Developing A Study Plan

Originally published January 2013, online student newsletter.

The start of a New Year is a great time to make plans to succeed in your studies as never before. One of the first steps you should take for successful study is developing a workable study plan. During my time as a CollegePlus student, I not only focused on finishing my degree in a very short time, I also advised a political campaign, managed a small business, participated in church ministry and activities, and still tried to find time to run my brother to basketball games or swing by the store for my mom.  As you might imagine, it was a crazy schedule!  In hindsight, there were two things that made this possible: the first was having a set study plan (knowing what needed to happen in advance) and the second required making the most of every moment.

One of the most important ways to have a consistent study plan is to be consistent in the times and places that you study.  Your first step to developing a study plan should be choosing a study location. See this month’s Study Tip section for ways to do that. Keep in mind that your study location should get you in gear and get you excited (or at least focused) about studying. Having a consistent place to study doesn’t mean you can never mix up your study location–in fact, I recommend it if you’re feeling stuck or need a change of scenery!  What this does mean is that when you sit down to study, it is in a place that gets you in the mindset for studying.

The next thing to do is set up your study schedule.  The timing will look different for every person.  You may be able to have a set daily time and plan to study 8am-12pm every week day.  If you work or have other commitments, it might vary each day; 8am-12pm on Monday, 1-3pm on Tuesday, 10am-4pm on Wednesday, etc.  The goal is to find consistent times to study that work for you.

If you have an extremely busy schedule, your study schedule may need to be goal based rather than time based. For example, you may set a study goal of reading 10 pages on Monday, 30 pages on Tuesday, etc. Now this doesn’t mean you throw timing out the window!  You might need to plan to use your lunch break to get started, then finish up when you get home from work in the evening.  In other words, you still need to plan your study time. However, it will be easier to come home from work, etc, knowing you can stop as soon as you ready 30 pages rather than trying to stay awake to get in three hours of study time.

While consistency is key, studying with a busy schedule can also require creativity.  Driving to work and cooking dinner can be a great time to listen to relevant audios.  If you’re running errands or dropping off a sibling at an event, hand them your book and ask them to quiz you on terms. Think creatively and you may be surprised at how much study time you can carve out of your busy schedule.  If you are no longer a student, remember that learning never ends! Think about ways to make the most of the small moments to continue learning and growing in areas that are important to you.

If you need help setting up consistent study times and/or study goals, let me know so we can discuss it on our next coaching call!

Okay, now that we have evaluated the steps to setting up a workable study schedule, there are just a few reminders I have for you!

  • Above all, remember to be REALISTIC.  Don’t set goals that you just can’t achieve.
  • Along those lines, you will also need to be FLEXIBLE. You may set what you think are realistic goals, then discover you were actually being super ambitious.  Don’t feel bad about resetting your goals or reworking your schedule if needed.  Trial and error is a key part of this process.
  • Finally, take advantage of the benefits that consistency provides. Take breaks throughout your study time and once you have met your daily goals, STOP STUDYING.  As we all know, studying for exams can feel never ending–there is always something else you can do. But if you have set up a good schedule and reached your goal for the day, you don’t have to feel bad about stopping for the day.  And don’t forget to reward yourself for accomplishing your goals.

By taking time to set and try out a study plan, you will be better equipped to work longer and more efficiently while also allowing yourself more breaks and down time. Take the start of this New Year to set one resolution that you can stick with and develop your personal study plan!

Image: Vassar_Library_Study_Area, CC