Study Smarter: 7 Study Hacks to Stay on Top of Your Language Studies

Feel like you’re falling behind with your studies?

Or maybe you just want to get the most out of your study sesh?

Keep reading for 7 easy to implement study strategies.

1. Exercise First

We all know exercise is good for us but did you know that exercise can actually improve your memory and thinking skills? Working up a sweat increases your energy levels, kickstarts brain function and reduces stress. But how does this directly influence your studies? Well, we commit new information to memory more readily when we’re feeling energized and relaxed. So, if you’re trying to memorize new vocabulary or a grammar rule, it’s best to do it when you’re feeling fresh. If you’ve had a long day and you’re feeling low but want to get in a short study sesh, pairing it with a short workout can also help you focus better and stabilize energy levels.  

Working out before you get to work will help you focus better during your study session. Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash

2. Disconnect

Be honest with yourself for a second. When you sit down at your desk, do you always give your studies your full, undivided attention? If you responded, “Hell yeah!” move right along. If you reluctantly, admitted to being a bit distracted (and I think most of us are guilty of this!), then this one is for you.

Instead of mindlessly checking your phone for Whatsapp messages or Instagram updates, download a blocker app like Cold Turkey (iOS, Android and Desktop), Forest (iOs and Android) or Strict Workflow (Google Chrome Extension) and watch your productivity soar. All you have to do is set a timer and it’ll block you from productivity killers like Facebook and Reddit. You can add additional URLs to the website. To add apps to for your computer, you’ll have to fork out for the premium version.

3. Study Less

This may sound a little counterintuitive but there are only so many hours in the day! Ever heard of the 80/20 rule? The 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle basically says that 80% of results, come from just 20% of your input. In other words, 20% of the study you’re doing, is leading to the majority of your results. So, how can you apply this to your study? Well, the trick is to prioritize, divide and conquer. Think about how much time you typically spend studying, when you’re your most productive, and make a plan to optimize your study time. Instead of allocating yourself 4 hours to study over the weekend, try studying for half an hour or 20 minutes every day.

4. Break It Up

This one follows on from our last tip.  Maximize your study gains by deciding what you need to focus on, then break up your study sessions according to individual tasks, grammar points or topics. The idea here is to train your brain to stay on track and avoid distractions by working in short bursts. At the end of each mini sesh take a little break before continuing with your next task.

One way to do this is by using the Pomodoro Technique.

  1. Choose a task you need to finish and set your timer (Pomodoro) for 25 minutes.
  2. When your time is up, note down the session on a piece of paper and take a short break. (Your break shouldn’t last more than 5 minutes.)
  3. When you complete 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-30 minutes).

5.  Make Connections

Making mental connections plays an important part in memorizing information. The more mental associations you can make between different ideas, the easier it will be to remember and recall that information later on. Incorporating this technique into your studies is surprisingly easy to do.

One way to do so is to look at things in a more global way. For example, if you’re practicing a new verb tense. First, you could study it independently. Get the uses, form and relevant examples (which connect to your personal story!) down. Then, look at how that tense fits in with the other verb tenses you know. How is it similar or different to other tenses you’ve studied? Does it correspond to a similar verb tense in your first language?  Not sure how to apply this to learning new vocab? Read all about it here.

6.  Make a ¨Cheat¨ Sheet

Just for the record, we’re not endorsing cheating by any stretch of the imagination. We do, however, endorse studying efficiently. And, reviewing your materials, and condensing them until you have the most important info all in one place is a solid way to do that.  The trick is not to get bogged down in the tiny details and make an unnecessarily long summary. Your cheat sheet should only have the most relevant info.

Got a vocabulary test coming up? Study your vocab list before bed to help commit new info to memory. Photo by Tamar Waskey on Unsplash. 

7. Review Before Bed

Getting a good night’s sleep can work wonders, not just for your overall health but also for retaining new information. Numerous studies, (like this one) suggest that a study session followed by a good night’s sleep can be beneficial for performance. Basically, by studying before you hit the hay, your brain gets straight to solidifying new memories without the added interference of day to day activities. “But after a long day, I just wind down…” I know, I know. That’s why we recommend reviewing instead of an all-out study sesh. Read over your cheat sheet or download a language learning app to review vocabulary.