How to study when you have no time

Middle-aged businessman looking at his watch

You are busy. But, you still want to improve your English. So how do you make the most of the little time you have? 

Here are four simple steps to make your study time more effective. 

  1. Study small amounts.
  2. Protect your schedule. 
  3. Know what to study.
  4. Reward yourself. 

So, let's get into it. 

1. Study small amounts

It’s better to remember one word than to forget twenty.

Some students say, “I have no time, but I need to study everything.” No, that’s a way to forget everything.

It’s better to remember one word than to forget twenty.

If you have a very short time, study a very short list of things. In other words, set realistic goals

For instance, if you are working on your vocabulary, spend enough time on a couple of words to remember them easily. Remember their nuance, their common usage, and their pronunciation

2. Protect your study schedule

Is English important to your career goals? If it is, then protect your study time. You can tell some people, “Sorry, I can’t meet at that time.” Study time should be scheduled.

Ideally, you will study at the same time every day. This time totally depends on you—some people like to study on the train, while some can’t. Some people like to wake up early, while others like to study at lunchtime, and still others have more energy at night. If your current study time doesn’t work for you, then find a time that does.

3. Know what to study and review

Have a smart list of words, phrases or pronunciation points to review. Then it will only take you a few seconds to jog your memory.

Review new material within 24 hours or you will forget 80% of it.

When you do have time, for instance on a Sunday evening or during a weekday morning with no meetings, take time to decide what to study. Follow your teacher’s advice, use a textbook, and/or highlight useful language and make a note of it to review later.

Many students use a notes app on their phone or a small notebook to keep a list of language to review. Always review new material within 24 hours or you will forget 80% of it

4. Reward yourself

Honestly, when most people say “I’m busy,” what they really mean is “I’m tired.” When we talk about finding time to study, most of us are actually talking about finding the energy to study. So, reward yourself with simple things you like. 

On the train, you can study for a few minutes then listen to your favourite music. If you’ve studied for a few days in a row, then eat at your favourite restaurant. If you’ve reviewed every day for a week, then you’ve earned something nice on the weekend.

Finally, when you do improve, your motivation will go up, and that will give you the energy to study a little more. Continue that cycle, and you will be speaking more and more fluently in no time!