7 habits of highly successful students

7 Habits of Highly Successful Students

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Are you tired of seeing your results and grades not match the hard work you’re putting in, and you keep wondering what all the high-achieving students are doing? In this article, we’ll break down the 7 habits of highly successful students.

We’ll talk about the best practices that they are doing, which you may not be doing. Habit #6 is one of my favorites, so make sure you check it out!

I’ll share how you can access the exact step-by-step strategy that I used in medical school to finally get the grades I wanted with less time.

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

But wait a minute! If you want this post in a video format, you can check out my YouTube video below! Make sure to subscribe for weekly content and leave a comment if you enjoy this one!

Habit #1 The Idea Of Forests And Trees

Most average students will become too obsessed with remembering just the facts or the big picture, but you have to understand that you likely need both.

7 habits of highly successful students (big picture and facts)

I remember early in medical school I was on both sides of the spectrum. Early on, I made big outlines that were great for the big picture, but they were too dense and hard to come back to.

Then I transitioned to the complete opposite side via flashcards, which I enjoyed. But I realized that despite understanding the tiny details, I no longer understood how to connect all the ideas.

I needed something to connect both the forests and the trees.

Here’s what top students end up doing. They often learn both the details and big pictures differently.

For instance, when I was in medical school during the weekdays, I would do flashcards to master both the details and foundations of the lectures I was learning.

Then one to two times a week, I would force myself to recreate these lectures from memory based on the flashcards I did on either a paper or a whiteboard.

7 habits of highly successful students (flashcards)

During these free recall sessions, I would often find myself getting stuck going from point A of a topic to point C. Identifying and filling these gaps helped me see the bigger picture and connect the overall lecture.

Imagine repeating this process over three to four weeks before each exam. I knew both the details and connections and thus, did well on the ultimate quiz or test.

If you’re interested in learning more details about this free recall technique as well as all the study techniques that I used to get a 3.9 GPA in med school, then check out this video:

Habit #2 Having A System For Both Work And Play

If you’re a 24/7 student, you’ll eventually burn out if you don’t have a system for both work and play. It’s simply not sustainable and not helping your results.

Instead, the top students look at their days and weeks, almost like many appointments, each with their own purpose.

For example, as a medical student, I wanted to make sure that my fitness and my relationships were still part of my daily life. So I would have a morning block meant for my workouts and evening blocks made for video calls, dinners, et cetera, with the people that I cared about.

7 habits of highly successful students (relationships)

Most importantly, these blocks could not be filled with school-related activities.

The rest of the time during the day and the week is left open for me to be a student. I even took it one step further where the first half of the study day was meant for the day’s lectures and the evening slots were meant for review, quiz, and test prep.

Thus, each day had a predictable flow and variation. Most importantly, it allowed me to still have my priorities fit in.

Habit #3 Energy Based Studying

You’ve likely already experienced this where you have wild fluxes in your energy level throughout the day.

Often, students will get tired around the 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM slot after lunch, but they still try to force themselves to do some high-impact study activity.

On the other hand, top students pay attention to what their energy flow looks like on a day-to-day basis.

For example, if you’re a morning person like me, you may realize that your mornings would be wisely spent on high-impact tasks, like doing flashcards or practice questions.

7 habits of highly successful students (energy based studying)

On the flip side, if you’re a night owl, you may make those most important study tasks later in the day.

Then you can evaluate the other study-related tasks that you have to do, such as watching lectures, doing modules, et cetera, that may not be as demanding and fit those into those lower energy slots such as in the afternoon.

Better yet, if you know that you’re not academically functional during certain time slots of the day, these are great time slots for you to use for other things such as your priorities, getting your fitness, your naps, as well as your hobbies.

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

Habit #4 Understanding Stress As A Cue

Since we work with so many med students in our study coaching programs, I often see friction when it comes to stress.

Here’s the big difference between how the top and the average students use stress.

Most new med students (myself included when I started medical school) become stressed and paralyzed when things become overwhelming. Suddenly, that identification of stress will make you think that everything that you’re doing is a problem.

Thus, because everything is a problem, there’s no clear solution, and this just leads to a situation that becomes more stressful and paralyzing.

