I’m sure you’ve wondered at least one time in your life so far: what’s the secret that top students are hiding from us? How are they productive, smart, and successful?
Truthfully, there is no one secret. There’s no pill (real or literal) that can make you successful at once. However, there is a pattern between the lifestyles of successful students: they build the right habits.
In this super extensive post, I’ll reveal 60 habits that top students practice– some daily, some weekly, others monthly. Successful people (including students) build habits and routines into every aspect of their lifestyle, such as productivity, studying, and health.
I’ve split up the list into these categories as well, and added a “miscellaneous” section for general lifestyle tips. Make sure to read until the very end and save this post for later!
Habits For Maximum Productivity
Make to-do lists
Each morning, make a to-do list to detail out the day’s tasks. This will help you stay accountable and organized during the day and give you a sense of achievement once you complete everything on the list.
You can make to-do lists anytime you want, such as before a study session, before a busy month, and before a test. You can also write them in any form you want (digital or physical), but I prefer to go physical with a planner and sticky notes.
Make not-to-do lists
Not to-do lists can be especially helpful when you mean to be super focused and productive. Listing out things you usually do while distracted can help you avoid them while working or studying.
If you have a busy day ahead, take some time to schedule blocks of time on a calendar.
This will help you visualize your schedule and how much time you need to dedicate to each task.
Set SMART goals
SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Whenever you’re setting goals (long-term or short-term), make sure to follow these criteria! For example:
- In 2 months, I will raise my math grade from a C to an A by having weekly study sessions with my friends and doing review problems every day.
Eat the frog
“Eating the frog” refers to completing the most difficult task on your to-do list first. Whenever able, tackle the most daunting thing first; after completing it, you’ll feel a sense of achievement and adrenaline to keep going.
Learn to differentiate between the most important and urgent tasks and the others. This will ensure that you really get what you need to get done and leave time to do the others as well.
To delegate a task means to assign it to someone else. If you have some tasks on your to-do list that you don’t have time for, see if there are others who can help you complete it!
In addition, you can also try automating tasks. This may be harder to implement, but if you have some jobs like sorting emails, backing up files, and posting on social media, use online tools to help you out!
Another thing you can do to organize your to-do list is to batch similar tasks together. For example, if you have to complete multiple assignments for one class, batch them together and complete them in one sitting (or one chunk of time).
Break things down
Don’t get intimidated when you come across a large project. Instead, break it down into bite-sized pieces (steps) and tackle them one by one. This is where effective project planning comes in!
Procrastinating occasionally is okay, but you must set limits and know when to not procrastinate. Especially on a school day when you still have homework to complete, try your best not to procrastinate! Here is a comprehensive post to help you.
Limit social media use
Social media is often the most direct reason for unproductivity and stress (not just academic stress, but social and emotional stress as well). Limit social media use by turning off notifications, setting screen-time settings, and hiding the app from your home screen.
Stacking habits is a trick I talked about in my Complete Habit-Building Guide, and it is an effective way to build new habits into your existing routine. To stack habits simply means to perform one new habit right after an existing one (such as reading for 10 minutes after doing your skincare routine).
Top students stay organized in daily life, building and sticking to routines, whether it’s their morning routine, evening routine, or study routine. Figure out a routine that works for you and practice it regularly!
Everybody needs breaks; the more difficult your task, the more breaks you should be taking. Burnout is real, and you want to avoid it in order to be more productive for longer periods of time. Try the Pomodoro method if you’re not sure how to schedule your time!
Organize your space
Though a clean space may not equal a clean mind, it sure can help! Regularly clean and organize your study space, keeping only the essentials and getting rid of the clutter that builds up.
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: How To Organize Your Desk To Maximize Productivity
Habits For Efficient Studying
Turn off social media notifications
A habit I stick by is to never study with social media notifications on. They distract you from the work on hand, and once you open an app like Instagram, it’s very difficult to get off. Therefore, do yourself a favor and turn off your social media notifications!
Study away from your bed
Because you generally rest and relax on your bed, your brain associates that area with relaxation. To make your brain energized and alert enough for studying, study away from your bed and at a designated study space.
Take practice tests
If you’re preparing for a standardized test (or any test where you know what kind of problems will be presented), study by taking practice tests and analyzing what you get wrong. I elaborate on this method in detail in this post: How To Raise Your SAT Score Quickly & Effectively.
Set up the right environment
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s important to study at a designated study space. You should set up the right study environment (hopefully at a sturdy and well-lit desk) by choosing ergonomic furniture and keeping it clean and organized.
Pay attention in class
This may seem obvious, but one of the most effective ways to actually absorb information is to pay attention the first time you learn it. Therefore, pay attention in class! Take notes, ask questions, think through what you’re hearing or seeing, etc.
