Three reasons why your ‘study resolutions’ might not work (and how to turn your study goals into habits)

We are now three weeks into 2024 – did you make any New Year’s resolutions, and if so – how are they going?

The chances are, if you did decide to start the new year differently, you might already be struggling with sticking to your goals and ideals. You certainly wouldn’t be alone in this – some statistics suggest that only 36% of people who make new year’s resolutions stick to them past the end of January. We always mean well, so why do our ambitions seem to fade so quickly?

Read on for the top three reasons your study resolutions (or any others) might not last – and the best ways to achieve your goals for 2024 (especially if you have exams coming up this summer).

1. You’re being too ambitious

This is number one for a reason! We all have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew, and this is especially true at the start of a new year (or a new school year). New habits take time to form, and it’s incredibly different to make multiple changes at once.

The fix: instead of saying ‘I’m going to do extra study every night after school’ or ‘I’m going to do five more hours of revision a week’, pick one small achievable change to start with. Pick one thing you don’t do that you know you could easily do that would make a difference – for example, do a weekly retrieval quiz or make one topic of revision notes per week. Once this becomes a habit, it will be easier to add to it and get closer to where you hope to be.

2. Your resolutions are too vague

You can’t to stick to something without a clear plan of action. If you simply aim to do better in exams without an idea of how to get there, you’ll quickly lose motivation. Most students say they want to improve their revision or study techniques, but what does that look like?

The fix: choose something specific to work on and make sure it’s clear WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHO:

  • WHAT will you do to make a difference. Examples could include: extra 30 minutes of practice questions each week, 1 hour going back over notes, ask a question in class.
  • WHEN will you do it: ‘once a week’ isn’t specific enough. Give yourself an actual date and time, and put it in your diary or as a reminder on your phone.
  • WHERE will you do it: do you need to find somewhere quiet to work, like the library, or do you work better at home? Wherever you are, you need to be as free of distractions as you can be, as habits are hard to form in the beginning.

WHO will help? We are more likely to stick to a plan if we share it with someone else. Can you choose someone who will hold you accountable, like a parent or friend? Could you ask a teacher to give you an extra example question, or to check your notes for a topic?

3. You don’t review your progress regularly

One of the reasons we choose new year to make resolutions is because it traditionally feels like we can give ourselves a new start. By taking time to reflect on our goals and progress towards them, we get new motivation to succeed and are more positive about new habits.

The problem occurs when we expect the ‘newness effect’ to last a whole year (or six months, in the case of exam preparation). In order to maintain the motivation we have when we start something new, we need to keep starting it again regularly.

The fix: the rush of getting a fresh start does not need to be reserved for once a year occasions. You can recreate it by simply giving regular time to review your progress and adjust your resolutions. Once you have a clear idea of the habit you want to form, set a weekly reminder to check in with how things are going. You may need to adapt – do you need to make the habit more manageable or more specific?

The golden rule: don’t be so hard on yourself

If you take away ANYTHING from this article, is to give yourself some slack when things don’t go as planned. Nobody is perfect and change is hard. We live in a world of constant distractions and comparisons, so it’s no wonder we find it such a challenge to stick to our goals. I originally intended to write this post over two weeks ago, so…

Claire Costello-Kelly

Claire Costello-Kelly

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