Good habits for Year 12s facing exams

Getting through the exams requires planning.
Sep 16, 2021
The pointy end is approaching.

Published three years ago Atomic Habits has sold over 5 million copies world-wide and is based on cutting-edge psychology, neuroscience and studying the behaviour patterns of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientist who have cracked the code to staying productive, motivated, and happy.

Author James Clear, has five tips for creating habits that will help students preparing for exams to succeed.

Five tips for surviving Year 12 exams:

1 Start Small

Clear started building his good habits while attending university, focusing on getting his life in order.

“While my peers stayed up late and played video games, I built good sleep habits and went to bed early each night,” he says.

“In the messy world of a college dorm, I made a point to keep my room neat and tidy. These improvements were minor, but they gave me a sense of control over my life.

“I started to feel confident again. And this growing belief in myself rippled into the classroom as I improved my study habits and managed to earn straight As during my first year.”

2 Make a plan
Clear says it’s important to map out how you intend to implement a particular habit.

“The two most common cues are time and location,” he says. 

“Whether it’s writing down the exact time and date of when you will get a flu shot or recording the time of your colonoscopy appointment, they increase the odds that people will stick with habits like studying.”

“Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action. Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.

“Once an implementation intention has been set, you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike.”

Clear’s simple way to apply this strategy to your habits:

For example, I will study Spanish for 20 minutes at 6pm in my bedroom.

3 Create your space
“It can be difficult to go to bed early if you watch television in your bedroom each night,” Clear says.

“It can be hard to study in the living room without getting distracted if that’s where you always play video games.

“But when you step outside your normal environment, you leave your behavioural biases behind. You aren’t battling old environmental cues, which allows new habits to form without interruption.”

If you don’t have the space to set up a specific study environment in your home, Clear says you should rearrange your current one.

“Divide your room into activity zones: a chair for reading, a desk for writing, a table for eating,” he says.

4 Follow the two-minute rule
Clear says starting a new habit should take less than two minutes to do. 

“When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon,” he says.

“The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use the two-minute rule.”

Clear says the notion of studying for class becomes as simple as opening your notes.

“The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start,” he says.

“Anybody can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away.”

It’s a powerful strategy as once you’ve started doing to right thing, it becomes much easier to keep going.  

“People often think it’s weird to get hyped about reading one page or meditating for one minute or making one sales call. But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up,” he says.

5 Take action

Getting bogged down trying to create an optimal plan for change is a mistake many people make. 

“We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action,” he says. 

While being in motion and taking action may sound like two similar ideas, Clear says they are not the same.

“When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result,” he said.

“Action, on the other hand, is the type of behaviour that will deliver an outcome. If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action. 

“Sometimes motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself.”

Clear says often people focus on motion because it allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure.

“It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: You want to delay failure,” he says. 

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