You are weeks going on months into the start of your semester and you still feel like you just can’t get it together. All of the pep talking you had with yourself at the beginning of the semester to be a better student just keeps getting thrown out the window every time you wait till the day before to begin CRAMING an entire 3,000-word research paper that is due first thing the next day because you decided that you would much rather stay out late all weekend instead. I know, I know, we have all been there. We start out with good intentions and we end up in manic panic mode writing down just about anything that comes to mind leaving us exhausted and with a mediocre grade. So why do we commit ourselves to doing something new, or stopping an old habit just to let ourselves down three weeks later? It’s quite simple, our approach is all wrong. Scientific research found that it takes about 66 days to form a new habit or break an old one. Now you may be thinking “66 days, that’s it? Easy, I can do that!” and you are most certainly right, you CAN do it, but with the proper steps and guidance in place. Ready? Let’s get it!
1. Set a goal
Whether you are trying to dedicate one hour a night to studying, or simply keeping yourself more organized throughout the semester, you need to set yourself an attainable goal; A goal that won’t leave you more frustrated and defeated in the end. Now keep in mind that it’s not all going to be easy, so don’t get discouraged when things aren’t going as smoothly as you want it to go. Just take that as an opportunity to overcome that bump in the road and keep moving forward with your goal. In addition, make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for failure by choosing something that is too farfetched when it comes to your own lifestyle. You want to choose something that you can change without causing too much extra stress in your life. Remember that the point of what you are trying to accomplish is to ultimately better your life in the end, so if it isn’t going to put you in a better place than when you first started, then don’t be foolish when choosing your goal.
2. Do your research
Figure out whether your goal can fit into your lifestyle. If you work over 40 hours a week and go to school full-time while also volunteering at the homeless shelter on the weekends, then it may be unrealistic to set aside 4 hours a day to study when you don’t physically have the time to do so. This would only discourage you more if you don’t take the time to realistically figure out what you are physically capable of doing because like I said before, you would be setting yourself up to fail.
If your goal is to be more organized with your notes, school work, and homework, then you would want to find out ways to help yourself achieve that. This could be by doing things like buying yourself a planner or a wall calendar to help keep yourself on track with due dates, exams, events, etc., or you could color code your notes, or folders to make things quicker to find and studying easier to focus and retain. Do your research and set yourself up for success!
3. Plan of action
Write yourself out a schedule that answers the who, what, when, where, why, and how you plan on tackling our newly set goals. This will only help you stay on track and prevents you from jumping into things blind. Having a plan of execution will only make things easier for you as you turn this new goal into an automatic habit of yours.
4. Tell friends and family
Talk to your friends you meet in college and family about your goals and what you are trying to accomplish. These should be people who are going to support you and motivate you to stay on track and keep going. You will be less likely to give up and quit if you have someone to let down other than yourself. Being held accountable by someone other than yourself will only push you more to keep going and show everyone that you can do what you set out to do, so talk it up!
5. Hold yourself accountable
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect, but don’t settle for less than perfect either. In other words, it’s okay if you make a mistake, it happens, but when you do, you need to step your game up and make up for your mistake by working that much harder next time. If your goal is to study at least once an hour every night and you forget to study one night, or you decided to go out with your friends instead, then you need to hold yourself accountable and make up for it the next day by studying for two hours instead of one. Give yourself a consequence for your actions so that it will push you to not have to study longer than you have too. No one likes being punished for their actions but giving yourself a consequence and holding yourself accountable when you start to stray away from your goal will help refocus and regather yourself into getting back on track.
6. Reward yourself
Throughout your journey don’t forget to reward yourself for staying on track. Keep track of your progress so that it is evident that you are improving as the time goes on. Sometimes it is easier to see a change and improvement when you have proof right in front of you, so reward yourself for your hard work along the way. Also, the warm fuzzy feeling of staying on track with your goal can act as a satisfying reward in itself, but treating yourself to a day off of studying or letting yourself sleep in a little while longer will help you strive to keep going. It feels good to know you are doing good at something, so rewarding yourself from time to time will help make everything more pleasurable in the end. You don’t want to stress yourself out more, so keeping things fun and interesting along the way will encourage you to keep going.
7. Keep going
Congratulations, day 66 is nearing to an end and now you may be left thinking “so now what?” The answer: You keep going. Keep pushing through this newly formed habit to make sure you don’t relapse into old habits. Don’t just set a goal for the next 66 days just to stop doing it as soon as day 67 comes along. The point of this whole thing is to form a habit so that you eventually don’t have to think about or make the effort to do it on a day to day basis and it will become natural to you. Also, keep in mind that just because you reached 66 days, doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to make mistakes. You more than likely will, but that’s okay because it only makes us stronger as long as we push through those hiccups.
Now stop cramming every assignment you ever have and start getting your shit together. It will take you just about 66 days and there is no better time than right now. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and it may take longer for someone to really incorporate their new habit into their life, so don’t give up if it takes you longer than anticipated. Also, don’t make a change for 66 days just to get it over with 66 days later. Keep going, and make it stick. If you feel like you need more time to really make this habit become something you can do on autopilot, then continue to monitor yourself closely and don’t forget about the reason why you are here in the first place. Push through it and eventually it will become effortless. Trust the process and just do it. Get organized, study more, stay on top of your assignments and make the rest of your semesters for the rest of your college career your bitch. Remember, you got this.