5 Easy Steps for Creating an A+ Study Space

Before your next big exam, be sure to follow these tips to transform your study space from a drop-out to a graduate!

If you’ve ever found yourself trying to study while next to a roommate loudly snacking on Doritos or an annoying stranger’s coffee shop phone call, then you know that your environment has a huge effect on your productivity.

If you are lucky enough to have a private study space, such as a single dorm room, do not—repeat, do not—squander this gift of an opportunity.

It is important to learn how to decorate these spots so you are not setting yourself up for a big fat “F”. Whether you are working with a small space or a large one, there are plenty of ways to tighten up the focus while also keeping your personal style intact.

Step 1: Choose a Space

The spot that you choose will have a huge effect on its “study potential.” You want to make sure space is secluded, or at least mildly closed off from distractions. The corner of a room, or even a small alcove, works super well in this regard—or use some drapes to create a barrier. Avoid any high traffic or loud areas of the house.

“It is important to designate a permanent space for studying,” said Emily Levitt, VP of Education at Sylvan Learning. “The last thing you want while in the middle of a project is to be booted from your spot at the dining room table.”

In terms of a view, there is some dispute about whether a desk should be placed in front of a window or simply near a window. While some say that feng shui argues against placing your desk directly in front of a window, many agree that being near one increases productivity. Some of that good ol’ fashioned vitamin D is always welcome, but you also don’t want to be distracted by the outside world. You know best whether a window will prove to be a distraction or an inspiration.

Step 2: Design

Once you got that spot on lockdown, it’s time to design your perfect study zone. First things first: Don’t underestimate the power of a comfy chair and a well-positioned desk. It’s hard enough to study normally, so being uncomfortable makes it almost impossible. A standing desk is proven to be way healthier long-term, and the less strain you put on your neck the better.

Lighting should be nice and bright to keep you alert, so think about getting a good lamp if you aren’t working with a great overhead system. A fresh white light is much more efficient than a relaxingly warm, yellow light bulb. As with the window, you know what works best for you, so invest in a dimmer and experiment.

As for the desktop: no clutter! This is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to studying spots. People let their busy schedules get the best of them, and before they know it, there is an entire junk drawer on top of their desk. Of course, a clean desk is a happy desk, so try to keep the area as organized as possible. Less is more.

Positioning is much more important than people think. For example, if you have to get up to grab your charger or headphones, you can easily lose valuable momentum. Keep that space nice and organized so everything is within reach and in its right place. Some ergonomic shelving or even a creative alternative like decorative crates above and around the desk can keep things sorted.

Step 3: Decor

Within the decor of your study space is where you can add that personal touch. Small, low-maintenance plants pack a big punch when it comes to making a space look pretty. A corkboard full of polaroids or postcards is a great inspiration tool to keep you going through those long study seshes.

Another feng shui tip: Never put the desk in front of a completely blank white wall. Certain colors lend themselves to studying, even if they don’t seem that exciting, especially light greys and pale, icy blues.

Still, to avoid boredom, add pops of bright color with curtains, pillows or a small rug. Posters of your favorite artwork or motivational images can seriously change the mood of the room. For example, this writer has a big print of Vermeer’s Girl With the Pearl Earring directly above his desk at home, and for whatever reason, it seems to help!

Be sure to avoid overstimulation by not making the decor too busy. Some nice knick-knacks and stress-relievers are always welcome on the desk. Having a calendar is also proven to keep you focused and on-task.

Step 4: Atmosphere

Hasn’t everything we covered technically contributed to atmosphere? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep the vibe specifically in mind when decorating. Just like with any space, the atmosphere of your study zone will play a huge role in whether you want to spend time in there at all.

In our social media age, it is incredibly easy for distractions to enter the study space. “One key tip is to make sure you disable any app notifications on social media,” said Levitt. “Most people work on their device nowadays, so if you have notifications popping up every five seconds it can pull you away from your work.”

Keep your phone, video games and messy food/drinks away from that study space. These distracting items can lead to a less productive and healthy relationship with the designated space. Which actually leads to the final step—we’ll get to that in a second.

Here is a key factor people often forget: the temperature. If we find ourselves lucky enough to be in control, studies have shown that between 72℉ and 77℉ is an optimal temperature for productivity. Who knew?! Now you do!

If you don’t work well in silence, invest in a white noise machine or some high-quality speakers. A fan can also provide a soothing sound while allowing for some good air filtration.

Step 5: Leave

Now that your study space is achieving high honors, get the heck out of there!

In the same way that it is important not to hang out in bed too much before sleep time, if you get in the habit of lounging or watching TV in your study space your brain will lose focus much easier when the big test comes up. Try to only use your desk when you are getting work done, that way you get into the studious mindset as soon as you take a seat.

“Most people forget how important it is to plan breaks,” said Levitt. “If you have a set schedule in your mind, you will be much less distracted. Knowing that break is coming can give you the extra push you need to finish your work.”

Still, according to Levitt, hard work is 100% necessary no matter how perfect the study space.

“For decent grades, the best option is to adopt an ‘Eat the Frog’ philosophy,” said Levitt. “Decide what is going to be your hardest task and just get it over with. After that, you will be left at your study space with things you are looking forward to instead of dreading.”

Follow these steps and in no time you may actually be looking forward to finals week!