The Successful Accounting Student: Establishing Healthy Habits

Studying accounting is hard work. There never seem to be enough hours in the day. It is too easy to switch on the television and watch the latest reality smack down rather than walk ten feet to the kitchen table and open your accounting text. Studies show that establishing good habits is not necessarily a major feat, but a rather a series of feats that begins with one step. Taking that first step can be the difference between success and failure or between a 3.5 GPA and 2.5 GPA.


According to procrastination expert, Hara Estroff Marano, the reasons people procrastinate can fit into three broad categories:

Arousal Types wait until the last minute seek the thrill of succeeding with moments to spare. These folks have ample supplies of energy drinks in their pantry. After they’ve scored a respectable B on a test, the feel exhilarated. Who else could study complicated accounting concepts in one caffeine-fueled 24-hour period and do so well?

Avoiders tend to fear failure or even success. They are concerned with others’ opinions of them and would rather refuse try than have others believe that they aren’t capable.

Decision Procrastinators have a difficult time making a decision and often postpone things in order to avoid taking responsibility for the outcome of events.

After reading the above descriptions, you probably know which category you fall into. However, it probably is not enough to stop. Procrastination is a habit you’ve developed and habits are hard to break.


Willpower seems such a difficult  skill to develop. It is so hard to resist the donuts in the break room when starving, or to get up and go for a jog after a long day. But But most accomplish feats of willpower every day by waking at a certain hour to meet daily obligations, or avoiding snack food aisle at the grocery store. We want to avoid our supervisor’s disapproving glance when we’re late, and we eat before going to the grocery store.

Similarly, establishing a new habit can be a simple act of setting up a short-term aid that relates daily tasks to long-term goals. For example, you may decide to get up an hour earlier to get in some study time. To make it easier, you could resolve to go to bed an hour earlier each night a full two weeks before you intend to start getting up earlier. By the time the two weeks have passed, you may already be getting up an hour earlier.

Cue/Routine/Reward Cycle

Establishing good study habits may require more than a simple support aid. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” habits, good or bad, follow a simple Cue/Routine/Reward pattern. Establishing a new habit is a “simple” matter of inserting a new cue to reward the routine (habit). For example, if you would like to get up an hour early to study for your accounting class, you might reward yourself with a double-shot macchiato after you’ve done so. The reward must be something you value more than the extra hour of sleep. If you need extra support, establish a adverse reward if you neglect to do the intended behavior. For example, you could disallow your favorite television show if you haven’t studied that morning.


Establishing new habits means breaking old ones, which can be difficult. It takes time to establish the habit, so if you’re not successful right away, don’t give up. Make sure the reward your giving yourself is something that’s more important that the comfort of the old habit, and modify if necessary.


About Sara Huter

Sara Huter has over 15 years experience in the banking and energy industries, and over 10 years as an adjunct professor. Her work has been published for, the International Directory of Company Histories, the Encyclopedia of Business Insights: Global,, and Find out more about Sara at her Google+ Profile.