Have you ever found yourself trying to force a study session and being completely crushed by an unrelenting lack of motivation? 

dr evil planning

Fear not, you aren’t alone. As it turns out our default mode of being is finding the path of least resistance. That’s not your only challenge either… The biggest wall you are faced with when trying to develop a new habit is just getting started. Psychologists have been studying motivation and what gets people off the couch for a long time. What they have figured out is that to effectively start something new you need to create something known as a habit loop.

Before we start talking about how to create a study timetable let’s look at how to create an effective habit loop that will ensure that you actually follow through with your intentions and get an amazing grade in HSC English.

Essentially habits are a three step process; they consist of a Cue, Routine & Reward


Are you the kind of person who finds that each time that they need to study they find themselves wandering to the kitchen and peering into the refrigerator? Well, it’s actually pretty common. This is known as a bad habit cue. Each time you feel the pressure of study you have a response which makes you crave food. So what do you do? You let your emotional brain take charge and drive you towards the kitchen, even if you aren’t hungry. The good news is that a cue can also be for a positive habit like after you get changed in the morning you walk to the bathroom and brush your teeth. A cue can be triggered by a specific time, place, person, activity or emotion.


Whilst the cue and reward are directly connected to each other, the routine is the glue that ensures that the system works. On average a new habit will take 3 weeks to take effect. Over the days that you are implementing a new habit using the cue and reward system you will be seeing if you are sticking to it. A sustainable good habit is going to be easy to maintain and won’t require much motivation to access it. Something simple like as soon as you walk into your house from school you will open your books on your study desk and sit down for 15 seconds. Due to the commitment being low, it is much easier to stick to the habit. You might spend 2-3 days not doing homework and standing up straight away but eventually you will find yourself staying in that space for longer and longer.


Simple rewards are a great way to cement a habit, even if they are small like feeling good about a particular activity or treating yourself in a small way with an activity you love like watching a YouTube video. Adding a reward after you perform the routine at the end of the cue is one of the most effective ways to help you stick to a new habit.

study habit creation

Image Courtesy of Random House


Next Steps…

Establishing Your Study Plan

So you now know how to create a new habit and you have a system for making them… Next you need a simple plan to let the new study habit sink in.

With a lack of planning, it is very hard to maintain a flow of study, something that is extremely important in your final years of high school. Balancing your daily life and commitments such as work and extra-curricular activities along with school and study is no easy task, and throwing a social life and sleep into the mix makes it a whole lot harder.

This is where a study schedule comes in. Putting a little bit of time aside to address issues helps in the long run and this can be done in the following steps:


Assess your current schedule and commitments

What is your school/work timetable like? Do you have any commitments that you have to make time for every week or month no matter what? Write them down, so they will give you a fair idea of how much time you have left to study. Knowing what times you will be free and setting a schedule also helps you feel more motivated.

List the subjects you need to study, and prioritise

Once write down all of your subjects and what you have to do for them, think about what will take you the most time to do or what you struggle with the most – it is always best to put these subjects in the middle of your study schedule so you are motivated and already in the study flow when you start.

Schedule study in 30-40 minute blocks

Although we tend to think that we can study in blocks of 2-3 hours, scientific research shows that we are actually LESS productive when we try to do everything in one sitting. Take a break, walk around, have a snack – anything that will help you feel refreshed and get oxygen to your brain will help you study more effectively. Also,

Create checkpoints

Study plans are best utilised when you have goals to reach, even ones you make yourself. This will give a greater sense of accomplishment and stop you from getting overwhelmed when the time comes for exams. This also means that you can ask for help early if needed, because you will be on top of your work.

And most importantly…

Stick to the schedule

Making a schedule is of no use if you give up after a few days – sticking to it is always the hardest part. To combat this, look at your routine on a daily basis so it’s always at the top of your mind, and reward yourself whenever you reach a milestone.

Here’s a study template to help you plan your weeks.

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