In my experience as a classroom teacher and an academic coach, one of the most common problems students face is bad study habits. Unfortunately, many students receive little instruction on proper study habits in elementary and middle school. Then, teachers suddenly expect students to know how to study in high school.
This approach sets up many students for failure and encourages the development of bad study habits. Developing bad study habits can have terrible consequences for students. Not only are they hard to break, but many students perceive that school isn’t for them simply because no one has taught them the skills they need to succeed.
Some students succeed despite their lousy study habits, but this requires a tremendous amount of effort, often leading to burnout in high school or college.
If you are ready to demonstrate your academic potential, and learn to work smarter instead of harder, keep reading. This article will outline ten bad study habits, their consequences, and how to break them. By the end of the article, you will be well on your way to better grades while spending less time studying.
10 Bad Study Habits
This list of bad study habits includes some obvious ones like multitasking and cramming, but it also consists of more subtle poor study habits that can set you up for failure.
Cramming is one of the most common bad study habits. It is hazardous because it seems like you are doing something right. You have a test tomorrow and spend four hours studying for it. The problem is that this will only help you remember the material briefly instead of learning it.
Not only is cramming bad for your test grades, but it also encourages lousy study habits and does not equip you with the skills necessary to do well in college or beyond.
Instead of cramming, starting your studying in advance is far better. If you spread out your studying over three or four days, not only will you retain information better, but you will also reduce your stress levels.
You will find that by studying in advance, you can spend less time studying and get better results. Plan ahead, keep a schedule, and start studying four to five days before the test to study SMARTER, not harder.
2. Multitasking Is A Terrible Study Habit
Multitasking is another bad study habit that many students fall into. This bad habit can take many forms, from talking on the phone while studying to jumping back and forth between multiple projects.
Not only is multitasking bad for your grades, but it can also be bad for your health. Studies have shown that multitasking can cause significant stress and impair your ability to focus.
The solution? You need to focus on getting the most out of your study time. Set aside a specific amount of time each day for studying and turn off all distractions, such as your phone and television.
Focusing on one task is also more efficient. It is far better to focus on one thing for 30 minutes than try to do something while multitasking for an hour.
The one exception to this rule is listening to music. Listening to music can help you focus, but you should avoid listening to music with lyrics. Stick to instrumental music like classical, jazz, or deep house music.
3. Poor Note Taking
One of the most common misconceptions high school students have is that studying starts when you get home. Studying starts in the classroom. In fact, using your class time well is one of the best ways to save time and learn more efficiently.
You have to be in class. You can’t watch tv, hang out with friends, or play sports, so you might as well take advantage of that time to spend as little time outside of class studying.
An essential skill to master for in-class studying is note-taking. Poor notes can be a bad study habit that sets you up for failure. Taking poor notes prevents you from studying effectively at home and makes it challenging to learn the material.
To ensure you take good notes, write down key concepts, keep your notes organized, and summarize the main points from each lesson. It can also be helpful to write down questions in the margins. There are many different methods for taking good notes; find one that works for you and stick with it.
4. Pulling All-Nighters: A Popular Bad Study Habit
Of all the bad study habits, pulling all-nighters is probably the very worst. It is an ineffective way to study, but studies have shown that you will probably do worse on your test the following day.
The appeal of pulling all-nighters is similar to cramming. You are putting a lot of effort into your studying, which gives you a false sense of confidence and is incredibly inefficient.
The solution is to plan ahead and never wait until the last minute. Ensure you are studying in advance, breaking up your work into manageable chunks.
It is also essential to make sure you get enough rest. Studies have shown that sleep can be just as crucial for learning as studying. Sleep enough and plan your studying a week in advance to get the most out of your studies.
5. Studying without a Plan
Another bad habit I see many students make is studying without a plan. Many students feel so busy that they sit down and immediately get to work without coming up with a plan. This approach gives the illusion of efficacy, but you will often be pulled in several directions and won’t spend the necessary time on any specific topic.
While this approach may seem like it saves you time, spend 10-15 minutes planning your week and identifying what will help you study more efficiently.
A great way to break this bad study habit is to establish a daily schedule and create deadlines for yourself. Set specific goals to complete and start with the biggest, most important tasks first.
It can also be helpful to plan how you will break down each subject and ensure you have enough time for studying.
6. Not Taking Breaks
Not taking breaks is another bad study habit that many students fall into. Students often avoid taking a break because they don’t feel they have enough time to complete their work. On the surface, it seems to make the most sense to study until you finish something. Like many bad study habits on this list, the most common approach is ineffective.
Your brain peaks in efficiency after working on something for about 20 minutes. Your brain stays in this state for about another 25 minutes. After 45 minutes of working on something, your effectiveness crashes, and you must take a break.
