New Resolutions + New Habits = Transform Your Life.
How to Create an ARE Study Habit that Sticks.
It’s January, you’ve made your “get architecture license” new year’s resolution, and purchased some ARE 5.0 study materials. But have you taken any real steps toward achieving your goal?
Shopping is easy and purchasing stuff we think we need to start working towards our goal feels good. People join a gym, buy workout clothes, or stock their fridge with healthy foods. But that won’t get you to the gym 3 times a week, or force you to eat avocado toast. And the study materials you bought...they’re still waiting for you to use them. By March 54% of resolvers have lost motivation and are trying to forget they even made any resolutions. But there is hope.
Upon digging into the research I found that the often-cited statistic that just 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions is incorrect. A few copying errors and incorrect sources cited spread the misinformation all over the internet. But I digress. The good news is that 46% of self-reported resolvers were still successful at the six-month mark. How do they do it? Do they have some genetic advantage or a highly classified secret? I don’t think so. But, I wager they’re creatures with good habits.
A simple resolution to get your architecture license or start taking the ARE isn’t enough. Setting an ambitious goal that is overwhelming and vague isn’t going to cut it. It lacks specificity and isn’t measurable. Like any design project, your resolution requires a plan, delivery system, schedule, and milestones in order to achieve it. This is the first and most crucial step, and it requires some pretty tuff work. You need to be willing to change your behavior, break bad habits and form new ones to create study habits that stick. It’s definitely not easy. It takes effort and time, something most of us barely have enough of. If you skip this step, you’ll struggle to achieve your goal, and it’s probably the reason why you have failed in the past.
The Power of Habits
To create a realistic plan and form good habits that stick, it’s necessary to understand the power of habits and the decisive role they play in your success or failure. If you’d like to consistently devote time to study, you have to change how you currently spend your time. You must quantify how much time you’re losing to bad habits and transform them into habits that will help you achieve your goal.
Take a hard look at your current routine, schedule, and time-sucking bad habits to figure out how you can reallocate your time. How much time do you spend binge-watching Netflix? You don’t have to give it up entirely just cut back a little. Can you wake up 30 minutes earlier? Are you an iPhone addict, social media or news junkie? Check your screen time – if you dare. Finding 30 minutes a day will give you close to 4 hours of study time per week.
The total amount of time reclaimed will be the time you can dedicate to studying. If you only have an hour, use it. The fact is after 25-30 minutes of studying, our ability to retain information starts to diminish. Long study sessions are not particularly efficient. A shorter duration of deep focus can be more productive and if repeated often will quickly start to add up. Remember, your initial goal is to form a study habit that sticks, which is the key to reaching your ultimate goal of having your architecture license.
Once you’ve determined how much time you can realistically allocate, you need to plan out where and when you’ll study. You may decide to spend 1 hour 3 times per week, at the coffee house near your office, or 30 minutes each morning, or a combination of both. Whatever the plan, include it in your schedule and write it out. For example, during the week, I will [ insert activity and length of time here] at [location] on [time and day(s) of the week].
To establish this new study habit and set yourself up for success you need to establish milestones and build a reward system into your new routine. Initially, you can set smaller milestones at daily and weekly intervals. The rewards you choose should be something you will look forward to and should be reserved solely for this purpose. This reward system is known as a habit loop that will help you build momentum and solidify a habit. As you achieve the initial goal of sticking to a study habit, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, which will quickly replace the need for a material reward as your brain interprets the habit as the reward.
There’s a lot of research about habits and great reads to help you make the changes necessary to achieve your goals, including licensure. Once you understand the transformative power of habits and how they work, you will have the power to transform your life.
Lying About the ARE Exam Could Help You Pass, Seriously
Few people outside the world of architecture can understand the scope, difficulty, and challenges posed by the ARE 5.0 exam. Tackling the licensure process and passing all six exams is a major commitment of time and money, not to mention the inevitable injury to your self-esteem along the way. You know it's a herculean task, but not many others will get it. And all those questions, smirks, and expectations only add to the pressure you and most ARE candidates feel.
The fact is, even "master test takers" fail these exams. It’s a reality for most ARE candidates. The ARE is not your typical standardized multiple-choice exam. Expecting to pass every division the first time is not realistic. Just take a look at the ARE 5.0 pass rates – something is wrong, and it's not you – a topic for another post.
The resulting anxiety can be debilitating from this undue pressure. But, for many candidates, their anxiety isn’t about atychiphobia (fear of failure). It’s about having to explain a failed exam to friends and family who don’t get it. Ugh. Sound familiar? There is one way to avoid these awkward conversations. Lie!
Announcing your goals publicly can be counterproductive, whether it’s weight loss, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or taking the ARE. The people you tell start to think of you as an architect, so the announcement itself feels like a small achievement toward that goal (an empty achievement). Then, if you fail, dealing with the fallout can be soul crushing and create a negative feedback loop.
Don’t tell people when you’re testing. Keep your test dates and study schedule to yourself. Nobody has to know. Let’s practice.
Them: “Hey, what are you doing after work?”
You: “I’m, uhh, meeting my cousin… from out of town.”
You, actually: Studying with CLARE ARE exam prep.