Use spaced repetition
A proven method of remembering what you study is to use spaced repetition. Follow a certain schedule and relearn information after each period of time: 24 hours, 48 hours, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, and then every few months if you need.
Before a lecture or a large section of notes, preview the syllabus or table of contents to get an idea of what you’ll be learning. This can help you take the most effective notes and prepare for class.
Take active notes
Taking good notes will help you easily recall and review information in the future, so doing it right the first time is very important. A few questions I always ask myself while taking notes are:
- Is this information relevant?
- Do I already know this information?
- Should I add a diagram to clarify?
- Do I understand what I’ve written?
Review content routinely
Reviewing content (different from relearning) is also helpful for retaining information. You can do this by regularly rereading your notes and improving them, discussing with classmates, etc. Build this habit into your routine and do it regularly to maximize its effect.
Collaborate with others
Your classmates are not your competitors unless you make them into competitors! Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and collaborate with them on projects, doing research together and solving problems together.
Talk to your teachers
Don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers! Especially for difficult courses, your teachers will be able to provide extra help and resources, answer specific questions, give you personalized advice, etc.
In addition, if you’re a high school student, building a good relationship with your teacher could mean better letters of recommendation for your college application!
Use outside resources
Never limit yourself, and when you’re a student, don’t limit yourself to your textbook. If you need help understanding or mastering a concept, you can often find explanations and practice problems online.
YouTube is a huge resource for students. Whether you’re struggling in math, literature, science, or something else, YouTube probably has a video that explains what you’re trying to understand. Here are some channels I used to watch a lot:
Participate in discussions
Discussing with other students (and with your teacher) is a great way to go through and master confusing content, raise new questions, and make new connections. Bring your notes and questions to study sessions and participate actively to maximize it!
Habits For Self-Care & Health
Make sure you’re drinking enough water everyday! If you’re thirsty, it’s too late. Study with a cup or bottle of water by your side, and avoid drinking sugary and caffeinated drinks all the time.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is another essential step to maintaining a healthy body and an alert mind. Every night, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. This will help you to wake up earlier too!
Schedule self-care days
Self-care days can help us regain energy and motivation and get back to work, more productive than before. Every month (or however often you think your body and mind needs), dedicate 1 day to practice self-care by doing some of the following:
- Taking a bath
- Taking a walk outdoors
- Sleeping in
- Calling friends
- Making some art
- Watching a movie
Build a morning routine
Especially as a busy student, having a productive and efficient morning routine is a great way to prepare yourself for a successful day. Here are some activities I like to do during my morning:
- Listen to music and relax
- Listen to a podcast
- Take a walk outside
- Review or study
- Catch up with the news
Build an evening routine
Just as important as a morning routine is an evening routine; having a proper routine that helps you wind down can guarantee a better night’s sleep and subsequently a more productive morning! Try to avoid going on social media before bed and listen to calming music or read a book.
Keep yourself clean
Proper hygiene is very important for obvious reasons, so here are some simple ways to take care of yourself and your hygiene when you’re busy:
- Trim your nails
- Floss after brushing your teeth
- Shower regularly
- Wash your hands carefully
Have timely meals
Don’t skip meals. Even if you’re on a diet or trying to lose weight, skipping meals is NOT the way to go. Having timely meals keeps your organs healthy, and only when your body is healthy can you ensure more effective studying and working.
Talk to family often
If you’re a student who’s living away from home, make sure to stay in contact with your friends and family at home by calling them often. This will not only make you feel more connected and supported, but will ease your family’s worries at home.
Give yourself pep talks
If you’re feeling down, don’t go down the rabbit hole of sad and hopeless thoughts. Instead, give yourself a pep talk. You don’t have to forcefully twist a sad story into a happy one, but let yourself accept both the good and the bad, and find a solution if possible.
Journaling is a great way to organize and declutter your mind. Whether you’re at a high or a low point in life, journaling could help you figure out where you are in life and where to go next. Try to make this a regular (daily, or weekly) habit!
Exercising has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, reduce risk of diseases, and more. Staying fit can help you focus more readily when working and be overall more productive.
Go outside often
Especially if you’re an online student who stays home all day due to classes, it’s so important to go outside every day for at least 10 minutes and just enjoy the fresh air. Nature has also been proven to reduce anxiety, improve focus, and improve sleep!
Young students often scoff at the idea of meditating, but it truly can be beneficial. Including meditation in your morning routine can help you maintain a decluttered and calm mind for the day, making you more productive for longer periods of time.
