As a productivity nerd who works with college students all day, I’m naturally interested in what highly successful college students do differently than their peers. Many factors contribute to academic success, and they’re certainly not all within a student’s control. Here’s one that is, though, and it’s under-acknowledged: successful students simply notice what’s working for them and what’s not.
When an approach or tool is serving them—be it a time management method, a Lily Pulitzer planner, a note-taking style, or even a certain major—these students double down. They see what’s working in their lives and what’s not, and when something’s not working, they change tacks almost immediately.
Many of my struggling students exhibit an almost diametrically opposite philosophy: they seem less aware of their own habits and behavior, and because they’re slower to take corrective action, minor problems often grow into major ones. These students are no less gifted than the successful group, and they’re not afraid of hard work. They just don’t notice/attack problems until they’re bigger and harder to solve.
It’s not just college students who benefit from keeping a watchful eye on their own lives—we all do. And lucky for us, this posture of paying close attention and taking quick action doesn’t require natural intellectual ability or even scads of self-discipline. It just takes focus, courage, and a willingness to try something new.