A habit is an action that you repeat automatically on a regular basis. It can be something as simple as brushing your teeth every morning after breakfast or something complex like working on a watercolor painting each weekend.
Unlike routines, which you have to make an active effort to remember and repeat, habits should come instinctively without much thought. The benefits of developing healthy student habits include improved grades, increased productivity and better school-life balance, among others.
In this blog, we'll take a closer look at how adult learners can develop and maintain effective habits.
You need to start with a clear idea of the action or behavior you'd like to make into a habit. Pinpoint the action in a specific way – for example, instead of thinking, "I want to study every evening before bed," think, "I want to read over my textbook every evening before bed."
You also need to consider how long you can reasonably spend on a particular action and how to fit it in with your other responsibilities. Students often make the mistake of setting themselves up for too much too soon and end up burning out during the habit-building process.
It's probably not a good idea to set yourself the task of reading an entire chapter of your textbook every morning if you're usually responsible for getting the kids ready for school. However, reading five pages each night after the kids have gone to bed could be more doable. Start small and increase the load as you go.
Once you've set your intention, repeat the action or behavior as planned. You can write the habit down in a daily planner or set a reminder on your phone at the appropriate time, so you don't forget to do it.
Repeating actions can get tedious, so try to make the situation as pleasant as possible. This will look different for different people – maybe you want to put an instrumental playlist in the background or grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage to accompany your reading session.
You could also read aloud, highlight text in bright colors and use colorful stickies to bookmark certain pages.
Each time you do the action as planned, make a record of your success. You could tick the task off your daily diary or create a note on your phone so that each time you pick up these items, you're reminded of how far you've come.
You could also tell a classmate or family member about your habit, so you have someone to hold you accountable. As time goes by, you should fall into a natural rhythm with your habit so you won't always have to keep a record if that's not your style.
Turning a routine into a habit gets much easier when you use the resources available to you to your advantage, especially the network around you. If you're having trouble, don't hesitate to reach out to an expert to get some personalized advice on habit-building.
When you study with MedCerts, you'll be assigned your own student success advisor, who will act as both your motivational coach and curriculum expert.
Show yourself some kindness during the habit development process by rewarding yourself each time you reach a milestone. You could treat yourself to your favorite takeout once you've covered a whole topic of the textbook, for example.
More importantly, be patient with yourself. Even the most disciplined students can struggle with keeping up with their habits from time to time. Don't beat yourself up if you slip up – just resume the habit at the next opportunity.
Habits don't have to be static. Think about which study habits are working well for you and which ones aren't and why. Are you setting yourself too much work? Does the habit clash with another responsibility? You can always change the length of time of your habit, how regularly you do it or the environment in which you do it accordingly.
However, don't try to change everything at once. Just as you should start small with your intentions, you should also make gradual adjustments to your habits, so you have the opportunity to test things out.
Julie Campos is the Senior Director of Operations and Student Success at MedCerts. She brings over 14 years of experience in Online Higher Education in both Student Support and Enrollment and started her career at the University of Phoenix, serving most of her tenure as a student-facing leader.
Julie has her Bachelors of Liberal Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas at El Paso, and her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Her areas of expertise are student support in online higher education environments and working with nontraditional students. At MedCerts, she is focused on creating a pro-active student central support model for MedCerts students to reach their goals and has developed the MedCerts Student Support and Outreach Model, created MedCerts Student Success Advisor reports and Dashboards, as well as the Student Success Advisor Playbook. Her proactive approach to student support has been crucial in meeting MedCerts’ student’s needs, as well as completion and certification goals.
Julie has three children – a 10-year-old son and 12- and 4-year-old daughters, who keep her and her husband busy with sports. She is also an avid crafter with an entire room of her home dedicated to the hobby. In her free time, she enjoys teaching wreath making and even has a few “how-to” YouTube videos on the subject!