As a lifelong learner, I tried a lot of tools that are supposed to boost study performance and the following list of the best study tools worked best:
- Pen and notebook – nothing beats your own notes
- A whiteboard – visualize what you learn
- A kindle paperwhite – carry your library with you
- A good chair – Don’t trade wisdom for back pain
- Noise-canceling headphones – removes any distractions
Now you might think: No mobile phone? This list is not for me – too old fashioned. But wait – let’s take a closer look at the tools and why they stood the test of time over any modern smartphone or electronic gadget.
1.Pen and notebook – nothing beats your own notes
You might call me old-fashioned but pen and paper have some real advantages over modern apps and online technologies. As obvious as it might sound but they do not require electricity. This means in comparison to a phone App once your notes are written down they are available to you at all times. If you learn how to write structured notes your personal summary of the material is the perfect way for reviews right before the exam. This puts your mind at ease because you are not dependant on an electronic device that can be stolen, broken, out of power or disconnected. Just imagine you rely on a digital device that is not accessible for any reason just before your next exam. Not only is all your hard work gone but your stress levels will go through the roof as well. Even when I am not preparing for an exam I always carry a pen and a small notebook with me so I can quickly jog down ideas or questions to research later. Usually, while I am studying for an exam I take regular breaks and go for a walk. So often when I kept on thinking about the material questions or additional research topics came up that I quickly “saved” to a piece of paper. I used to take just any ballpen but unfortunately, I have the habit of chewing on the end which resulted in a lot of broken pens and blue lips once in a while. One day I got a gift which I keep on using until today, the Lamy stainless steel ballpen. Simple design and unchewable. You can find it here on Amazon or on my resource page along with my other recommendations.
2. A whiteboard – visualize what you learn
If you have the space for it I definitely recommend to get yourself an erasable whiteboard (preferably magnetic) to visualize your material and/or plan out your study day. Every evening I write down my to-do items for the next day in one of the corners of my board. This reminder has the advantage that I can get to work immediately in the morning, no need to procrastinate because I don’t know where to begin. As soon as I finished an item I put a very satisfying tickmark next to it which keeps me going just by looking at what I accomplished already for the day.
Sometimes a whiteboard is also a great tool to clarify a topic. Drawing a short diagram or picture often helps to grasp more complex relationships just by visualizing it and taking a step back.
3. A kindle paperwhite – carry your library with you
When it comes to ebook readers there is and always was only one choice: The Amazon Kindle (Paperwhite). In the beginning, I was disappointed by the limited connectivity in terms of social media but it turns out this is by far the biggest advantage for distraction-free learning. So don’t use an App on your phone or tablet to study, switch them off. The Paperwhite is light and comes as close to a book reading experience as it gets. I personally do prefer a real book but the electronic version comes with some advantages even I can’t ignore. First of all it is waterproof and can store thousands of books. The battery life is great so even on a short trip, it is unlikely you run out of power. Carrying a whole library with you enables you to study anywhere and use otherwise “dead time” like bus or train rides.
4. A good office chair – Don’t trade wisdom for back pain
sdfdfIf you do some research on which office chair to buy 2 brands always pop up: Herman Miller and Steelcase. I think it is safe to say that most of their line-up hits the top 3 of the best chairs regularly. So I checked out the Steelcase Leap and the Herman Miller Aeron on Amazon as one of the most recommended chairs on the market. I was really in for a surprise when I saw the price tags on those items. So as much as I would like to have one and recommend it I just didn’t have a spare $1000 – if you can afford one of these I would love to hear about your experience with it.
I started to look at the $100-$200 price range and surprisingly the Amazon Basics chairs kept coming up as a good low budget alternative. The Amazon High-Back Executive Swivel office chair was highly recommended but since I am living in an area where summer days can get very hot I didn’t want to sweat in a chair with a leather back. Finally, I ended up buying the Adjustable High-Back Mesh Chair and I am pretty happy with it. For me, it was important that the height was adjustable and that it has a headrest so I can lean back and reflect on my study material once in a while without getting neck pain. The breathable mesh makes learning during hot summer days very comfortable
5. Noise-canceling headphones – removes any distractions
If you read some of my other articles you already know what is coming: Right, the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II, one of the best products ever and worth every penny. The reason I am willing to pay the high price for these headphones rather than for a chair is that they are a lifesaver in many situations. Since this post is about study tools, first of all, they remove any distractions since the noise-canceling effect is just amazing. You can listen to relaxing music but as I pointed out in my article here the best way to study is to “listen to silence” according to science. Another great benefit of the Bose is how they perform on an airplane. If you ever took a long-distance flight you know what I am talking about. Being able to sleep and arrive relaxed at your destination makes all the difference. But even if you are not a frequent flyer the possibility to escape your noisy everyday environment into a moment of silence is priceless. Just get one of these, you will not regret it.