Appreciate the small things
Being grateful for the things around you will make you a happier person (no, really). Everyday, practice gratitude by noticing and acknowledging what others are doing for you, what’s going well for you, etc. You can even write these down in a gratitude journal!
Have a digital detox routinely
The Internet can be a dangerous and depressing place, and it’s eye-opening how a simple digital detox can transform your mood in a day. Every few weeks, have a digital detox where you stay off all social media (except for crucial ones) for a few days.
Let your contacts know where they can reach you during this time, and enjoy your time away from the toxic environment of social media.
Miscellaneous Habits For Success
Reading is so important, yet so many students these days only read when they’re required to. This used to be me, but I realized that reading is one of the most interesting (seriously!) and effective ways to keep my mind healthy and active.
Stay caught up with news
Don’t start living under a rock! I like to start my morning with a quick look at the New York Times’s The Morning (which is sent to my email). I also sometimes listen to a podcast (such as NPR’s Up First) while making breakfast.
Build multiple sources of income
As soon as you can (right now!), start building multiple sources of income. This could mean loose jobs (babysitting, dog-walking, lawn-mowing…), digital marketing (YouTube, blogging, Twitch streaming…), passive income (selling products, affiliate marketing…), and so much more.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are 2 awesome posts to help you out:
Make inspiring friends
Starting from high school, you’ll begin to realize the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to relationships. You should surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better; cut off toxic people who bring you down.
Build good money habits
Financial literacy is a skill high schools, unfortunately, don’t teach. But many students begin looking for part-time jobs as high school upperclassmen, and it’s important to build good money habits from a young age.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin to make your own money:
- Whether to use a savings or a checking account
- How much to save each paycheck
- Where to save or keep your receipts
- How to do taxes
Write things down
Productive people don’t keep everything in their heads. They always write things down, whether in a planner or a simple notepad.
If you suddenly remember something important (like an errand you forgot to run or an assignment you need to turn in), quickly jot it down. Keeping it in your mind may seem reliable at the moment, but it’s easier than it seems to forget.
Don’t be scared to network
I wish I recognized the importance of networking when I was a high school freshman! Starting from your freshman year, you need to be networking with others: teachers, coaches, upperclassmen…
Get to know your classmates, upperclassmen, and teachers. These people could have connections that may help you land internships, research opportunities, and jobs in the future!
Have a learning mindset
Always be willing to learn, both on your own and from others. School (especially high school) is an environment for you to safely explore different fields, so use this time wisely and learn whatever you can.
Accept failure and obstacles
Building off of having a learning mindset, you must be willing to accept failure and overcome obstacles. Don’t shy away from them, because only by overcoming them and learning from your mistakes will you become stronger and more knowledgeable.
Be passionate about something
You can be passionate about anything (computers, airplanes, classical music, crochet, etc), but you must identify something that makes you happy and motivates you to become better. Motivation is crucial in difficulty, and being passionate about something will help you find this motivation.
Listen to the right music
I like to listen to a variety of music to help me maximize success in each activity:
- Nothing or lofi/ambience when studying and working
- Uplifting music in the morning
- Calming music in the evening
- Relaxing music when journaling or meditating
Communication is an essential skill, and it takes time and practice to build. Here are some ways to communicate more effectively.
- Read more and listen to TED Talks. Learn from the experts!
- Be an active listener. Listen to hear, not to respond.
- Talk more. Practice will help you reach any goal.
- Think before you speak.
- Be genuine.
Value your time
There have been times when I thought to myself: I would get so much more done if I didn’t need to sleep. In truth, I did have enough time to achieve what I wanted, but I had simply wasted it on social media.
You must learn to value your time and use it wisely. As your workload gets heavier, no one but yourself can recognize priorities and manage your time accordingly. So stop procrastinating!
Procrastination is a product of weak self-control. You are letting yourself become distracted by other aspects of your life that are less important than a certain task, and you wait until it’s too late to start working on it.
Practice self-control (in all aspects of life, such as in social scenes) and get what you need to get done, done. This could mean doing the following:
- Setting goals and creating a reward or punishment system.
- Deleting certain apps.
- Making new friends.
- Prioritizing your to-do list.
Last but not least, find success by being you. As cliché as it sounds, only by being yourself (note, the “definition” of you can change) will you find the people, job, projects, and life for you. So be you!
Phew, you reached the end of this post! As I mentioned at the start of this post, there’s no one secret that guarantees success. But you sure can take action towards it by building some of these habits!
If you found this post helpful in any way, save it and share it with your friends! Leave a comment below with what habit you’re trying to build!
And if you’re looking for more posts like this, check these out:
- 55 Best Discounts For College Students In 2021
- 9 Powerful Daily Habits For Productivity
- 7 Better Monthly Habits Of The Smartest Students