This Is How I Study: Part 1

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 8, 2015.

Inspired by the popular Lifehacker series, This Is How I Work, and the companion post from Letters to a Young Librarian, we here at Hack Library School would like to share with you some of the tools and tips we’ve learned during our time in school. This series, titled This Is How I Study, will feature questions (some original, some borrowed) about study habits and technology must-haves that we have found to be effective. As always, we welcome comments and tweets, so feel free to share your own tried and true methods or to suggest questions you’d like to see us answer.

Question 1:

Besides your mobile devices and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?


Since elementary school, I have adored mechanical pencils, especially the side-click ones. They’re like handwriting’s version of not having to take your hands off the keyboard. Also, since the librarian in me frowns upon writing in books but the English major in me wants to “interact with the text,” pencils are the perfect compromise.


I don’t go anywhere without headphones. As a remote student who often relies on recorded lectures and other audio media, they are vital when I am working on schoolwork. Beyond that, listening to music and podcasts during my commute is actually one of the most relaxing parts of my day – nothing is worse than getting on the train only to discover that I left my headphones at home!


I could not survive without paper goods. Notepads, notebooks, planners, and post its galore! I rely on them to brain dump, create to-do lists, break down assignments into smaller bits to make them more manageable, take notes, etc. I’m the type of person that has to write things down. I’m looking at my office right now and I’m surrounded by paper. I have a weekly desk pad with meetings and major events for the week, my planner that I showed you in this post, a list with spring 2015 work goals, today’s to-do list, a notepad full of work ideas, a list of sections I need to work on for my capstone paper (due this Sunday!), and a list of due dates for all the assignments I have remaining this semester. Yeah, I definitely don’t think I could survive without paper goods.


I’m going pretty old-school with my “gadgets” here, but I really can’t get anything done unless I have a pen and paper. Something I’ve discovered about myself in the past couple of years is that I think best through the physical act of writing and drawing diagrams; there’s just something about putting an actual pen to actual paper that helps me process and gets me through that dreaded writer’s block. Keeping a small Moleskine in my bag has done wonders for my productivity–and it keeps me from needing to scrounge around in my bag for old receipts to scribble on.


I couldn’t get anything done without my calendar. All due dates, timelines, reminders, to-do lists, etc. are written down in a monthly planner that I take everywhere. When all of my priorities are right there in front of me, I don’t have to worry about forgetting to send those emails, submitting that paper, or getting my blog posts up on time!


Coffee. Okay, so it’s not a gadget, but if we’re talking things I can’t live without in order to study/do work/do homework, coffee is at the top of the list. I actually can’t do homework at home; I spend my Sunday school time at the coffeeshop around the corner from my home or, more recently, at Starbucks. Only because the local place doesn’t have cinnamon dolce lattes. Yum.


My notebook! I keep track of everything from assignment due dates, ideas for HLS posts, dinner plans, and books that I want to read. There’s something quite satisfying about creating a list and checking off items as they are completed. My notebook is also lightweight and easy to carry around with me, unlike my clunky laptop.


I often study in coffeeshops or on campus, so headphones (and coffee) are a necessity for me too! I love listening to music, and especially if I’m in a place with a lot of conversations or other noise going on, they can help me focus.


Since Gennie & Julia have already said “headphones,” I’ll say a little tin box, the kind that you get with breath mints or cough drops. That’s where my earbuds live, with their cord wound up so they don’t get damaged. There’s also room for some almost-essential things: a couple pair of earplugs in another little tin that once held lip balm, some postcard & letter stamps, an eyeglasses cleaning cloth, and a bunch of tiny sticky flags to put on library books so I don’t mark them up with pencil. I can’t imagine how much time, mental energy, and stress I’ve saved by not trying to keep track of these things separately!


I’d have to go with a large display computer monitor (not my laptop, which is much smaller). I have a large monitor on my work computer and I frequently use large or even double-monitor setups at the libraries where I study. They’re not necessary all the time, but I find them particularly useful for web design projects, desktop publishing, and any other situation where I want to be able to see multiple windows/applications at once. The first time I used a double-monitor setup it was a game(/life)-changing experience.


It’s apparently a little old school, but I genuinely couldn’t live without my watch. Mine broke recently and I’ve been a bit bereft.  I don’t always have access to my phone to check the time and with two jobs and all sorts of other commitments it’s really important to me to be able to check I’m on time.  It’s great while studying – like quite a few others here I need pen and paper for complex things and having my watch means I can move away from electronics completely and still not run over time!

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