You’ve got a big test and you really need to do some studying. You head over to your favorite coffee shop, get an oversized cup of high-octane coffee, open up your book …
… and immediately get distracted.
You put on headphones and your favorite music but quickly find yourself grooving to thumping bass rather than focusing on your big test.
Or, let’s say you’re taking an online study course and also have small kids at home. As much as you love your kids, you need a space where you can get away from the noise for a bit and actually focus on knocking out this test.
Clearly, you need a dedicated study space where you can do some serious work.
Believe it or not, you don’t need to be an eccentric millionaire living in a castle on a cliff to have your own spot for studying. You can easily create one in your house or apartment as long as you follow a few simple guidelines when creating the space.
What are those guidelines?
Here are six …
YOUR STUDY SPACE SHOULD BE QUIET AND DISTRACTION FREE
In his book “The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson,” Emerson wrote:
At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion.
Okay, that may be a bit on the extreme side, but you get the point. There are a LOT of distractions out there.
First and foremost, you want your study spot to be quiet and free from distractions. This should be obvious, but these days, it’s pretty common to study in loud places with lots of background noise.
Or, many people will blast music or put on a movie in the background to “distract” them from the overwhelming quiet. They feel that having something happening in the background actually helps them focus. After all, nothing like “X-Men II” to put you in a calm, peaceful state of mind, right?
But what most people don’t realize is that a quiet, undistracted place really is the most productive when it comes to studying. Writing in Scientific American, Mark Andrews says:
Several studies have indicated that stress resulting from ongoing white noise can induce the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps to restore homeostasis in the body after a bad experience. Excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex—an emotional learning center that helps to regulate “executive” functions such as planning, reasoning and impulse control. Some recent evidence indicates that the prefrontal cortex also stores short-term memories. Changes to this region, therefore, may disrupt a person’s capacity to think clearly and to retain information.
This means that, ideally, your study spot should be peaceful and free from noise. Your phone and email should not be buzzing, and you may want to consider using a white noise generator to create a pleasant background noise. Alternatively, you could run a fan to create the same time of background noise.
There have been studies that have shown that a little classical music in the background can be helpful, so don’t be afraid to gently pipe some Chopin through your stereo.
There are certainly times when it’s appropriate to study in a coffee shop or with your favorite tunes bumping in the background, but for the crucial sessions, keep it quiet. Have the dance party when you’re done studying.
YOUR STUDY SPACE SHOULD BE COMFORTABLE
This should be obvious, but your study space needs to be comfortable. If you’re going to be spending long hours with the books, you need to treat your body right. The temperature in the room should be cool, but not so cold that you’re shivering, and warm without putting you to sleep.
Purchase a comfortable chair that will give you adequate lumbar support and a desk that you can sit at comfortably. You may even want to set up a standing desk, which can save your back if you’re going to be hunched over for hours.
If you’re a fitness buff, you could try a treadmill desk, but that might be a little extreme.
Your goal is to create an environment that you will enjoy being in for an extended period of time. If your study room feels like a solitary confinement cell in Alcatraz, you’re really going to hate studying.
YOUR STUDY SPACE SHOULD BE WELL ORGANIZED
You don’t want your study spot to look like a scene out of “Hoarders.” Everything around you should be well-organized and easy to find. Having notes scattered everywhere may give you that cool, “Beautiful Mind” feel, but it will kill your studying.
At the risk of sounding extraordinarily nerdy, we recommend keeping pens and pencils held together neatly, papers filed in appropriate folders, and study cards in the right stacks. If you’re a Post-It kind of person, stick all your notes on a piece of poster board.
Also think about organizing your digital files. You don’t want to lose a crucial paper or chart during finals. If you’re having trouble organizing things, consider using one of the following solutions:
These systems allow you to search for items, both by the name of the file and by words within the files themselves. Evernote can even handle OCR (optical character recognition), meaning you can put snapshots of handwritten notes in.
