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How to have a successful study session

Updated: May 27, 2022

I suspect many language learners are a bit disorganised in their study sessions. It's easy to lose focus, get distracted or find something more interesting to do! However, being able to work effectively is massively important, not only to language learning but also to success in other areas of life. In this post, I'm going to share four ways that you can get the best out of your study time.

Aim of session

Firstly, I feel it's important to have something specific to achieve in each session, no matter how short it may be. For example, you may be aiming to write an email, revise some grammar or work on some pronunciation. Having an aim is important as it gives you focus and something to measure. Ideally, your aim for each session would fit into a bigger study plan so that each study session is linked to others, but at the very least, it will help you to have a clear objective in mind before you begin to work.

Wellbeing and productivity

Your success and productivity are deeply connected to how you feel. If you are stressed, tired or distracted while you are studying, it's far less likely that you will achieve what you want to and this will then trigger further feelings of frustration. In addition, taking micro-breaks during your study session - for example by having a 5 second rest every twenty minutes - can keep you mentally alert while you are working. Also, make sure that you limit your possibilities for being distracted! Turn your phone off or put it in another room. Do not open YouTube (unless watching a YouTube video is part of your study objectives!) or other social media channels as it is very hard not to start looking at people's posts.

If you like to snack while you are working, make sure you have your snacks ready in advance so you are not wandering into the kitchen halfway through and make sure you have a drink with you too.

Filling in extra time if you achieve your aim

If you had decided to write an essay in one hour and end up finishing early, it is very tempting to stop studying. However, these last few minutes can still be valuable. You could:

  • do a short vocabulary review

  • plan your next session

  • work on some minimal pairs

I call these 'micro tasks' - very short tasks that can be done in a few minutes. I often do some micro tasks if I have set aside and hour for working and finish my main task early. Doing this makes sure I have made the best use of my hour and over time, these micro tasks add up! Don't, however, use the last five minutes of a session to do something that you find difficult. Use them for easy, fun learning activities.

Ending on a good note I firmly believe that we should end sessions on a positive note as this leaves us with happy memories and more motivation for our next session. Even if the session has been challenging or you have found obstacles in the way of your progress, I would still encourage you to look for the positives and also to praise yourself for the work you have done. Learning a language is difficult and there will be days when things do not go according to plan. However, it is always possible to find a positive in what has happened. Also, I would advise that you take a moment to consider your next session - is there anything that you need to do next time as a result of what you have done today? Does today's session affect your overall study plan? Considering this will help to contextualise the session and will put any setbacks into perspective.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about staying relaxed while you are studying.

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