7 habits of highly successful students (understanding stress as a cue)

But for top students, that same stress is a signal that things can get hectic and you should make some adjustments. Instead of letting stress lead them to a downward spiral, they become proactive and identify their biggest sources of stress and one to two small things that can be done now to address it.

Thus, over months and years, the average student will go from class to class and test to test feeling that they’re always trying to stay above water.

The top student, on the other hand, will use that same stress to progress and identify better systems on how to study and manage their time. They thus will also become more resilient when things aren’t going their way.

Habit #5 The Principle Of Just Doing The Reps

In medical school, I realized that there’s an obsession with the best resources and strategies.

I’ve been there. I’ve wasted hours obsessing over the resources and the strategies that would give me the biggest bang for my buck. In reality, all of that time could have been diverted to just picking one and doing the reps.

7 habits of highly successful students (just doing the reps)

It’s like prepping for a marathon and reading about how to become faster. In reality, it’s about the miles you put in and not about how much you read about the best ways to run those miles.

So just remember, just do the reps and you’ll likely be further along at the end. And while it’s perfectly fine to identify resources and study strategies that can help you become more optimized, try to set some time into your calendar intended for that research and spend the rest for actual work.

Habit #6 The Idea Of Parkinson’s Optimization

This is one of my favorites. You likely heard of the idea of Parkinson’s law, which states that work will fit the time that you allocate to it.

7 habits of highly successful students (Parkinson's law)

For example, if you give yourself 10 hours to do a project, it’ll roughly take you that long. Now, if the deadline suddenly was six hours, you’d find a way to get it done four hours quicker.

We often use that buffer of time to fill it with inefficiencies. The same goes for our setting and our life as a student.

Now, let’s take Parkinson’s law and turn it into something active that top students often do. If you acknowledge that your daily and weekly life as a student has inefficiencies, then becoming proactive in removing them will help you become a more efficient student.

7 habits of highly successful students (step 1 acknowledge inefficiencies)

One of the approaches that I use as a student and that we encourage our coaching students is the idea of the 25% cut. Simply take your total weekly study time or average daily study time and cut it by 25%.

For example, if you’re studying 10 hours a day for this exercise, take it to 7.5 hours.

7 habits of highly successful students (cut study time)

Now, practice filling that new reduced time slot with the tasks that you think are most valuable for that time that you have. Begin to ask which techniques, resources, and study methods aren’t adding to your learning or retention.

Is there something that you’re already doing that if you did more of it then you’d be in a better place, versus doing two to three extra things that are currently on your calendar?

This is how I went from 10+ hours a day of studying in medical school to 4-5 hours.

In my personal experience, I realized that study techniques like flashcards were a simple way to study. I then began to improve the system by optimizing how I made the flashcards and just did the repetitions.

It easily took out three to four other study strategies and resources for my day and my grades went up.

Now, if you want the same step-by-step strategy that I used, check out this Video Course:

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

Habit #7 Tunnel Vision Principle

This one is huge and something I’ve learned from my time running and training for marathons and races.

Everyone around you is running their own race and they are on their own journey.

If you are going to look around at others and use them as motivation, then that’s cool, pay attention to them. From personal experience, we’re often looking at our peers and classmates as a measuring stick, and that comparison doesn’t help you at all.

7 habits of highly successful students (tunnel vision principle)

So on your academic journey, if you have an approach and steady strategy that you want to abide by, put your heads down to the reps and put your blinders on.

Have tunnel vision.

If you feel like you’re struggling or need to be more optimized, just like I do when I’m in a race, look at the others for motivation and get ideas for small improvements. Begin to adapt them into your day to day and then turn your blinders back on.

7 habits of highly successful students (tunnel vision 2)

Now, if you feel like these habits of top-performing students can help you on your journey, then we have more advice and tips for you.

Again, you can get access to the eight-step study method that I used in med school to study from 8-10 hours to only 5 hours a day. This is absolutely free:

In addition, if you want 60+ tips that I’ve given to thousands of medical students, things that I wish that I got on my first day of med school, then get access to our med school success handbook:


And if you want better grades using the six-step method that has now taken hundreds of our students the best grades they’ve seen, check out how our Level-up Your Studying program can help you get the best grades and retention that you’ve been looking for.

If this article has been helpful, then check out these other articles as well:

Until the next one, my friend…

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