Online studies are becoming increasingly common. While remote work has some amazing advantages (pajama days, anyone?), adjusting to working from home -- and the distractions that often accompany it -- presents unique challenges for many students. The good news? There are a few simple steps you can take to prepare your environment for studying.
Read on for a roundup of eight tips aimed at helping you set up a comfortable and productivity-enhancing study space.
1. Designate a space.
How can you optimize your study space if you don’t have a space to study in? The first step in creating a positive study environment is to carve out a specific space for working. Ideally, this will be a place where you can keep and easily access your textbooks, computer, notepads, and other materials. Whether you’re working at a desk in your bedroom or at the dining room table, deciding where you will work is a critical first step.
2. Block out distractions.
Distractions are a major impediment to workflow. Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely says, “We think that we make decisions on our own, but the environment influences us to a great degree. Because of that, we need to think about how to change our environment.” A few easy ways to minimize distractions include closing windows to block out noise, silencing your phone, blocking time-wasting websites and working in a quiet and crowd-free area. If noise is unavoidable, tranquil background music or a white noise app can be helpful.
3 Light it right.
The right lighting is everything. Whenever possible, natural light is the best source of light as exposure to sunlight is physically, mentally, and emotionally invigorating. An added bonus of being near a window, according to one Harvard study, is that improved ventilation is associated with a 101 percent increase in tests of cognitive function.
However, natural light can be hard to come by -- especially at night. In addition to making sure you have adequate light for reading, writing, and other tasks, different types of lighting impact productivity in different ways. While warmer lighting is ideal for creating a sense of comfort and relaxation in intimate settings, colder lighting improves alertness, mood, and productivity. It even reduces fatigue by lowering melatonin levels. Additionally, experts recommend incorporating “layers of light” to avoid eye strain.
4. Use your thermostat to your advantage.
As it turns out, there’s a “just right” when it comes to room temperature -- at least as it pertains to studying. After crunching the numbers, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory crunched data from 24 different office temperature productivity studies and determined that performance is maximized at a precise 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Stick with anything between 70 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, however, and you’ll be good.
If you can’t control the temperature, dressing appropriately can help. Outside asserts, “Euro-fashionistas who wear scarves every day, for example, may not freeze up when the temp drops below 70.”
5. Be comfortable but not cozy.
A quarter of office workers say the discomfort of working at their desks has a negative impact on their productivity, while 37 percent said they were too distracted by working in an uncomfortably hot setting, according to one study. One way to avoid the pitfalls of discomfort? Invest in seating which offers a winning combination of comfort and ergonomic support. Key features include adjustability of both the seat and armrests, lumbar support for posture, and the ability to swivel for easy movement.
As it turns out, however, there is such a thing as too comfortable -- at least when it comes to your study environment. If you like to lounge in bed surrounded by your warm comfortable and soft pillows while you study, you’re likely to feel sleepy...and maybe even fall asleep. Working on your bed may also mean your posture suffers depending on how you’re sitting or lying. If you do opt to work on your bed, consider at least alternating between your bed and a desk.
Clutter isn’t just unattractive. It can actually prevent productivity and growth while leading to feelings of decreased motivation and stagnation. It’s also distracting, stressful and creativity-inhibiting, according to a significant body of evidence. Avoid falling victim to the detrimental impacts of clutter by committing to keep a tidy space.
7. Go green -- literally.
Think plants are just pretty? Think again. The reality is that plants offer many benefits to indoor workspaces. After conducting an extensive literature review on the effect of plants on offices and office workers, researchers Kaitlyn Gillis and Birgitta Gatersleben concluded, “Plants have the ability to directly bring green, leaving nature into the indoor environment. Psychological studies have demonstrated the health and wellbeing benefits of placing plants inside.”
If you’re feeling isolated, meanwhile, plants can help there, too. According to Canadian engineer Mike Robinson, personal plants can be somewhat like friends. “Our office is a more contented place, a relaxed place, and a place that I’m proud to be a part of, and a big part of that is the personal plant,” he said.
Lastly, plants also deliver “dramatic stimuli” which supports the attention capacity of humans.
8. Establish rules.
One of the major challenges faced by many people who have found themselves unexpectedly studying or working from home is figuring out how to work alongside other family members in the same predicament. When you’re all trying to work in the same space, this can quickly become more frustrating than fun. Set parameters for everything from where everyone will work to when everyone will work. This may also mean spending some time understanding what works better for each member of the household.
This also means establishing rules for yourself. One common complaint among remote works is that work hours and personal hours often meld together meaning they end up feeling like they are working all the time. Avoid ending up in this situation by establishing a schedule and sticking to it.
No matter how much working from home may initially seem like a party, the reality is that it gets old after a while -- especially if you’re unable to complete projects, meet deadlines, and deliver on your job requirements. One way to set yourself up for success is to create an optimal office space starting with these eight tips.