When your brain enters this state of fatigue, getting up and moving around, getting some fresh air, or doing something unrelated to studying is essential. Make sure you don’t stay in the same spot for too long, and try to balance socializing with studying.
By taking breaks, you’ll be able to focus more effectively when you sit down and study. An excellent way to break this habit is to set a timer for 45 minutes. When the timer rings, take a five-minute break and return to work.
7. Passive Studying: One of the Hidden Bad Study Habits
Passive studying is something that few people talk about, but it is a widespread reason why many students can put hours into studying but still do poorly on tests.
Passive studying is when you read something or review your notes without engaging in the material. This bad study habit often happens because students are so focused on speed-reading or rapid note-taking. Passive studying can also lead to bad note-taking habits.
The solution is to practice active studying. When you review your notes or a textbook, ensure you engage with the material. Ask yourself questions, draw connections between topics, and practice writing summaries to test your understanding.
An excellent way to avoid passive studying is to think about what you don’t know. Spend time thinking about what confuses you and what you are uncertain about. It would be best to focus on these topics rather than the ones you are most confident in. Spending more time on your weak areas is more efficient and can save you time while boosting your performance.
8. Being Disorganized
Being unorganized is not only a bad study habit but can affect other aspects of your life. Being disorganized makes studying more complicated and can cause stress and anxiety. If you are unorganized, you will be surprised by how much time you spend looking for papers or doing missing assignments.
To avoid this bad study habit, you must take the time to organize your space and figure out what works best for you. Start by organizing your notes, textbooks, and other materials. Once these are organized, creating an efficient filing system to store the material is essential.
If you use digital materials and online resources, create folders for each class or subject to store the material and access it quickly when needed. Use digital calendar systems or a planner to create reminders for yourself and ensure you are on track with your work.
Spending time to ensure your papers and study materials are in order will pay huge dividends in the long run.
9. Not Asking for Help: One of the Hidden Bad Study Habits
There is a common misconception that good students don’t need help and don’t need to ask questions. This bad study habit is incredibly harmful and can prevent you from understanding the material fully or even getting a bad grade on an assignment or test.
It is essential to ask for help, especially when stuck on a problem or concept. Don’t hesitate to contact your teacher or professor and ask for help, or even contact a peer interested in the material.
A good way to break this bad study habit is to create a support network. Find friends or classmates interested in the material who can help you when needed. Having someone to turn to in times of need is invaluable and can help you better understand the material.
Additionally, if you don’t feel comfortable asking the teacher a question in front of the class, write down your question and ask them at the end of class. It’s better to ask questions and get your doubts cleared than to spend hours figuring out the answer.
10. Always Studying Alone Is A Bad habit
Far too many students only study alone. This bad study habit can become problematic because it pressures you to understand everything. Plus, when you study independently, you are only coming at the information from one perspective, which is limiting.
Studying with other people can be incredibly beneficial. While there are advantages to studying alone, such as being able to focus more intently on the task at hand, it is essential to take advantage of the various perspectives other people can bring. Additionally, studies have shown that one of the best ways to retain information is to teach it to someone else.
It’s a good idea to form study groups with friends or classmates, allowing you to discuss topics, ask questions and help each other understand the material better. It’s also an excellent way to stay motivated and review the material meaningfully.
Take the Next Step and Break Your Bad Study Habits
It’s vital to recognize bad study habits and the consequences they can have. Understanding why bad study habits are ineffective and what better alternatives exist is essential.
The name of the game is studying smarter, not harder. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute to study or wasting time in class. If you use your class time effectively and plan, you can study less and get better results.
You can schedule a FREE evaluation call, and we can review your study habits and identify ways to help you maximize your time and get better results. Let’s make bad study habits a thing of the past!
About the Author: John Hyde
I am an educational coach specializing in teaching students academic fundamentals and a growth mindset.
After graduating from Duke University in 2015, I taught at a public middle school from 2016 to 2019. Although I loved working with students in the classroom, the public education system was not teaching students the skills essential to academic success.
I left the classroom in 2019 to start Academic Empowerment Academy. Since then, my coaching program has helped hundreds of students realize their academic potential by assisting them in building confidence and empowering them with the skills and mindset to meet their goals in school and life.
If you’d like to discuss how I can help your teen be more motivated, foster good habits, and improve academic organization/performance, Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Here.
Hi I’m John, author of this blog, academic coach, and founder of AE Academy.
I help teens reach their academic potential by empowering them with academic fundamentals, a growth mindset, and critical thinking.
If your teen is struggling to reach their academic potential, or isn’t learning the skills they need to succeed in school, we should connect.
It’s on me – Book Your Free Call Here