I would say read a lot, write a lot :-). There are also some good dictionary apps that I tend to play with while waiting in line at the store, at the airport etc.
Approaching the Kanji analytically is hard - especially if you are doing it from within Japanese. 80-90% of Kanji are actually phonetic in the original Chinese: You take the character 斤 jin (axe) and use it to write 近 jìn (near) by adding the character for walking underneath (sounds like jin, has to do with motion). If you are lucky the two will still sound the same in Japanese, but often they will not (the sound correspondences often fall apart in modern Chinese) and Japanese imported the same character with different readings over time (Go-On, Kan-On, To-On). Once you add the local Japanese reading(s) it gets hopeless - what does chikai (near) have to do with an axe and walking? This only makes sense if you know that "near" sounded similar to "axe" in ancient Chinese :-D.
In the absence of a simple shape-sound-meaning correspondence, some people opt for made-up etymology - often with very esoteric results. ”毎(every) is written with a man and a mother because every man has a mother” - stuff of that ilk. There are even entire books dedicated to this - some are honest and do not pretend to be offering anything but made-up mnemonics, others suggest that this was the true story of Kanji and leave you with the impression that the ancient Japanese / Chinese must have been continuously high. As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of this approach, but some people swear by it.
On the plus side, if you have 4 years (!) even the traditional practice, practice, practice approach should work well. 頑張ってください！