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8 unproductive study habits to kick to the curb

By Guest Post | 22 August 2018

We’ve all been there. Tomorrow there’s an exam, and we haven’t studied. So we pull an all-nighter. Or worse, we don’t study at all, hoping to wing it. There are lots of bad study habits that we can fall into. Some are unproductive study habits, some are just plain procrastination. Here are eight bad study habits that you should kick to the curb if you want to get ahead.


Studying at Home

Hmm, home seems like such a great place to study. There are snacks, tea and coffee and... oh wait! It’s time to check Instagram! How many likes did my latest cat post get? Only ten? 

What we’re saying is that studying at home can be an unproductive study habit. Instead of curling up in your bed with your laptop and notes, get to the library, or even a local café (with the added bonus of coffee!). Not doing your work at home is a great study tip, and you’ll be more productive and have an easier time committing things to memory.


Studying With Friends 

coffee catch up with friends

A great way to have unproductive study habits is to get a group of friends around to “go over notes.” What will really happen is that you’ll end up chatting, gossiping and before you know it, you’ve broken out the drinks and a house party is underway. The best way to get work done faster is on your own. Don’t fall into the trap of group study because it never works!



There’s a pile of laundry that needs doing. Or the dishes need washing. Or perhaps the dog really needs a walk? Procrastination is one of most unproductive study habits that we all need to address. Set yourself a goal – study for 50 minutes solid (preferably away from home – see tip #1) and then give yourself ten minutes to make a cup of tea, pat the dog or check your social media accounts. As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jo (or Josephine) dull. We all need rewards, and so setting a time limit on how long you study for, with a treat at the end, will put a stop to your procrastination for good.


Not Planning or Setting Goals 

taking notes on planner

One of the most unproductive study habits is to not plan your work or set goals for what you want to achieve. According to the famous American university Harvard setting goals increases achievement and motivation. Write a list of what you want to do, and then draw up a structure for how you will get the work done. Simply sitting down with a pile of notes and an open laptop will lead you to distraction (see tip #3) and you won’t achieve what you set out to do. If you want to get work done faster, set a goal, write a plan and work solidly for 50 minutes (see tip#3) and then give yourself a small reward at the end of each time period.


Avoid Distractions 

This wraps into the procrastination tip. Turn off the TV, get rid of the tunes, and sign yourself out of the group chat on WhatsApp. Pankaj Sah, from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland, says that our brains are impressive machines, but they can’t handle everything at once. It’s too easy to get distracted by social media (or just about anything else for that matter!) so avoid the temptation altogether and get rid of all the distractions you can. Using tip#1, and avoiding studying at home can help minimise distractions too, as it’s harder to watch TV when you’re at the library.


Studying the Night Before or Pulling an All-Nighter 

Good study habits (and good exam results) starts weeks before the deadline. Studying the night before or pulling an all-nighter means that you won’t retain what you read, and you’ll find yourself behind the 8-ball. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, in the United States, physical fatigue is detrimental to learning outcomes. This is where tip#4 comes into play. Plan your study sessions and revisions from the time you get the assignment or exam timetable all the way through to the deadline.


Not Taking a Break 

It’s easy to think that continuous study will help you learn faster and retain more information. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you have a break every so often, you’ll retain more information and perform better because it gives your brain the time to process what you have been studying.


Not Asking for Help

young woman struggling with work

Don’t understand something? Ask your tutors or lecturer for help. Not asking for help is as unproductive a study habit as waiting until the last minute or not planning your workload. Also, chances are, if you don’t understand something, then other people in your class don’t understand it either. Organise a revision session with your tutor, or ask for clarification and you’ll get up to speed in no time at all.

There are many other ways to improve your study strategies for that assessment deadline and exam just lurking around the corner. Head on over to our other study-related articles here on SkillsTalk, for advice on getting the educational outcomes you desire.

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