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The 5 Steps of Successful Academic Habits


Fall semester is the ideal time to consider how developing new habits can promote academic success. For many students, just getting started on assignments or test preparation can feel daunting. We’re likely to spend more time and energy dreading a task than the time and energy needed to complete it! Developing new academic habits is one way to break that pattern of procrastinating on those assignments you’d rather just avoid.

New academic habits can improve your attitude and approach to projects and homework. When you can engage with the content as part of a structured routine, you’re less likely to put it off and give yourself a headache worrying about it. Our habits become automatic behaviors, so why not shape our habits to promote academic success?

The 5 Steps

So how exactly does one develop a new academic habit? Just follow these five simple but powerful steps:

  1. Identify a GOAL, something you want to develop as a daily habit.
  2. Pick a DAILY ACTION which will help you accomplish the new habit.
  3. Plan WHEN & WHERE you will do the action.
  4. Perform the action EVERY DAY when you encounter that time and place.
  5. Repeat your daily action routine every day for NINE WEEKS.

NINE WEEKS?! Yes, plan on nine weeks of deliberately performing the new action every day. Forming new habits requires time and discipline. Research suggests that it takes an average of sixty-six days for a new habit to become automatic. The good news is that with every additional day of repetition, the routine will become easier as new neural pathways in your brain are formed and reinforced.

Extra Tips

Communicate your goal to a friend, a parent, or a tutor. By verbalizing our goals, we add a level of accountability. Regular check-ins with your confidant will increase motivation and provide opportunities to share your progress or the challenges you’re facing.

It is easier to form new habits when we add the new action to an existing routine. In the following example, I eat a snack every day after school, so attaching a new academic habit to my snacking routine will make the habit more likely to stick. Here is an example of a simple goal-forming plan for October – December 2017:

GOAL: My goal is to look at my planner and make a daily to-do list for all of my classes every weekday after school.

DAILY ACTION: I will look at my planner and create a to-do list while I am having a snack after school.

WHEN AND WHERE: At the kitchen table at 3:30PM every weekday, I will look at my planner and create a to-do list while I eat my after-school snack. On Thursdays, I will create my list at Chipotle at 3:30PM before my AJ Tutoring session.


How can AJT help students develop better academic habits?

Our tutors are not only experts in the subjects they teach, but also experts in coaching study skills such as organization, note-taking, and test preparation. Unlike some who offer only “homework support,” our tutors’ mission is to positively impact their students every day—not just on the days when they have sessions together.

To achieve academic impact that goes beyond sessions, our tutors teach and demonstrate techniques for students to practice independently on a daily basis. We know that each student is unique, and we work with them to find academic habits that are relevant and directly applicable in that student’s classes and life. A session may last 90 minutes, but we strive for lessons to last 90 years, and to have exponential benefits throughout those years!

At AJ Tutoring, our focus is on academics, but our study strategies are broadly applicable to all endeavors—sports, music, cooking…you name it! Our tutors are professional educators and lifelong-learners who meet with students because they know how empowering personal growth can be and how it is never limited to one concept, class, or semester.

For a free consultation, click here, or meet our tutors here.
Learn more about how we teach study skills in our sessions here.


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