its down sides. There have been many times where I sit down at my computer to study only to end up distracted by different topics or going down the internet rabbit hole and wasting hours focusing on things that are not what I sat down to study. When I learned to study, creating flash cards because my biggest hobby. By the time I would get to a test, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have a stack of a couple hundred cards that I had created by hand and studied for hours. It sounds old school but sometimes those old school ways of doing things were done for a reason, they work.

  • Find your most productive hours. This one connects back to scheduling your time. Every person has different times in the day when they feel like they are at their peak. For some people, they wake up early in the morning and get their day started by getting a lot of things checked off their list. Others feel like they work better at night (like me). It’s important to learn what time is your peak time and schedule your studying time around that.

I hope that this helps develop some oh so important study habits. Remember, the earlier you begin to build these habits. The easier they are to maintain long term.