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December 4, 2020
What’s one of the hardest parts of post-secondary school? Studying of course! It is not easy to get and stay motivated but here is a secret – your study space matters. It is true, the environment you create for studying can make a difference to how well you study and ultimately how well you do in school.
There are a number of tips available to help you create the best study space so we have combed through them and chosen the top five that you can implement immediately, with minimal expenditure, to ensure you have the area you need to do your best.
Humans are creatures of habit. Ever notice how a sense of hunger or a food craving will form when you walk into the kitchen? Or have you felt like relaxing after spending a few minutes in the bedroom? These rooms are designed for certain activities and our constant use of them in those ways creates a strong habit that is difficult to avoid. Use this conditioning to your advantage.
Find a space to use as your study area. It does not need to be a whole room or even a desk. It can be a certain chair at the dining room table, one end of the couch or a seat you have set up in the laundry room. Define this area as your study space mentally or even take it to the physical by putting painter’s tape on the floor to mark the boundaries, or drape a scarf or towel to create a border.
Only sit in this spot and use this space when you are studying. Do not use it for any other purpose. By first defining the space as what it will be used for and then using the space for only that purpose, you will be conditioning your brain to know what it needs to do when you go there. As your body approaches your study space and enters it, over time your brain will gradually learn to switch into the mode to study.
You have a study space defined, but it needs to be functional. Slouching in a bean bag chair may seem like a great idea at first, but soon your back may start to ache, your books will fall onto the floor and your foot will fall asleep. Ergonomics is the science of design and arrangement so that humans and things are able to interact efficiently and safely with comfort – think about ergonomics when you set up your space.
The bean bag chair might work if it is against a wall and provides back support while you make use of a stool as a computer table. The point is to set up your study space in a way that ensures there is no strain on the body or discomfort. Constant repetitive motions like typing or turning the pages of a book should be easy with no discernable force placed on the body.
It is important to ensure chairs or other seating properly support the body in a natural position and that tools like books and computers are accessible at levels that don’t require eye strain or excessive arm motions or unusual posture. Generally speaking, this means sitting in a chair, feet flat on the floor, back straight, elbows close to the body and at a right angle with forearms parallel to the keyboard so wrists stay flat.
Some schools like to keep the temperature low because there was a theory that colder air would help keep students awake. Unfortunately, the flaw in this is that if the room is too cold, it will become a distraction. Get to know what temperature is comfortable for you (most likely between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius) and keep the temperature constant.
Clothing should also be comfortable and relaxed to ensure ease of movement, but take care not to slip too far into lounge mode and want to go to sleep! Have layers of clothing available within your study space so that if the temperature fluctuates you can layer up or layer down to stay at your preferred temperature. Choose a chair or seat that feels good, but not so good that you are tempted to lean back and have a nap.
It is hard to avoid all the distractions available on our phones, but it is quite important while studying. Let those most likely to contact you know you will be studying for two or three hours and ask that they only call or text if it’s an emergency. Put your phone within hearing distance, but out of reach.
Also, keep the TV off and choose white noise or ambient sounds over your favourite playlist. Keep toys and games outside of your study space as well. Ensure you have lots of water within reach and if needed and your favourite study snacks, like raw almonds, an apple or popcorn. Just remember a napkin so you do not get buttery fingerprints on your pages! You want to ensure you have access to what you need but are not tempted by possible distractions.
Seek out natural light for the study space you choose and add supplemental lighting if needed. You do not want to be trying to set up an airplane runway of brightness, but you also do not want to be squinting at pages in the dark.
Additionally, only have what you need in your study space. While having a whiteboard may seem like a great idea, if you do not use it, it becomes a source of clutter and another potential distraction.
Studying can be easier, more comfortable and more productive when the space you choose and create is created right for you. Take some time to establish your study space and keep it just for those activities. You will find your brain will move into study mode much more quickly with this dedicated space and you will have everything you need at hand.