Where do you go when you need to focus? Do you have a dedicated study space? If the answer is a resounding, “lying in bed eating crisps” or “hunched over the coffee table,” then it might be time to reconsider your work area.
As we are adjusting to this new school season, many of us are experiencing an upheaval in the way we experience learning. While some have returned to school, others may work from home. Either way, a productive work space is essential to an effective learning session.
Even those of us who aren’t in school anymore can still benefit from creating a good place in which we work, study, or play.
Quiet & Spacious
Most of us may not be blessed with a secluded study oasis, but wherever we are, it’s important to dedicate ourselves to creating a work environment that is free of distractions. Even if it’s just your kitchen table, be sure to clear away debris and distracting items that are not related to your work. This includes games, cell phones, and unnecessary web browser tabs. This applies also to other people: politely ask those in your household to give you some quiet time while you work, unless you are collaborating or otherwise not distracting one another.
In lieu of silence (and noisy kiddos watching noisy cartoons), try wearing earplugs or noise cancelling headphones. Some people work best with a little bit of white noise, so try playing classical music or lo-fi relaxing audio to help get you in a focused headspace.
The goal of creating a spacious, quiet study area is to maximize the amount of attention that may be devoted to studying. We don’t want to persistently find ourselves battling out noise, objects, or people that take our mind away from the task at hand.
Everything You Need
Eraser? Check. Pencil? Check. Pencil sharpener? Check. Mountain of snacks? Oh, most definitely. The list of what to include in a good study space will be different for everyone. It can be helpful to label these items as “essential” vs. “discretionary.”
Have a comfortable place to sit. Your desk must be at an optimal height so you do not slouch, which can cause discomfort in the short run and chronic pain in the long run. Be sure to have effective lighting: natural light is best for our eyes and energy levels, but a good desk lamp makes all the difference in the strain extensive reading has on our eyes.
Have your books or e-readers ready, or any and all papers/reference materials immediately available. Don’t forget your notebook or post-its for little jots of thought or sudden bursts of inspiration; notebooks can be an effective tool for ridding the brain of distracting thoughts. People who meditate regularly may be familiar with the tactic of embracing a thought before “letting it go.” Similarly, writing down your thoughts so it can be let go, and then addressed later, is an effective way to clear the mind.
Keep all subject-specific tools at hand, such as calculators, rulers, or pencils.
Are you a fidgeter? Some people think best when they have an idle plaything in their hands. This can be a Rubik’s cube, putty, your favourite crystals, or even just a clicky pen. When deep in thought, or working on a particularly difficult problem, giving our hands something to do can help engage our brains.
Tea, coffee, snacks, anyone? Have these ready-to-go instead of getting up in the middle of your study session. We like to keep things healthy (most of the time). Fresh organic fruit, nuts, cut vegetables, or granola, are fantastic options.
Earth’s Aromatique has a diverse range of organic botanical teas. Countless all-natural blends are available, both caffeinated and non-caffeinated!
Focus Fuel instant coffee from Natural Traditions incorporates organic Lion’s Mane mushroom, adaptogens, MCT, and plant-based omegas to specifically target the brain and help with attention and memory retention.
Did you know that sunlight energizes the mind? Not only that, but the colour of light heavily impacts productivity. A university study(1) found that creative capacity was greatly increased under warm-toned light, and that concentration was stronger under cool-toned light. Try to study near a window under bright, natural light and see how it affects your focus. A desk lamp is a worthwhile investment. If you have a lamp with a dimmer switch, play with different levels of brightness until you find something that works for you. There are apps available for computers and mobile devices that change the colour temperature of the screen.
Do not minimize the importance of having an aesthetic workspace. Particularly if you are in a creative field, keeping beautiful, non-distracting items around can motivate you to work your best. One low-maintenance plant (or many, if you’re anything like us greenery addicts at Kolya) can keep the air smelling fresh and clear.
Olfactory and visual stimuli is tied to memory (2). Finding consistency within your study space is a simple tactic to trick your mind into focus mode.
A simple candle, like these from Fenwick, can transform the dullest of spaces into one of serenity.
Sweet, uplifting aromas such as orange, rosemary, or peppermint essential oil have been shown to invigorate the mind and body. Try adding a few drops of your choosing to an essential oil diffuser or favourite unscented lotion.
Or try Bliss Blend from Earth’s Aromatique: it is custom-formulated with the earthy sweetness of oakmoss and ylang ylang to be grounding and stabilizing, which is perfect for late-night cram sessions which undoubtedly get a little stressful.
The Space Must Be Functional
While building your perfect study space is both fun and essential, don’t forget that the real goal is to get things done. When it boils down to it, the space in which you work is all about how you feel. It’s all about personal preference. It has to put you in a studious mood, and what exactly stimulates that mood is completely unique to you.
Above all, keep your workspace ergonomic. Have a standing desk or a comfortable chair. Don’t slouch, and keep your screen at eye level to avoid neck strain. Keep your wrists in a neutral position with a keyboard that is the right size for you.
Don’t overwork yourself. Regular breaks boost productivity(3), so try to take one every half hour or hour, depending on your study style.
Don’t fixate on perfection. Especially if you’re at home with little ones or roommates, it can be difficult to keep your space exactly the way you want. Work with what you have, and instead of buying lots of things at once, pick up one or two inspiring items and build it up over time. Don’t let imperfection discourage you—take it as an opportunity to make do with what you have, and get creative!
What are your study or work-from-home tricks? We want to hear them! Let us know in the comments below.
1) Weitbrecht WU, Bärwolff H, Lischke A, Jünger S. Wirkung der Farbtemperatur des Lichts auf Konzentration und Kreativität [Effect of Light Color Temperature on Human Concentration and Creativity]. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2015;83(6):344-348. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1553051
2) Burhan Akpinar, The Effects of Olfactory Stimuli on Scholastic Performance. The Irish Journal of Education. Faculty of Education Firat Üniversitesi, Elazig, 2005, xxxvi, pp. 86-90
3) Waongenngarm P, Areerak K, Janwantanakul P. The effects of breaks on low back pain, discomfort, and work productivity in office workers: A systematic review of randomized and non-randomized controlled trials. Appl Ergon. 2018;68:230-239. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2017.12.003