Getting Organised for Study

See also: Learning Approaches

Getting yourself organised so that you can study effectively is an important first step in study skills.

The information on this page may seem obvious to you but many people overlook the obvious and attempt to ‘jump straight in’ to study without planning and organising appropriately.

For your study time to be effective it is recommended that you find a suitable place to study. You should then make sure you have easy access to the tools and resources that you need to study.

A Place to Study

Finding a suitable place to study can be a challenge for some people, you may be lucky enough to have easy access to a library, university, college or school facilities or a quiet office at work. 

However, many people study at home - often home is not conducive to effective study. Take some time to understand your personal requirements in terms of location and conditions that enable you to study effectively; try to maintain a flexible and adaptable approach as your situation or circumstances may change during the course of your study.

Different people vary considerably in their circumstances and in the way in which they study most effectively.  When starting a programme of study, or when reviewing your current circumstances, it may be useful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will you be studying mainly from home or ‘on location’ at your school, workplace, library or somewhere else?

  • Do you have a choice in your study location or will your personal circumstances dictate this?

  • Do you study better in a peaceful setting, one which is free from interruptions, or do you prefer to have others around you, perhaps being able to interact with family, friends, colleagues or peers?

Considering your Study Environment

When choosing a study location it is important that you make the best use of your time.

To do this you will need to find a place where you can have all your materials: notes, books, timetable, writing materials and computer to hand.  It may not be practical to always have a computer available, especially if you are studying in a family setting, maybe you have shared access to a computer?  In such situations you should consider the time of day when you will be studying and have access to a computer when needed.

There are other practical things to take into account when thinking about where to study. 

A good source of light, such as an adjustable lamp is important, especially if you intend studying into the evening or in an environment without much natural light.

You should also think about distractions and annoyances that may be present and try to eliminate them as much as possible.  It is generally useful if everything that you might need is within easy reach of your chair, this can save unnecessary moving around and distractions while you try to concentrate.

When you first start to study you may well overlook important environmental factors or tools that you need – the more you study the clearer you’ll become about what you need and where you need to be for optimum concentration.

For more see our page on Ergonomics.

Organising Your Materials

While thinking about your place of study, some thought should also be given to organising.

There will, inevitably, be increasingly large amounts of printed material such as notes, books and journals.  Try to keep your materials organised in suitably indexed files, making use of a system of labelling that is clear, bold and easy to read at a glance.

A simple filing system is often overlooked, especially by new students, but it can help you to save a lot of time.

Be organised and file your materials - instead of sifting through piles of papers over and over looking for that one sheet!

If you plan to study in different locations at different times, make sure you carry all the materials and tools you need with you.  If you plan to study remotely think about other practical concerns – will you have access to a Wi-Fi network, for example?

When to Study

Deciding where to study is an important first step, equally important is determining the best times to study.  The following questions will help you to think about when to study:

  • On a weekly basis, how many time slots will be available for you to use?
  • Could more time be made available if necessary?
  • How will you achieve a positive work/study/life balance?
  • How will you manage your workload to meet the required deadlines?
  • Is there a set pattern to when you study each week?
  • What time of day will you study?  What time of day do you find it easiest to concentrate?
  • What is the optimum period of time in which you are able to maintain concentration?
  • What will you do to avoid or minimise interruptions when you are studying?
  • How will you deal with interruptions if (and when) they occur?
  • If you are unable to study as planned how will you ‘catch up’?

Developing a Support Network for Study

It is a good idea to think about developing a study relationship with your contacts. At school or university this may be your tutor, other members of staff or other students. At work this may mean your boss and/or your colleagues.

Such support can be very valuable when:

  • You want to ensure that you get the best possible support by asking the most appropriate person for help in a variety of situations.

  • You find you are struggling for whatever reason as you will not want to waste time trying to locate help.

It is worthwhile making an email or phone list of other useful contacts – to build up a network of support.

Knowing who to contact for different types of support is always a good idea, maybe just friends who are good listeners.  Asking for help and support is crucial when you study.  Not asking for help when you need it can be detrimental to your confidence and self-esteem and this can negatively affect your studies.  If you lose confidence then you will be more reluctant to ask for help.

Networks of support can make the everyday challenges of study more manageable.

When you run into a crisis, which most people do from time to time, your support contacts can make it easier for you to complete your course successfully, offering help and advice, boosting morale and motivation and encouraging you to continue positively.