You’ve probably heard it your whole life, but building good study habits is key to academic success, particularly in college. There’s no universal approach to studying, but through trial and error, you will find what’s most effective for you!
To give you a few ideas on how to find your study groove, we at The University Network (TUN) reached out to some study and education influencers on Instagram. Their advice, listed below, may just help you ace that next exam.
- Instagram handle: @studyquill
- Location: California, USA
Jasmine, a graduating high school senior, is heading to UCLA in the fall to kick off her college career. Despite being an incoming freshman, Jasmine already has studying down to a science, which is clear if you check out her Instagram and YouTube, both called studyquill. On Instagram, her images, which are neat and aesthetically pleasing, highlight her skillful and organized bullet journaling and note-taking techniques. Underneath those images are bright, engaging and informative captions.
Jasmine, herself, innately finds joy in learning. Studying often comes easy to her, as she sees it as a way to improve herself. But, occasionally, she too struggles to feel motivated. And in those moments, she says it’s important to stay disciplined.
“There are those moments when you feel super inspired and you feel really passionate about getting work done,” says Jasmine. “But it also depends a lot on discipline, rather than just relying on bursts of sudden motivation. Training yourself to do work even if you don’t necessarily feel super inspired in the moment is a skill that takes a lot of time to develop. It’s kind of like working out a muscle. So it really comes down a lot to practicing methods.”
Those who feel anxious or weighed down by the thought of studying may benefit from the Pomodoro study method, Jasmine explains. The method uses a timer to break down studying into intervals of 25 minutes with short breaks in between.
As far as staying productive, Jasmine says the first thing she does before sitting down to study is create an effective work environment, free of distractions.
“I put my phone in the highest closet that I can barely reach, and I’ll turn off the notifications, of course,” says Jasmine. “Conversely, if there’s something that would normally sidetrack me, like maybe I need to get up to get my school supplies out of my backpack or maybe I need to get up to get a drink of water, I’ll have those really close by on hand. If I need to do things that are actually important to my productivity, I don’t have to go out of my way and break my workflow to get them done.”
- Instagram handle: @kuroristudies
- Location: USA
By the looks of her Instagram posts, Kuro, an aspiring medical researcher and current college student in the United States, could seemingly teach a course in calligraphy. Her Instagram images regularly feature her minimalist and organized notes, which fall beneath a bright, cursive heading. If you look next to those notes, you’ll likely see the pens she wrote them with. Through her captions, which are typically only one or two sentences long, she often gives you a brief glimpse into her personality and interests.
Kuro finds motivation to study through organized goal setting. It is important, she says, to consider both long- and short-term goals. If you only consider long-term goals, it’s easy to burn out quickly. But too much focus on short-term goals alone can make studying seem unfulfilling.
“My best advice is to write down what it is you want and have a clear picture of how succeeding as a student will get you to your goals,” says Kuro. “To make it even more motivating, post your goals or send them to someone you trust to keep you on track, if you need the extra kick!”
Kuro, like many of her Instagram peers, says the first thing you need to do to increase your productivity is to set that phone aside. Otherwise, she says becoming a more productive studier really depends on what works best for you.
“I tend to work more efficiently without noise, so I try to study in my room or my dorm most of the time,” Kuro said. “This varies from person to person, though, and the only way to figure out what works for you is to try different things and be honest about how your productivity is with each new change.”
Some of the ideas she lists include moving locations, adjusting your background noise level, playing or not playing music, and switching up the timing and length of your breaks. “The list goes on!” she says.
- Instagram handle: @megansstudies
- Location: Texas, USA
Megan, a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin, takes a positive, uplifting approach to studying. Next to the laptop and notebooks that she often features on her Instagram images sits the occasional drink, snack or even stuffed animal. Her captions, which are often long enough to be considered blog posts, are engaging, encouraging and informative.
Megan, personally, finds motivation for studying through many avenues. She says she values the fact that she’s able to study beyond high school, and she would never do anything to jeopardize that. She also feels a jolt after getting a good grade back, and she uses that as motivation to perform well on her future assignments.
For those struggling to stay motivated, however, she suggests following people with similar interests on social media.
“Social media plays such a huge role in our lives that we ought to find something good in it instead of perhaps mindlessly scrolling,” says Megan. “I generally follow people who create a healthy, rather than toxic, environment. Whenever I see a post about someone working hard for their education or their fitness, it makes me want to do that for myself. After a while, it becomes a habit to get some studying done.”
In terms of increasing your productivity, Megan, too, says the biggest thing is to get rid of your phone! It’s a huge distraction, she says, and leaving it right next to you is too big of a temptation.
“Leave it in another room, give it to someone else, or use an app like Forest to prevent you from unlocking your phone and using it,” she says.
On top of that, Megan says it’s pivotal to find what time of the day works best for you personally.
“For example, I am more productive at night,” says Megan. “So during the day, I do some light work, but I usually get extremely productive at night. So instead of burning myself out throughout the day, I save a lot of the harder work for the night time.”
