Your surroundings make a huge impact on how efficient and effective you are. They can affect your mood, energy and concentration, and your study space is no different. Consider the place you finish most of your schoolwork:
Are you in an office with constant commotion?
Is it in a coffee shop with dim lighting?
Do you sit on the back porch watching your kids laugh and play?
Whatever the atmosphere of your study space, though it be homey and comfortable, it may actually be hurting your studies. So, to get down to school business and actually accomplish something on time (and yes, even early!), make sure your ideal study space meets these 9 critical factors:
1. A Writing Surface
Although there isn’t much your computer can’t do, there are times when you just need to write things down. Notes and math problems may be easier to understand when written on paper. Or you may be the type of learner that needs to draw and diagram the information. Your study space should make it easy for you to write and jot down any ideas to save them for later.
A chair can make all the difference between focusing on your work and falling asleep in the middle of a chapter. Choose a chair that is comfortable, but not so comfortable you want to take a nap in it. Oftentimes, a dining room chair works best. Whatever chairs you choose, make sure that it allows you to focus on your schoolwork and can accommodate your writing area.
Having sun filter through your windows can be just as important to your studies as to your home décor. Small daily doses of sunlight can help you sleep better and increase your mood, which will improve your focus and creativity. If natural sunlight is a no-go for you, position yourself so that any main source of light shines on your side and that of your computer screen to reduce glare and eye strain, and prevent squinting.
Clutter can cause stress, and stress can cause poor grades. When you have a clean workspace, you are less likely to get distracted. So your study space should be organized so that you can find what you are looking for, whenever you are looking for it. Pick out storage that addresses your needs; are you a packrat? Get some filing cabinets. Do you print every piece of paper related to your course? Perhaps a binder is more effective for you. The right storage can stop messes and piles from forming, and save you your sanity.
5. Access to Outlets
It’s 2:00 a.m. and you are almost finished with your final term paper. You’ve ignored the notifications from your laptop signaling that your battery is getting very, very low. Just a couple more sentences and… the screen turns black. Panic sets in. What happened to all your work? Was it AutoSaved? Has this ever happened to you? Avoid such a situation and make sure you have access to an outlet close to your study space; close enough so connecting your laptop to a power source won’t interrupt your focus.
Yes, your study space should be reserved for completing work, but allow for a few subtle personal touches to make it your own and motivate you. Hang a corkboard on the wall to display family photos or funny quotes, and double as a place to post course reminders and deadlines. These personal touches can serve as a powerful inspiration to finish your schoolwork, and ultimately, your degree.
Your mind and body should be in sync when you study; too warm and you’ll fall asleep. Too cold, and your clarity will wane, thus making studying that much harder. While there’s no “right” temperature to study, the best one for you should increase your productivity.
Without distractions, think of everything you could accomplish! And today, the interruptions never seem to stop, whether they are family or phone calls. Choose a study space that has limited noise and little to no distractions, that means closing the door for quiet time, setting aside your phone or blocking your favorite websites. The more distractions you actively reduce, the easier it will be to avoid any temptations.
9. BONUS: Coffee!
Whether it is coffee, chewing gum, exercise or water, there’s bound to be something that stimulates and re-energizes you. Anticipate what it is before you study, so you can incorporate it into your breaks to refresh and refocus.
What study tips do you have to stay productive and focused?
This article was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for accuracy.
Written by Thomas Edison State University