Undoubtedly, the most difficult thing about self-study is to maintain discipline and stay motivated while you progress through the course. The fact that there’s nothing stopping you from just dropping it at anytime is daunting for many, as well as the fact that there’s no one but yourself to remind you to complete assignments and stay on track. With these things in mind, we’ve compiled some tips to help you with your self-studies, which hopefully will help you “stay the course” (pun intended)!


Set Realistic Goals


Setting work goals, more importantly setting realistic and achievable goals that fit in with your life and other commitments is imperative when self-studying. It’s common to be overwhelmed looking at all the things you’ll be doing over the course of your studies, and setting small goals like assigning yourself a given number of segments to complete in a given day or week helps take pressure off your mind. Lots of small goals are far more easily managed than one large goal.

One common approach to goal setting is to make SMART goals, SMART being an acronym that stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.” Goals need to be specific, otherwise you won’t have enough direction to follow through. They need to be measurable so that you can quantify the progress you make and have a well-defined finish line. They should be attainable, as setting yourself up for failure only leads to frustration and inaction. They need to be relevant to you, because if it’s a goal that you don’t care about it will never get done. And finally, they should be time-specific, or in other words “have a deadline”, so that you have a defined end goal and a sense of urgency.


Review Material The Same Day


After completing your studies for the day, it’s important to review what you’ve learned to help it stick in your mind. This could be by typing up notes, practicing applications, or even reading over the material again. It’s best to do this the same day you learn new material, but any sort of review is extremely important. All of this doesn’t take long, and helps with long-term recall of the material.


The picture above shows the typical amount of retention seen after learning new information. The most important take-away from this diagram is the fact that every time new information is reviewed the curve expands outward and more information is retained over time.  Even if it’s for as few as 10 minutes, that review will keep you from reaching the bottom of the curve!


Create a Study Environment


Your work environment has a lot of influence on your work. It’s important to create and maintain a space dedicated to studying, such that every time you enter that space you are mentally prepared to learn. This can be a desk, a table, wherever you feel comfortable. What’s important is that you’re studying in the same place every time (if you can help it) and that the place is a suitable environment to focus. Here are a few general ideas to keep in mind:


  1. Comfort is important, but being too comfortable is also bad.
  2. Personalization is key, and helps with comfort in the space. Try adding things that have meaning to you to the space, like family photos or your favorite colors.
  3. Clutter in your study space can be a distraction. Clean and organized spaces are shown to improve study time and retention of information.
  4. Remove any sort of distraction (Phones, Social Media, etc.) from the space. Your focus should be entirely on your studies, and anything that takes away from that is detrimental.


What sort of techniques do you use when self-studying? What are some other things to avoid? Leave a comment below, and check back next week for another edition of Links Interpreters Love.


– William Cerkoney


If you’d like to read more about self-study tips, click one of the links below: