Now that you have your schedule and materials organized to set you up for success, it is time to consider your environment. Many people underestimate the importance of their study space, but where you study is important to facilitate learning and reviewing the materials that are necessary for your classes. While some people can concentrate well under almost any circumstance, the majority of students need a specific type of environment to foster good study habits.
When you identify study time in your schedule (link), you should also identify where this will take place. If you have thought of all of the places that meet your needs beforehand, you should never be stuck if plans change or a space is unavailable. The following are all things you should consider in choosing your optimal study environment.
Visual Distractions. Some areas of your home, school, and community are busier than others. You should consider the amount of activity happening in different environments and whether you can maintain your attention. For some, it doesn’t bother them if people are walking by. Others may look up at every person as they walk past. Decide whether having activity around you is distracting or not.
Noise. Noise is also an important factor to consider in planning your study environment. Some students have better focus in areas without background noise, while others aren’t bothered by it. For example, if you go to a coffee shop, you know that there will likely be background conversations as people order their coffee and talk with their friends. Noise isn’t only caused by other people. It can also be the radio, TV, or construction happening outside. As you work in different environments, be mindful of your concentration and how it is affected by different noise levels. Once you know how your body responds, you will have a better idea of what to look for in a study space.
Temptations. Even if you have set up a study area that is best for you, sometimes temptations get the best of us. It is easy to watch TV, talk on the phone, or get involved in your favorite activities if they are readily available to you while you study. If you often find yourself getting involved in other activities while you should be studying, you may wish to study outside of the home to reduce potential distractions.
Physical Comfort. How you feel within the environment is another important component in choosing your ideal study area. If you constantly feel uncomfortable, it is hard to stay focused. Choose spaces that have tables and chairs that meet your needs. Also, consider whether the area has adequate lighting. For example, it might be difficult to read somewhere that has dim lighting. Air temperature is another consideration. If you feel too hot or too cold, it will keep you from focusing on the task at hand. Finally, if you are a student who, whether for health reasons or for comfort, prefers to eat or drink while studying, find an area that allows food and drink in their facility.
Flexibility. After you take a mindful approach to see how you react to different environments when studying, it will be easy to come up with a list of places that match your preference. Remember to be flexible. What works for you as an individual might not work if you change your study approach. For example, you will likely have different needs if you are working with a partner or group.
Planned Breaks. Everyone has different capacities for concentration. While working in an environment that suits you best will help sustain your focus, it is also important to recognize our individual differences. Plan breaks as needed. Two ways to plan a break is either by time or activity completion. For example, if you find you can only concentrate for a half hour, schedule in purposeful break for every 30 minutes of studying. If you find it is easier to take a break after completing a task, break up your reading, notes, or assignments into meaningful sections and take a break after your complete each one.
Now that we have covered what you can do to organize your time, materials, and space, we will be shifting to strategies to address specific skills you will need as you work your way through your post-secondary career. Join us next time!