5 Habits of Ineffective Students

on April 4, 2012

In our reductionist world, we increasingly believe in the power of certain diets, vitamins and chemicals that can help us study. Every week a new ‘superfood’ is hailed as the best study cure since Ol’ Grampa’s Snake Oil. Coffee is good for you, coffee is bad for you take these herbs, drink this much water per day. It’s a minefield.

Marketers are quick to prey on the anxieties and fears surrounding exam time. Some of their recommendations will work and others won’t. But some things are guaranteed to not help you in the slightest. Here are 5 things to avoid when studying:

Lots of Sugar

I had an obsession with Skittles when I was studying. I would eat around 3 packets an hour. As I crunched the rainbow, my blood sugar level went on a rollercoaster ride. It effected my concentration. Professor David Benton from Swansea University in Wales has proved that people with overly high or low blood sugar levels perform less well in tasks associated with memory and concentration.

Late Nights

A study by Brown University has found that 73% of students report difficulty sleeping. Further evidence showed that students who went to bed before midnight performed better in cognitive tasks than those who did not even the amount of hours of sleep were the same. Sleep problems can affect mood and concentration. It was probably the reason I threw a certain malfunctioning cable at the wall this morning. If only I would take my own advice…


There have been no studies on whether meds like Addarell and Ritalin help mentally functional students to study or not. However both are derivatives of amphetamine and amphetamines are known to negatively affect mood and perception of reality. While they do increase concentration they may in fact ‘over concentrate’ your mind which effects creative and big picture thinking. You might also get a visit from meth-heads nightmare, The Shadow People. And no-one needs that while they are studying.


Your room is a representation of your mind. What’s it like? Is it tidy? Organized? Or is it full of overflowing ash-trays, unwashed socks and yellowing paperbacks? Having a messy room is distracting and can affect your emotional wellbeing. Humans have evolved to avoid mess as it can harbor infection and dangerous animals. Somewhere deep in your psyche, your brain is saying ‘aaarrgh! There is danger here’. Not conducive to studying.

Distressing environment

I’m a big fan of having music on in the background while I work. It’s helps me concentrate. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about those wastemen your housemate is letting couch-surf in your lounge. I’m talking about your choice to live above a noisey bar. Some of these things can’t be helped but you need as peaceful an environment as possible. If you are in a noisy area try and get outside into a peaceful natural environment at least once a day.


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