The 21-day rule for effective study: myth or reality?


    Who wouldn’t dream of a magic tool that would make studying an unburdensome and even enjoyable experience? Let all the skills and abilities be recorded on the tape of consciousness by themselves, and we would be able to activate one or another mechanism at the click of a button. Is it possible to get even a little closer to this cherished dream of any student?

    The Power of Habit

    Unfortunately, the only thing that happens to our brain by itself is degradation. It takes effort to make positive changes. But there is a mechanism that can significantly reduce the load on the brain and minimize stress. 

    This mechanism is familiar to everyone. You don’t feel overloaded when talking to your buddy and don’t fall from fatigue after a walk in the park on a warm June evening, do you? These activities have become habitual for you, and the strain from them is almost zero. But in early childhood, your brain had to work hard to teach you to talk and walk. 

    From this fact follows a very positive conclusion: the secret of the success of any activity is a formed habit of doing it. 

    Anything can become a habit 

    The hardest things are the actions that we perform for the first time, without any preparatory basis. That’s why consistency is important in mastering any skill: from the simple to the complex. In order to solve a math problem for 5th grade, you need at least to know numbers and understand the simplest logical operations on them. And in order to paint a picture, you need to know how to use a brush and paints. 

    When you repeat the same actions day after day, they take up less and less mental energy. They become elementary to you and are done on automatic. The secret is that this peculiarity can be used not only to form purely practical skills. Likewise, thought patterns and even character traits are formed.

    All scientists have the critical thinking, not because they were born with it, but because they learned and got used to it. Creative professions require an entirely different way of thinking, one that allows you to go beyond logic and follow your inner motivations. 

    Learning is not a hard labor

    The problem associated with a dislike of learning begins in the first grade. Few children are enthusiastic about doing their homework. With a much greater pleasure children would stay home with their toys. But they can not! You have to go to school, you have to, you have to. And so until high school. 

    The thing about first grade is that kids are loaded with too many new things. A different environment, a completely different daily routine, strange people – and how not to get confused. Besides, they are forced to study. As a result, kids in elementary school suffer from the stresses not only on the intellectual but also on the emotional sphere. And what is most upsetting is the impossibility of giving it all up. There is no going back to kindergarten.

    So early in childhood, the most unfavorable habit for learning is reinforced: the habit of thinking that school is such hard labor that you cannot get away from it. All the good and interesting that you can get from the learning process slips away. A negative attitude is formed.

    How to change negative attitudes and increase the effectiveness of learning?

    Back in the 1950s, plastic surgeon Maxwell Moltz identified one feature common to all of his patients. Each of them needed about 3 weeks to get used to their new appearance. Subsequently, he experimented with other human habits and deduced that 21 days – the minimum period in which they can be formed. And this is not a myth at all.

    It takes 3 weeks for the brain to build new neural connections. Some habits will take longer. That is, do not expect that in 21 days you will miraculously get rid of everything you have accumulated over the years. This is only a minimum period. Further, the new settings need to be fixed for a long time.

    It turns out that each of us has an opportunity to reprogram ourselves to a more effective way of thinking and acting, as well as to change our attitude towards ourselves, putting into practice the 21-day rule.

    Change the attitude toward learning 

    You go to school or attend any other educational institution solely for your own good, not because your parents told you to. Always keep in mind the idea that it all comes in handy. 

    Remember that you know almost nothing about yourself and your brain. There is no telling what abilities and talents lurk in your head. Try out all the sciences gradually to find your own. This conscious approach to learning will allow you to do your homework on your own without resorting to paper help, because now you will do your homework not because your teacher needs it, but because you need the knowledge.

    Write your schedule and follow it

    Everyone has their biorhythms, and only you know exactly at what time to do your homework. Make it a habit to do your homework at the same time, and do not allow yourself any excuse to distract from studying during these precious hours. At first, it may be difficult, but after a while, you won’t have to force yourself. 

    Such regularity is like washing your hands or brushing your teeth in the morning – if you don’t do it, you will feel discomfort. Just don’t go to extremes. Rest, as well, should be on a schedule.

    Cultivate a proactive approach to problems 

    Sometimes problems are even a good thing. Psychologists argue that a person necessarily needs some difficulties combined with an active intention to solve them to be happy. 

    Fortunately, students have no shortage of difficulties: an upcoming test, an essay or a term paper, etc. It is important to learn to keep an active attitude and not to lose optimism.  

    Even if the task seems very difficult – this is speculation. Any academic task is potentially solvable. You just need to start taking action. Sketch out a work plan, if it’s a big project. Get into the essence of the problem, reread the conditions several times, write on paper your thoughts on the topic of the upcoming essay – the beginning is done. 

    Remind yourself of this principle every time a problem arises in front of you. Such a proactive approach to the solution not only contributes to your academic success but also greatly increases your self-esteem. After all, from now on, discouragement is not your companion, and you are able to cope with any difficulties.

    Remember, about 95% of our actions, thoughts, and emotions are just habits formed over the years. Some of them are very useful, some of them are only worth getting rid of. Learning can be a great habit, and it’s up to you to make it so. Just watch your thoughts and direct them to your desired path.


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