Them: “You have plans this weekend?”
You: “Yeah, I’m going, ummm, hiking, on Saturday.”
You, actually: Going to the Prometric testing center.
See? It’s simple.
Now, if you fail an exam (at some point you most likely will), there’s nobody to answer to but yourself. Of course, there’s still the time, money, and self-esteem issues to deal with, but at least you won’t have to see the disappointed look on grandma’s face, or hear your friend say, “But didn’t you go to school for that?”
Lying about the ARE 5.0 is not a cure for anxiety. You’ll have to work that out with your therapist. It’s a strategy; a way for anxious candidates to minimize external pressures while navigating the inevitable pitfalls of the ARE. It’s self-preservation. Getting a FAIL is part of the process. Only quitting is failing.
Get back at it. We'll keep your secret and help you pass the next time with CLARE.
Best Practices for the ARE 5.0 – Study Habits
It’s mid-February, almost 2 months have passed since you made your “I’m finally going to get licensed” New Year’s resolution. You’ve purchased some ARE 5.0 study materials. By now you have daily study sessions seamlessly integrated into your daily routine, right? So you’ve logged over 200 hours of study time.
Or not. Life gets busy. There are family obligations and work responsibilities. Situations occur that are out of our control. It’s only natural to get distracted and to be preoccupied when you’re being pulled in so many different directions.
Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. - Napoleon Hill
It doesn’t help when you read about people passing all 6 exams on their first try in just three months. In fact, it can make you feel worse, even though logically we know that such an ambition is unrealistic for most people.
So what is the best way to study for the ARE 5.0? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We all lead such varied and diverse lives. It all comes down to habits.
We first make our habits, and then our habits make us. - John Dryden
Good habits are in a way a kind of best practices we can do for ourselves. Good habits take effort, consideration, and discipline. You have to recognize what is important to you, prioritize, and hold yourself accountable. Good habits require self-reflection and impartial feedback. They need clarity and commitment. Good habits ask that you listen to your needs and offer encouragement when needed and praise when earned. Good habits demand regular maintenance to sustain them until they become habitual. Routine. Then, they are just a part of who you are.
Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits. - Twyla Tharp
To create good habits and a sustainable routine, it is imperative to set realistic goals. Start small. Be creative. It may seem difficult or nearly impossible to find even a small window of time for ARE 5.0 study. It means taking a hard, honest look at how you spend your day. Are there time-sucking habits or practices can you reduce or better yet, eliminate? Instagram, Netflix, Reddit? Thank u, next. Replace them with habits that will help you achieve your goal. The right study materials can make it fun and satisfying as you follow your progress. You don’t have to block hours of time. Just finding 30 minutes here and there. Studies show that shorter durations of deep focus and repetition is more productive in maintaining long term retention.
Is there a time of day when you are at your most productive? Do you need complete silence or do you need the hum of activity in the background? You may decide to spend 1 hour 3 times per week, at the coffee house near your office. Maybe during your lunch break or 30 minutes before or after work. Perhaps waking up before the rest of the house stirs and studying in the stillness of the dawn will work best for you. This should be a priority, so put it on your schedule. This, of course, means actually making a schedule. A realistic, well-organized schedule. This has always been my downfall. Just telling myself I am going to do something has never worked for me.
I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do. - Roald Dahl
Maintaining a routine is the best way to instill a habit. And, as Roald Dahl said, with “very little original thinking to do,” routines free your mind of the maelstrom of life and allow you to focus on the important work.
In addition to quality study material, establishing a new study habit is paramount to achieving success on the ARE 5.0 exam. I have found the BestSelf.co daily planner system to be truly invaluable. Honestly, I have tried them all. (Like many creative people, I have ADD.) I don’t know who started this company, but I am forever grateful! The 13-week BestSelf planner helped me establish milestones to reach my goals and it holds me accountable. By defining goals and breaking them down into manageable daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, it allows me to focus on what needs to get done. And with the daily reflections and gratitude, I learn from my mistakes and appreciate my accomplishments. I am able to remain positive, excited, and inspired. It took dedication and discipline to follow the plan, but nothing worthwhile comes easy, right?
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. - Pablo Picasso
Building a reward system into your new routine is an essential element in cultivating good habits. The rewards don’t have to be big or even materialistic. The rewards are simply extra motivation to encourage you to stick to your program. You will soon find that with every target you hit and every milestone you achieve, the sense of accomplishment will be all the motivation you need.
My daily reward is simply just checking things off my to-do list. And yes, there is an App for that. DONE is my favorite. It is easy to set up and I love the clean look. (I color-coded mine so that every task has a different color. Throughout the day, as I complete them, it creates a visually pleasing color palette.) DONE keeps you accountable for any habits, tasks, or goals. It keeps track of streaks and trends at a glance so you can easily appreciate your productivity.
There is plenty of research on the benefits of routines and good habits. Additionally, there are fabulous resources and Apps out there to help you get into the groove and commit to a study routine. Instilling these best practices into your daily life is the first step in achieving your goals, be they personal enrichment, professional advancement, and yes, even passing the ARE 5.0.
We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough. -Helen Keller
It’s your turn!
(Ready to get serious?)