5 top tips for returning to study

By Chloe Burroughs,

Returning to study after a few years (or decades) out of formal education can be utterly terrifying. You feel like you’ve forgotten how to study, or that maybe you never really learned in the first place. Making the decision to hit the books again is a big one, so here’s five tips you can use to get the results you need (and perhaps even enjoy it!)

1: Embrace organisation

It’s not the sexiest of study skills I know, but organisation is vital. Ensure you have one place where you schedule all your studying, work and personal commitments e.g. a digital calendar, or physical planner. This birds-eye-view of your commitments will allow you to flex your schedule where necessary to get your studying done.

2: Plan your week

Spend ten minutes every week identifying your priority study tasks and the exact days and times you’ll work on them. Knowing what you’re going to do and when will boost your motivation and productivity and keep you on track.

3: Create an enjoyable study space

Hopefully you have room in your home for a desk, whether that’s a dedicated office, fold-up desk, or the kitchen table. Think about what small things motivate you day-to-day such as fresh flowers, a house plant, a lamp, photos of your friends and family, fun stationery.

Then think about what you need to be your best study self, such as fancy tea or coffee, yummy snacks or music that helps you focus. Add these to your study space and study sessions to make your studying more enjoyable and reduce the temptation to procrastinate.

4: Talk to your network

Returning to study doesn’t just affect your life, it also impacts the lives of your loved ones and those you live with. So, have a chat with them to gain their support:

  • Tell them why studying’s important to you and the benefits and opportunities it will open for you (and maybe even them e.g. an increased salary may mean more holidays/treats with your children)
  • Ask for their support with non-studying responsibilities such as housework, cooking, childcare…etc.
  • And even if you don’t have a family and are just starting out in the professional world of work and study, explain that regular “you-can-bloody-do-this” pep talks can be very helpful!

5: Believe you can become smarter

Doubts and limiting beliefs are common for those who are returning to study or starting on a new career path, therefore it’s vital you develop a growth mindset – the belief that you can increase your intelligence with effort, support and smart strategies. The inverse is a fixed mindset – the belief that you can never really change how smart you are. The problem is that a fixed mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you see yourself as a C-grade student, you won’t see the point in putting in the effort required to achieve an A.

Fixed mindset students shy away from challenges and constructive feedback, so develop your growth mindset by seeing these as opportunities. Reframe mistakes and struggle by identifying the lessons, so you can move forward with a new strategy.

Believe you can become smarter, and you’re already halfway there.

Chloe Burroughs is author of The Return to Study Handbook, published by Kogan Page.

Save 25% as a CIPR member with code CIPR25 when you purchase the book here.

Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash


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