Winter break is finally here. You should definitely take this time away from your studies to enjoy your holidays and have some fun. That said, there’s also a new year right around the corner. That makes now the perfect time to cut out bad habits and adopt some positive new patterns!

A few simple tweaks to your routine could really make the rest of the school year fly by. With that in mind, here are five resolutions to adopt this January that can help you kickoff a strong new year!

1. Make a Commitment

Really effective study plans take practice. No, seriously! If you really want to get the hang of studying (and retaining) the material you need to know by exam time, it’s a good idea to get on that as soon as possible. Take it from an old-school slacker: the “slack and cram” method doesn’t work like you think it does! In fact, it’s actually one of the best ways to get mediocre grades and overwork yourself at the same time. 

Smart study routines cut out a lot of junk that might gum up the works for you later on. Scientific data backs this up; cramming increases anxiety, dramatically reduces information retention, and decreases your ability to focus when you need to. Don’t take my word for it. Click that link… it’s science. 

A smart study routine does not include the slack and cram method. Instead, you should:

  •  Set a time of day that you feel most ready and able to tackle tasks
  • Carve out a set amount of time to dedicate (1-2 hours) to study
  • Set goals and stick to them

However you break this time and routine up, keep in mind that you’re essentially resetting your internal clocks to break the cramming habit. Trust me, it’ll save you time and stress later on. 

2. Ask for Help

Suppose you struggle with one particular subject. Winter break would be a good time to tackle it before exams swing back around.

Remember, high school seems like it should be dedicated to fun and relaxation. However, your performance in the next few years will be the factor that determines whether you get into the college you’re aiming for. It could even influence what careers you have access to. So… no pressure or anything!

Listen, everyone has a subject they’re not the best in. My advice here is to spend some of your downtime (like during the handy study period we just discussed) focusing on learning this material. You don’t have to do this alone, though.

You can visit a tutor, engage a study partner, or even go online to learn tips and tricks about studying on Youtube. Help is out there. Go get it!

3. Beat Procrastination

Procrastination is going to be one of the hardest things to overcome as a youth… AND as an adult.

We all get it. After all, why would you want to spend your precious time doing work when you could be relaxing or having fun? Well, the frank truth is that you aren’t working for someone else. You’re working for YOU.

It’s up to you to make your dreams happen. It’s going to take a lot of self-discipline, though. A few ways you can defeat the urge to procrastinate include:

  • Breaking up larger assignments into smaller increments
  • Using timers (and refusing to ignore them)
  • Forming a study group that can help keep you accountable
  • Using checklists 

A quick note: if you’re still experiencing extreme procrastination even though you’re working hard to combat the issue and nothing seems to help, there might be something else going on. Speak to your parents about cognitive therapy and positive mental health strategies.

4. Get Organized

“Controlled chaos” really isn’t as great as everyone pretends it is. It’s not cute or romantic, so don’t set yourself up for failure by embracing it.

Organization is the key to success, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something. Getting organized is actually not that difficult. Besides the checklists we mentioned above, here are a few simple steps can help you make your life so much easier:

  • Set up a calendar and fill it in for the whole semester.
  • Set reminders in your phone or Google Calendar for important dates.
  • Clean your room.
  • Keep your books and folders in your study space or backpack.
  • Harness the power of the Sticky Note (physical reminders really help).
  • Choose an accountability buddy (don’t force your parents to do it).

The trick isn’t getting started, it’s sticking with it. Just remember: the few seconds you take to put something where it should go, or to highlight something important, can actually save you hours later on.

5. Give Yourself a Break

You might have heard adults talk about “work-life balance.” The same issue is of concern to high schoolers, also. 

All of this advice is extremely important and designed to give you a leg up at school and in the future. But, don’t forget that “study time” should also have a clearly defined “end” time. 

You should have a respectable portion of time set aside every day to study and retain the information you need to succeed. In most cases, just one hour per day should be plenty. There is no reason to torture yourself or cram any further than this. If you don’t understand something, ask your teacher at school, or set aside a portion of your study time to focus on those hard topics (above). 

Your free time is for you, and you are important too. Now go outside or something. You’ve earned it!