New year, new me is the repeated mantra after 1st January each year and represents an attempt by most people to make significant changes in their lives. Whilst most people opt to make changes to their health or finances, a New Year resolution to improve your academics may be useful if you are in an important academic year where you are doing your leaving exams such as your GCSEs or A-levels or even studying at university.
Our list includes resolutions of varying difficulties to encourage behaviour change that will facilitate better academic achievement directly or indirectly. Choose one, or a maximum of two resolutions, and see how it transforms both your academic and personal life.
1. Set a bedtime
Having a bedtime might seem childish since the ability to stay up late and go to sleep whenever you want is the hallmark of growing up. But, there was an important reason you had a bedtime as a child and that reason is just as relevant now. As a child, you needed a bedtime because you were learning and taking in so much information as you learned about the world around you.
This is also likely to be the case if you are revising for multiple exams and taking in so much information every day. Sleep gives your brain the rest and time it needs to be able to process all this information and arrange it to make coherent connections so that you can remember them in your exam.
2. Give up caffeine
As well as unnecessarily giving you an increased blood pressure and staining your teeth, there is nothing of substance to be achieved from drinking coffee or highly caffeinated drinks like colas. If you find yourself unable to stay awake during the day, consider getting more sleep or avoiding foods high in sugar that give you an energy boost but then leave you feeling tired very soon after. Try healthier snacks like fruit to give you energy – and make sure you’re drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated and your energy levels up.
3. Manage your time
Schedule your work, use a diary to track when you have work due. If you have it written down, then you can plan for it more effectively in advance. For example, if you know that you will have several pieces of work due in one week then you know that week will be busy, and you can make the arrangements as to how you’ll tackle your workload in advance.
If you are finding that you have too much on your plate as you are scheduling and planning, then offload some tasks or figure out a way to delegate it to others. Scheduling will not only save you time, but it will avoid unnecessary stress and allow you to enjoy your free time guilt-free.
4. Eat right
There is a reason some foods are called brain foods and why things like burgers, crisps and fizzy drinks don’t feature on this list. Instead opt for foods with complex carbohydrates like wholegrain cereals and rice to keep your sugar levels and energy stable throughout the day. Portion control is also important here; eat too little, and you’ll be hungry and unable to focus, but eat too much and you’ll be sleepy and unproductive.
5. Stop when you are finished (and NOT before!)
This resolution is aimed at helping you avoid procrastination. One of the ways procrastination manifests itself is that it makes us put off finishing the current task that we’re working on. We tell ourselves that we’ll finish it later or we get distracted from the task at hand and start doing other things like watching TV or reaching for our phone.
Often this means that you lose the deep concentration that you had before you left, take longer to finish the task and this can also affect your ability to complete subsequent tasks. To avoid this, tell yourself that you will not get up and leave until you have fully completed the task that you are working on. The desire to go and do something else more fun should encourage you to stay focused and complete the task quickly.
6. Do the reading before class
This habit is essential when you get to university, but it will also serve you well before that. Having even a skim read of what you will be covering next in class will give you an overview of what is to come which will be useful if you get lost and don’t understand what is happening at any one time. If you know the general outline of the lesson and the direction that you are going in it will help you be able to connect ideas together more effectively but also guide you back if you do get lost.
7. Remove negative people from your life
Any relationship that you have formed willingly should be mutually beneficial to the both of you, but if it is not and is causing you pain or distracting you from achieving your goals then it is time to reevaluate that relationship. Just remember that you don’t owe anyone anything: your time, your companionship, your affection, so, if you don’t think the relationship is contributing to your overall happiness then end it amicably – don’t burn bridges.
8. Read as much as you possibly can
Not only does reading improve essential comprehension skills but it can also you allow to unwind and relax, widen your horizon, and be exposed to new ideas. You can choose which genre of book you want to read, whether you want to read it every night before bed or maybe read a little on the way to and from school every day, or whether you want to read it alone or as part of a book club with your friends.
It’s up to you how you approach it, but consistency is key, and habits are formed by doing the same thing repeatedly for a prolonged period, so try to keep the same when and where you read every day.
9. Just start
If you haven’t realised yet, procrastination is the single worst enemy of progress and we often inflict it upon ourselves without really realising it. If you know you have a task that you should be working on and it surfaces your mind, then start on it now. Just start; don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect or for you to have ‘the motivation’ because just getting started is the most difficult bit. Once you start, the motivation will come and you will start to find it easier each time in the future.
New resolutions take time to turn into habits that will result in significant behavioural changes (usually doing it repeatedly for 21 days). The level of result you get from your resolution will largely depend on how committed you are to achieve it – i.e. resolutions don’t work unless you do.