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4 ways to help you build good habits in your studies and in life

It can be pretty tricky getting into the habit of doing, well, anything. Luckily we have some tips to help

Everyone has bad habits, most of which we want to quit. Building good habits isn't as straightforward. Aristotle once wrote, “virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions”. If you have set a goal for yourself, like getting really good uni results, the next step is to slowly build it into your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

Good habits are the foundation of success. They make it easy to attain excellence because, once a good habit is formed, it becomes a regular part of your life. Here’s how to get started on developing good habits.

1. Start small

Habit-building often ends in frustration because most people start too big. Writing down a big goal and failing horribly at it right at the beginning is a sure-fire way to lose motivation quickly. By starting with a small step, you can ensure a small string of successes that will build up your willpower to continue because the taste of success feels good.

For example, in your bid to get better grades, try starting with half an hour of uninterrupted studying before dinner. It may seem ridiculously easy, but that’s the point. Reel off a few days of achievements, and then increase the number from there.

2. Put the tools you need close to where you will use them

One easy way to dramatically increase your probability of doing something is to physically put the tools you need to complete the task close to where you will use them. It might seem like a no-brainer, but people are naturally very lazy. Even if it’s something as simple as reading a textbook in your bedroom, if you need to go and gather things before you can start your activity, you are making it harder for yourself to develop good habits. So put the book on your desk well in advance of when you plan to read.

3. Figure out a visual cue to use as a counter

We all need visual reminders of our progress. Your job is to figure out a simple way for you to keep track of what you’ve done. For example, if your goal is to study seven topics in one week, try this: put seven plastic rubber bands on your left wrist at the start of the week. Each time you’ve finished one topic, move one rubber band to your right wrist. Then you can see how you’re doing each day.

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You can do this with anything, like moving a marble from one jar to another or turning a figurine around on your desk to face you. The physical action of tallying a success reinforces the habit you’re trying to build.

4. Eliminate your “surrender” moments

The last piece of advice for building good habits is to analyse your “surrender” moments and eliminate them. Think back to the last time you gave up and didn’t follow through on a daily quota. Why didn’t you do it? Whatever it was that held you back, brainstorm how you can make that moment easier for you to work through.

For instance, your goal is to revise two science topics every day, but you didn’t do it yesterday. Why not? Maybe because you were shooting hoops after dinner, or got caught up in a Reddit vortex. Solution? Allow yourself a time limit for distractions, and set an alarm on your phone – when time’s up, quit the game and pick up a book.

Try these tips to developing good habits, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals.

This article was curated in conjunction with Young Post.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Building good habits