- Instagram handle: @sicistudies
- Location: Canada
Sarah just finished up her health science and psychology undergraduate degree, and is headed to the University of Ottawa in September to study law! Like her study habits, the images she posts on Instagram are organized, reliable and patterned. Sarah’s engaging captions, however, bring out some of her personality. And throughout her posts, she offers some solid study advice, which we delve into here.
Sarah says she has always loved school. Her main motivation for studying is consistently wanting to broaden her knowledge. But even she, like the rest of us, is not immune to procrastination. For that, Sarah tries to stick to a routine. She preaches the need to keep her desk space clean and her stationery organized.
“I am a morning person so I love to start studying early,” says Sarah. “However, there is this notion that you must start studying early to be productive, and that is absolutely not true. If you work better in the afternoon, there is no point to force yourself to get up early and try to work. It won’t be productive. It’s better to know what works for you and to do it!”
And at the start of every day, Sarah says she always creates a list of tasks that she has to get done.
“The key to a good to-do list is for it to be realistic,” says Sarah. “If you have too many tasks that can’t be accomplished in a day, that list will be depressing and you’ll feel bad when you don’t accomplish everything. Know your limits!”
- Instagram handle: @yunnastudies
- Location: Canada
Yunna, a first-year university student, has seemingly found a home for herself in college. Her Instagram images, consisting of sideways notebooks and the occasional Starbucks coffee, are a refreshing reminder that efficient studying takes many shapes and forms. Those sideways notebooks are, however, supplemented with extremely organized and colorful notes.
Yunna says she, personally, believes that people have to be successful to live the life they want. That’s what motivates her to study. Working hard now, she says, will help her in the future.
“If you do find yourself losing motivation, just focus on what you like and perhaps think of someone you look up to,” Yunna says. “Think about how much work and effort they had to put in to get themselves where they are today.”
As far as productivity goes, Yunna says she studies best in the library. Being around others who are also working hard, she says, helps to minimize distractions. “I personally don’t recommend people getting too comfortable when studying, because it may lower your productivity. It’s best to work at a desk rather than on your bed or sofa,” says Yunna.
Most importantly, however, Yunna says you have to engage in active learning.
“Simply reading your notes is not enough!” she says.
Completing practice problems that address concepts you don’t fully understand is always valuable, Yunna explains. She also suggests pretending to teach the material to someone who doesn’t know it. Attempting to teach the material, she explains, is a good test to see how much you know.
- Instagram handle: @esteebeestudies
- Location: UK
Esther, a pharmacy student in Norwich, UK, takes a formulaic approach to studying. The images she posts to Instagram often include four things: her laptops, a tablet, some paper to write on and her study partner, a little orange toy. Her captions are engaging and often pose questions like “What was your dream career when you were young?”
Esther says she finds motivation to study through her desire to become a qualified professional. But in terms of helping others find motivation, she suggests taking a positive approach. This includes not getting down on yourself for not studying, accepting that it can be a challenge to become motivated to study and never questioning your ability to study.
“A lot of students, including myself, are guilty of this,” says Esther. “We doubt ourselves so much that it affects our motivation to study. This also comes with comparing yourselves with others. Never do this, as everyone is unique in their own way.”
In terms of increasing study productivity, Esther says it helps her to change things up. She enjoys studying in her room at night, she says, because that’s when she feels the least distracted. But, the library brings a nice change of pace. Being around others who are studying, she says, helps to keep her checked in.
- Instagram handle: @study.sarah
- Location: Sydney, Australia
Sarah, a law and science student in Sydney, Australia, takes a calm, organized approach to studying. Her Instagram images are, quite literally, full of life. They often feature plants, both on her desk and through her window view to the outside. Occasionally, her study partner, a friendly black cat named Luna, will make an appearance. While her captions nearly always relate to studying, she tries to keep things light by posing engaging questions like, “What’s your go-to brain food?”
Sarah finds motivation to study by always keeping her goals in mind. And she suggests others who may be struggling to find motivation do the same.
“My advice to anyone who’s struggling with motivation is to work out what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve those goals,” Sarah says. “When motivation fails, discipline prevails.”
Finding the study methods that make you the most productive, Sarah says, takes some experimenting.
Sarah, personally, finds she’s most productive in the mornings. So, that’s when she completes all of her high-energy tasks, like writing essays. In the afternoons and evenings, which are more ineffective times for her, Sarah works on completing easier tasks, like creating summaries of her notes or arranging files that she might need for the next day.
“By having a list of easier tasks to do during times when I don’t want to study, I can ensure that I’m still making progress towards my goals,” Sarah says.
There’s no simple formula to make you a motivated, efficient and productive student. But you can learn from those who’ve mastered it. Take some of the pieces of advice offered by those featured in this article and try to implement them into your own study routine. If it works, great! If not, at least you would have tried something new.