With the exam season just around the corner, you might have a resolution or two in mind. Sometimes we only think about resolutions at New Years, but you can change your mindset anytime.
For most, resolutions are getting rid of bad habits and negative behavior – going to the gym more often, saving more, and so on.
One setback you don’t want to experience this year is in your study efforts for the NCIDQ Exam. With limited time, you’ll want to cut your mistakes— not only on the exam itself, but also your study habits leading up to the exam.
“The problem is, we have a natural tendency to assume blame when our new habits don’t stick. We assume we are the problem, when the reality is it was the strategy we were using to begin with. It’s simple:
If you can change your strategy, you can change your behavior.
With Qpractice, make a resolution to make the most of your NCIDQ Exam study approach.
Mistake #1: Relying on willpower for long-term change
You can’t “will” yourself to make changes. While it might work for a short time, like saying “no” to anything chocolate, it’s not a long-term solution because it creates what’s known as “decision fatigue”. Instead, Fogg suggests to create “tiny habits” that aren’t overwhelming, and eventually become part of your daily behavior.
One “tiny habit” Qpractice members recommend is to keep a pen and notebook handy to jot questions down during the day to research later. How many times did something pop in your head and you’ll tell yourself “I’ll have to remember to look that up later”, and then forget? Note the practice test questions you miss, so you can research them afterwards. Take a picture with your phone or jot it down with your tablet memo app. “Willing” yourself to remember a bunch of ideas is unreliable.
Mistake #2: Attempting big steps instead of baby steps
A lot of people celebrate achievement only when it’s large, with measurable results. Finishing a marathon is a good example. But instead consider rewarding yourself for keeping up with the daily training. While milestones are worth praise, it only makes it more challenging to start something new with such a huge goal looming over your head.
Taking baby steps, one at a time, will get you to where you need to be. So, for example, by taking a few days to tackle one chapter of David Kent Ballast’s Interior Design Reference Manual, you can work yourself through an entire section in a measured period of time. No surprises. Less stress. You can celebrate after you’ve completed the section.
Here’s how Qpractice member Caroline Leemis studied for her NCIDQ Practicum Exam by writing down a list of manageable tasks.
Mistake #3: Ignoring how environment shapes behavior
There’s a saying: Change your environment and change your behavior. The way you act is often a product of what’s going on around you.
Do you find yourself watching TV during your evening NCIDQ Exam study time? Take your books to another room if other family members are watching TV at night, or go to your favorite coffee shop or a public library. Get away from external distractions, and you won’t be distracted yourself.
Mistake #4: Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new onesRelated to the willpower mistake in #1, simply trying to avoid problems is setting yourself up for failure. It’s very challenging and draining to stop negative behavior. So instead of trying to squash it, replace it with a positive behavior.
Jason Fried, co-founder of project management app company Basecamp suggests instead of making something worse a little better, how about making something good a little better?
Don’t spend so much time looking down. Look up more.
If you have trouble sitting still while studying, don’t fight it. Go out for a walk instead. Walking can help you work through problems and spark creativity. You’ll feel refreshed when you return and may gain a new perspective on your NCIDQ Exam study material.
Mistake #5: Blaming failures on lack of motivation
Motivation isn’t stagnant, but ever-changing. Like emotions, motivation can be fickle and when you need to rely on it, you may be disappointed.
One way of conquering this isn’t changing your level of motivation, but instead creating easier behaviors that are painless to resist. For example, read just one more page a book of than you originally anticipated. You can easily check in with the Qpractice study group or review five study flashcards before leaving for work. Make it so easy, that you can’t say no.
Mistake #6: Understanding the power of triggers
At the root of every habit, good or bad, is a neurological loop that consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue triggers your brain to select and carry out a habit. So, to break a bad habit, first identify the trigger that sends you off on the wrong path.
One trigger I identified is studying while hungry. It throws me off track. I’d get up to get a snack, then would straighten up the kitchen, then get my snack, then I would watch TV while I ate it…and then finish the program I meant to watch for only ten minutes. An hour passed by and my time was lost, all because I took a break I really didn’t need. I could have just grabbed some carrot sticks or something before I sat down to study.
Mistake #7: Believing that information leads to action
Knowledge is not power, but knowledge and application is. This is especially true on the NCIDQ multiple choice exams. An idea is only as good as its execution, so be sure to apply your ideas.
One approach I took when I was studying for the NCIDQ Practicum was taking the time to analyze public restrooms. I’d assess the configuration and identified which components weren’t up to current code standards. No measuring, I quickly did this just by eyeballing the space.
Looking at actual spaces with different layouts versus the couple of floor plan examples studied in a book proved to be very helpful. Plus, these real-life scenarios are the type of situations we’re really training for.
Mistake #8: Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviorsEver listen to a speaker or experienced something that you inspired you to do something big? Starting your own business is a popular example. Unless you take action to make that inspiration happen, like creating a business plan, it will remain an abstract goal. A pipe dream.
Most of you have the same goal — to pass the NCIDQ Exam. Without a solid strategy, attaining this goal is highly unlikely. This is where Qpractice’s study schedule provides a step-by-step daily action plan to prepare for the exam.
Mistake #9: Seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time
Few of us “live” in the present as much as we think. If we’re not pining about the past, we’re usually worrying about the future. Focus instead on the present and what you can do today. According to Fogg, a fixed period works better than “forever”.
Since the study period leading up to the exam is a fixed period of time, changing your behavior is much easier when you know you need to change for for a few months versus the rest of your life. So, giving up your Saturday afternoon plans for a few weekends to tap into Qpractice’s Saturday Live Office Hours isn’t really too much after all. Just showing up is half the battle.
Mistake #10: Assuming that behavior change is difficult
You know that saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It’s easy to argue why you can’t do something. But, if you have the right strategy, changing your behavior is really too difficult.
Take one new action today. If you’re taking the NCIDQ Practicum Exam, maybe buy some drawing templates you’re missing or load up on a roll or two of tracing paper. Get ready. Do something. Remember, each of these baby steps will get you to where you want to go.