YOUR STUDY SPACE SHOULD BE PLEASANT
Not only should your space be comfortable, it should be pleasant. In other words, you should create a space that you simply enjoy being in. This will dramatically enhance the studying experience.
There are endless ways to customize your space. You can use candles or essential oil diffusers to add a pleasant aroma to the air. If you have dream of being a wealthy billionaire and literally rolling around in piles of money, there is actually a candle that smells like money!
Tasteful lighting can add a nice ambience to the room. Grab a few floor lamps or desk lamps and get rid of all the harsh, interrogation room lighting.
Don’t be afraid to add your own little touches. Are you a diehard Braveheart fan? Hang posters all over the walls. Do you have a weird obsession with Beethoven busts? Have him accompany you during your studies.
As mentioned above, you can also add pleasant background noise to drown out distractions. There are hundreds of apps and devices that create peaceful noises. If you want it to feel like you’re studying at the beach in a rainstorm, you can make that happen.
This is your opportunity to flex your creativity. Make a space that you actually enjoy spending time in. A space that you don’t dread. The more pleasant associations you have with studying, the more you’ll actually want to study.
YOUR STUDY SPACE SHOULD ALLOW YOU TO KEEP ON SCHEDULE
This requires a bit of explaining. The most effective studying happens on a very rigorous schedule. In other words, you know when you’re going to start and end, as well as when you’ll take breaks. Maintaining a schedule allows you to focus as well as providing you a sense of how much longer you need to study.
To take things even further, individuals who study best are those who break down their overall study time into blocks. Many people use what is called the “Pomodoro” method to focus for short bursts and then they take a short mental break.
For example, working according to the Pomodoro method, you could study for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, then study again for 25 minutes. After 3 or so study sessions, you take a longer break of 15 or 20 minutes. Breaking up your sessions in this way allows you to laser focus for short amounts of time, supercharging your studying.
Writing about the Pomodoro Technique, S.J. Scott says:
In theory, this strategy works because you completely focus on one task (like writing) without shifting focus or multitasking. When the clock is ticking, you ignore the urge to check email, hop on Facebook, answer text messages or do any other distracting activity. You’re in the zone and completely focused.
To study in such a fashion, you need a simple time keep device in your study space, like an alarm clock or timer. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate; just something that will let you know when to start and stop.
In addition to creating a schedule, you should also focus on studying during your prime time. This means studying when you are freshest and most able to focus. If you work best in the morning, that’s when you should be doing the bulk of your studying. Focusing on your prime time will double or even triple your efficiency, allowing you to remember more in less time.
CREATING RULES FOR YOUR STUDY SPACE
To make your study space most effective, you should create a series of rules that are in effect within that space. These rules aren’t designed to ruin all the fun but simply to make the most of your time. These rules could include:
- No mobile phones.
- No checking email or social media.
- No snacking except during designated break times.
This may sound a little silly, but you could even put a, “Do Not Disturb,” sign on the door to inform people that you are deep into an important session.
Jim Rohn said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Freedom ultimately comes through discipline, and implementing these rules is one way to create that freedom you need.
ENJOY YOUR SPACE
Due to space or budget restrictions, you may not be able to create the spot of your dreams, complete with a plush leather chair, tasteful art on the walls and a high-end sound system. After all, this is a study space, not a man cave or something from Pinterest.
But, by implementing just a few of these rules, you can turn even the most drab, boring location into a place you actually want to go.
Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” By investing time and a little bit of money into your study space, you are ultimately investing in your knowledge, which is invaluable.
We agree with Mr. Franklin. By creating a quiet, comfortable, organized, pleasant and focused study space, you are making an invaluable investment in your knowledge.
WHEN YOUR STUDY SPOT BECOMES A CLASSROOM
Programs at PGS allow students to study whenever and wherever is best for their schedule, personality and work habits. With easy access and a relevant learning environment, an online program is a perfect complement to these six guidelines for the ultimate study spot.