Kate Hardin

Staying Organized

Have a designated place for your stuff

One of the classic tenets of studying is to always study in the same place. It’s not a bad tip—not only can you tap into environment-related memories, but this also makes organization a whole lot easier and reduces your set-up and break-down time. But for some people, myself included, this simply isn’t a practical rule. I’m a study nomad. I migrate from room to to park to cafe to different cafe. If you’re the same way, then try to create a portable study “office” that you can carry with you. Keep all your books, markers, pens, headphones, and whatever else you need to work in one bag (or box, or saddlebag on a donkey, or whatever floats your boat). Have a set organization system to minimize the amount of time you spend looking for things and unpacking.


Get everything you need ready before you start studying

Don’t you hate having worked all day without accomplishing anything? A lot of the time we waste (other than on social networks) is spent doing seemingly productive things: sharpening pencils, for instance, or finding good study music, or frantically looking for an outlet to plug in your computer. When you first get to your study place, try to get all of this out of the way. In your free time, create a study playlist or Pandora station, so all you have to do is click “play.” Sharpen your pencils, stack your books, and go ahead and make a pot of tea and grab some snacks so you don’t find yourself scurrying back to the kitchen every 20 minutes.

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On a somewhat related note, here’s a great tip I learned from a friend of mine: if your studying is technology-dependent, carry an extension cord and a splitter so you’re not in a lurch if there’s a shortage of outlets.


Stick to your schedule (or at least don’t binge)

We’ve talked about the physical organization of your study space, so now I want to touch on one important aspect of mental organization. Everyone gets a little over-zealous sometimes. Usually it’s at the beginning or right when you break out of a study plateau. You know the feeling—when it’s one in the morning, and suddenly all you want to do is read your entire Official Guide in one sitting? Or maybe you do listening practice for four hours straight. As admirable as it is, try to curb your enthusiasm just a little bit. Cramming, as I’ve said over and over, isn’t as useful as slow and steady studying—particularly when it comes to skill development (as opposed to the learning of discrete facts). Plus, if you do so much of the same thing, you’ll burn out. And you’ll try to justify it–”I don’t need to do any more listening this week—look at everything I did last night!” But the actual benefit of “everything” in that situation is pretty small. So keep taking your small bites, and if you get the urge to study extra, stick to materials that fall outside of your regular study plan.



  • Kate Hardin

    Kate has 6 years of experience in teaching foreign language. She graduated from Sewanee in 2012, where she studied and taught German, and recently returned from a year spent teaching English in a northern Russian university. Follow Kate on Google+!

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