Whether you're studying from home because of COVID-19 or you prefer online-only classes, it's crucial to have a productive study area, but what that looks and feels like depends on you.
If you're struggling to get your work done, you may want to take a look at your work space. Most people prefer a quiet, distraction-free space where they can study in peace. Others thrive in a busy room, using noise-canceling headphones to keep them on task.
Whichever kind of person you are, you can make changes to your space to boost your productivity. If something isn't working, switch it up. You'll be glad you did when final grades get posted.
Here are six tips to help you create the perfect study space at home, maximizing comfort and productivity.
Six Tips to Help Create the Perfect Study Space at Home
Get the Office Essentials
A desk, a chair, and a computer are crucial for a perfect study workstation; the couch might be comfy, but it isn't conductive to good focus. There are a few other supplies that might help your workflow, too.
While you can take notes on your laptop or phone, sometimes sketching out an idea the old-fashioned way — with a notebook — can help your brain absorb concepts better. You can also use different colored highlighters to mark important information.
Another helpful tool is having an external monitor or screen for your laptop. Using an eye-level monitor will help you avoid poor posture.
Find the Right Room
If you're new to studying from home, it may take your brain some time to adjust to your new environment. One way to speed up the process is to pick a room that puts you in "student mode" right away.
Ideally, this room will be a space where you can work for hours without interruptions or distractions, so probably not near the television. You may also want to choose a room with a door that can be closed, especially if you live with family or roommates.
Having a distraction-free room will help you stay focused when it's crunch time and you need to buckle down for an assignment or test prep.
Set Up a Workstation
If you'll be taking classes from home for a while, take the time to set up a designated workspace. A designated home workstation can help trigger your brain when it's time to study, and you can store your coursework, notebooks, pens, and other school supplies within easy reach.
When it comes to choosing what goes in your study space, a desk and chair are usually better for workflow, productivity, and posture than a couch or bed. You'll also want to keep your computer screen at eye level to avoid bad posture from hunching over your laptop.
If you can't set up a full workspace, don't worry. There are more portable products that can also help you succeed at study time, wherever you are. Look into laptop trays, lumbar support pillows, and extra-long laptop chargers, to help make the most of your at-home work options.
Adapt to Noisy Environments
Some people may thrive in a busy room, but background noises like a barking dog, loud talking, or traffic can still be incredibly distracting.
Luckily, if you have to work in a noisy space, there are ways to make it work for you: You can wear noise-canceling headphones to block out the noise or designate "quiet hours" within your household.
A more time-consuming but effective solution would be to soundproof your room. Seal holes to the outside world and try adding acoustic boards or layers of insulation to your walls to help absorb noise.
Decorate Your Room (Seriously!)
You can have everything you need for a study space to function, but still feel like something is missing. It could be the decor in your room, which is more important than you might think.
Natural light from windows not only brightens up a gloomy room, but also decreases study side-effects like headaches, blurred vision, drowsiness, and eyestrain. Meanwhile, fresh flowers and other house plants provide visual stimulation and help with memory retention, mood, and air quality.
If you don't have a window, try decorating your desk, shelves, or walls with your favorite color schemes or wall art. An image made of multiple canvases can even create the illusion of a window.
Make Yourself Comfortable
A perk of being at home is getting to find a balance between comfort and productivity, and having the power to make changes if the environment isn't exactly to your liking.
One important thing to keep an eye on is your posture while studying. Hunching over a laptop without a keyboard, mouse, or monitor can cause neck and upper back problems, and lounging on a sofa for extended periods forces you to slump, putting more strain on your body. Folding chairs, beds, and sitting at coffee tables can lead to similar issues.
Ergonomic office chairs designed for comfort in a working environment may be one solution for lousy posture. Investing in one won't break the bank, either — you can find one for between $45-$85.
Temperature is another factor; it's hard to focus when it's too hot or too cold. An easy fix is keeping a heater, blanket, or fan handy, in case temperature starts impacting your productivity.
By following these easy tips, you can build a productive, comfortable study space that helps you get through the school year with flying colors.
Evan Thompson is a Washington-based writer for TBS covering higher education. He has bylines in the Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and others from his past life as a newspaper reporter.