Easy tips to get more work done by hacking your study space.
Use these quick tips to create a productive study space. Online students have to be very intentional about maximizing their study space. You don’t have the convenience of walking to the library on campus to find a dedicated study space. Most of you are fitting your studies in between work and other family commitments, which makes your study space even more important.
When I went back to school for my online master’s degree I quickly noticed my study sessions were not working. I was frustrated by my lack of progress and frustrated at all of the stuff going on around me. It was too hard to rely on sitting on the couch every night and getting homework done after work. After some consideration, I was able to create a productive study space both at work, at the library, and at my house. Knowing exactly where I could go and how to stay focused helped me immensely! I had options to change up my location and knew I could get a lot done in a short amount of time.
Study Space Location
Location is the aspect of your study space in which you have the least amount of control. You live where you live, right? Sometimes we need to get creative, but I promise you have some control. Consider these three factors for your study location:
Choose a convenient location.
If you have to schlep out in the snow to the coffee shop, your odds of actually going to study are less. Find a location with the least amount of barriers. (it can even be at work)
Your location should be comfortable.
This will be a personal preference, so decide what comfortable means for you. Is it pillows on the couch or an ergonomic desk chair? You want to be able to sit comfortably for at least an hour.
Find a neat and organized space.
Or choose a spot and clean it up! It is more difficult to focus when there is visual clutter all around you distracting you from your studies. A clean workspace always means better focus.
Need to get creative? Here are some out-of-the-box ideas for studying (and yes, I have used all of these locations at some point):
- alone in your car
- in a closet
- the public library
- your office at work (don’t forget to close the door)
- outdoors (there are major benefits to studying outdoors)
productive study Atmosphere
No matter where you are, there are ways to maximize the atmosphere in order to help yourself focus better. These tips are about using sound and activity to create a productive study space.
Lower the noise.
You may be able to find a quiet place in your home, or maybe you have small children running around, and nowhere in the house is quiet. I hear ya! There are many ways to bring the noise level down:
- Grab some simple foam earplugs. I always use these when studying at home or while flying. They take care of the majority of noise and allow my brain to focus on my course material.
- Use noise-canceling headphones. I hear these block out even more sound than the foam earplugs but haven’t used them myself.
Try a white noise machine or play classical music on your headphones.
If you can’t stand the silence, create some light noise. The key is to use a consistent and mellow sound, not one that fights for your attention. Think background music, not your favorite dance jam.
Chose the most inactive space available.
If your kids are playing in the living room, try studying in the bedroom or even in a bathroom or closet. I am amazed how much more efficiently I can work when I go to another room and shut the door for a few minutes versus trying to accomplish something with noise and movement (aka. kids) in the room. If you are studying in a public space, try the corners of the room where you can put your back to the activity.
Distractions killing your productivity
Let’s talk about the distractions you have the most control over, no matter your study space. These distractions can completely kill your productivity and focus. I have seen these three distractions obliterate the results of a study session.
Is your phone helping you to be productive as you study, or distracting you? When you are studying, you have to quiet your phone by either turning it off or turning off all notifications. The little ding is enough to pull you out of your focused zone. Stopping for 30 seconds to check out the notification can actually cost you 5 or 10 minutes because you have to reboot your focus and review the same material. Check out these 7 tips to make your phone more productive for college.
You can’t study with the TV on. Trust me. I hear people swear they get more done when the TV is on in the background, but I have never known a productive person who uses this strategy. The television is not mellow and consistent background noise. There are too many fluctuations in the noise level and too many visual changes. It is going to break your focus at some point and I would guess it is doing so regularly, even if you are unaware of it.
Don’t believe me? Try one study session with the TV off and track your results. You will get more done in less time.
Friends & Family
I feel a little bad about putting our favorite people on the list of distractions. I love my friends and family! It is good for the soul to spend time with the special people in my life, but hanging out and study have to be separate.
Bonus, if you get your studies done you can be fully present when you are hanging out with friends. It is so much more enjoyable when you aren’t being pulled in multiple directions.
Tools to help create a productive study space
With your optimum study space identified, gather up all of the tools to get the work done. Please note: some of the links below are affiliate links. There is no cost to you to use these links, but I may get a small commission if you purchase any of these items. I use these supplies/tools in my own life and love each of them!
You can’t complete your online courses without a computer. If you are working on a laptop, try adding an external mouse to the mix. I am much quicker and more efficient when I use a mouse versus the built-in trackpad. Here is the mouse I use. If you use your phone or tablet to study, consider adding a Bluetooth keyboard. This makes it much easier and quicker to type things up.
You may have physical textbooks or ebooks on your computer. Make sure to have either (or both) ready when you sit down to study. Even if you don’t need to read a specific chapter for homework, you may need to look things up as part of your assignment.
Pen, pencil, and highlighter
I always have a pen and highlighter ready. The pen (or pencil) is great for jotting down quick thoughts in my notebook. The highlighter is for identifying the most important things jotted down, and marking up the key concepts in a physical textbook. I use these fun colored pens and these retractable highlighters.
I am a technology junkie. I love trying out the best apps and digital tools and take the bulk of my notes in OneNote. I still make sure to have a notebook with me for quickly jotting things down or working out an idea. I love this dotted grid notebook because it lends itself well to all types of notes and diagrams.
Drink & Snack
Prevent one final distraction by having a drink and snack handy. If you don’t come prepared, your brain will notice and it will convince you that you are starving and have to stop everything to eat. No? Just me? 🙂
Need some more inspiration to help you create a productive study space? Check out these ideas on Pinterest.
Try It Yourself: 5-minute Challenge
Choose one tip above and apply it to your current study space. You don’t have to completely overhaul where you study. Small changes can make a big impact!