Organising your own space
Organising your own space is a simple but effective way to increase your levels of productivity. This guide introduces you to several techniques that will enable you to use space to your advantage when studying.
- Everyone needs his or her own space. This may seem simple, but everyone needs some physical area, regardless of size, that is really his or her own—even if it is only a small part of a shared space. Within your own space, you generally feel more secure and in control.
- Physical space reinforces habits. For example, using your bed primarily for sleeping makes it easier to fall asleep there than elsewhere and also makes it not a good place to try to stay awake and alert for studying.
- Different places create different moods. While this may seem obvious, students don’t always use places to their best advantage. One place may be bright and full of energy, with happy students passing through and enjoying themselves. While this place may put you in a good mood, it may actually make it more difficult to concentrate on your studying. Yet the opposite—a totally quiet, austere place devoid of colour and sound and pleasant decorations—can be just as unproductive if it makes you associate studying with something unpleasant. Everyone needs to discover what space works best for himself or herself—and then let that space reinforce good study habits.
Techniques for organising your space
To avoid distractions, begin by analysing your needs, preferences, and past problems with places for studying. Where do you usually study? What are the best things about that place for studying? What distractions are most likely to occur there? The goal is to find, or create, the best place for studying, and then to use it regularly so that studying there becomes a good habit.
Make sure it is not a place already associated with other activities (eating, watching television, sleeping, etc.). Over time, the more often you study in this space, the stronger its association with studying will be, so that eventually you will be completely focused as soon as you reach that place and begin.
If you want to use your home or flat but you never know if another person may be there and possibly distract you, then it is probably better to look for another place, such as a study lounge or an area in the library.
An open desk or table surface usually works best for writing, and you will tire quickly if you try to write notes sitting in an easy chair (which might also make you sleepy). You need good light for reading, to avoid tiring from eyestrain. If you use a laptop for writing notes or reading and researching, you need a power outlet so that you do not have to stop when your battery runs out.
Some students may need total silence with absolutely no visual distractions; they may find the perfect study area hidden away on the fifth floor in the library. Other students may be unable to concentrate for long without looking up from reading and momentarily letting their eyes move over a pleasant scene. Some students may find it easier to stay motivated when surrounded by other students also studying; they may find an open space in the library or a study lounge with many tables spread out over an area. Experiment to find the setting that works best for you—and remember that the more often you use this same space, the more comfortable and effective your studying will become.
Students living at home, whether with a spouse and children or with their parents, often need the support of family members to maintain an effective study space. The kitchen table is probably not best if others pass by frequently. Be creative, if necessary, and set up a card table in a quiet corner of your bedroom or elsewhere to avoid interruptions. Put a “do not disturb” sign on your door.
You want to prevent sudden impulses to neaten up the area (when you should be studying), do laundry, wash dishes, and so on. Unplug a nearby telephone, turn off your cell phone, and use your computer only as needed for studying. If your e-mail or message program pops up a notice every time an e-mail or message arrives, turn off your Wi-Fi or detach the network cable to prevent those intrusions.
Everyone needs to take a break occasionally when studying. Think about the space you are in and how to use it when you need a break. If in your home, stop and do a few exercises to get your blood flowing. If in the library, take a walk up a couple of flights of stairs and around the aisles before returning to your study area.
Even if you hide in the library to study, there is a chance a friend may walk by. At home with family members or in a flat, the odds increase greatly. Have a plan ready in case someone pops in and asks you to join them in some fun activity. Know when you plan to finish your studying so that you can make a plan for later—or for tomorrow at a set time.
This work includes material from the following sources:
Hero image: Water splash. PublicDomainPictures. Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/splashing-splash-aqua-water-rain-275950/ Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 Universal
Success in college: Organizing your space. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://open.lib.umn.edu/collegesuccess/chapter/2-2-organizing-your-space/ Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0