If you’re a student attending classes, do you ever find it hard to make yourself settle down and study? Do you tell yourself that you still have plenty of time before that big exam, and then suddenly you find that it's too late?

Like most students, you probably put off studying until the very last minute.

The night before the exam, you stay up all night cramming, getting little or no sleep. In the morning, you’ll drag yourself out of bed, psych yourself up with lots of coffee and some cigarettes, and go into the exam feeling exhausted, drained and jittery all at the same time. You’ll find it hard to focus or think, and you’ll be cursing yourself for not starting to study sooner.

Unless you happen to be very brilliant student and have a photographic memory, you will probably do very poorly on your exams if this is the way that you prepare.

Every time you go through this ritual, you tell yourself that you’re going to smarten up the next time you face a big exam. Next time you’ll start to study weeks in advance, you say. But instead, you keep repeating this crazy pattern.

You put off studying, and then it’s too late. Why does this keep happening? And what should you be doing instead if you want to get better marks?

A big problem for most people, especially those who are young students, is that life gets in the way. If you’re a student, you probably have a part time job, and like most young people, you also want to have a social life.

Studying can seem very boring compared to all the exciting temptations just outside your door. Or the games on your computer. Even watching old reruns of Sesame Street can seem more interesting than the biology text your teacher is expecting you to master!

One reason we often don’t start studying until the last possible minute is that we have misjudged how long it will actually take us to absorb and understand the material. If your mid-term is still six weeks away, that might seem like plenty of time left before you need to get around to studying. You might find however, that the subject matter is a lot harder to understand than you thought it would be, and all of a sudden there’s no time left to ask someone to explain it to you.

Another reason we often put off starting to study is that we are too overwhelmed with how big the project actually seems to be. Somehow we convince ourselves that putting off a tough study project can be the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by it. Then, our anxiety makes it difficult for us to settle down and tackle the books.

When we are faced with a study project that seems exceptionally difficult and overwhelming, it can be to maintain a high level of interest and motivation for the duration of the learning process.

If you have been guilty of all these bad study habits, it’s not too late to learn some other habits that will work better for you.

First, remind yourself why you want to do better in your studies. Maybe you need a good mark to get into a good college. Maybe you want a chance at a career that will pay you well. Always keep your end goal in mind.

You can put little cards up around your room with inspirational messages, and attractive photographs that will remind you why you want to do well in school.

It's very important that you don’t put yourself down for not studying. Putting yourself down will only increase your anxiety and make you rebel against your school work. You will also decrease your self confidence.

Instead, look for positive ways to reinforce your desire to learn. You can actually train yourself to enjoy studying!

One step to improving your study habits is to make learning and studying feel enjoyable to you, instead of treating studying like a dreaded chore. Let yourself feel actual pleasure in what you are learning.

Tell yourself that you enjoy learning new things. Tell yourself that you're smart and that learning new things is fun. Enjoy the challenge you are facing. Find ways to get excited about the material. Tell other people what you are studying, and spend a bit of time explaining it to them.

This will signal your brain that the material is important, and that learning it is enjoyable. You will be able to understand and remember the material better when you are relaxed instead of anxious and when you have confidence in yourself as a learner.

Author's Bio: 

Royane Real is a science educator and the author of several books on improving learning. This article is taken from the new short report "Your Quick Guide to Improving Your Learning Ability" You can get the paperback version or download it from http://www.lulu.com/real