Creating a study space you’ll actually want to use

MADAWASKA, Maine — With the new school year here, are you ready to work smart? Whether you work from home or are a student who needs a dedicated study space, you can create a space conducive to learning and productivity.

You likely have everything at hand to begin. Some of the main things to focus on include shutting out distractions, making sure you have all the supplies you need to succeed, and creating a welcoming environment.

Nix the distractions

April Leighton, the high school guidance counselor for the Madawaska Middle High School, suggests it’s most important to be free of distractions.

“I think the removal of electronics as much as possible is very important,” Leighton said. “There’s always that need for instant gratification and cell phones are a huge distraction. TV is a distraction, too.”

A computer can be an asset, as long as notifications for email and social media are turned off. However, music is a welcome addition to any study or work space. Some teachers even use music in their classrooms to help students disconnect from external distractions.

“Some students, especially with attention deficit disorder or attention hyperactivity deficit disorder, listen to music and say they work best with the music actually in their ears [through headphones] so they can shut out sounds and distractions easier,” Leighton said.

One of the best music options is Baroque music, she said, which is often tempoed at 60 beats per minute, which calms your heart rate to 60 beats per minute.

“When your heart rate slows to this, you’re at ultimate relaxation, and you’re more focused and able to concentrate, more available for learning,” Leighton said. “That’s what homework is about, remembering it and being able to apply it.”

Assemble supplies

Next, creating the optimal study area means gathering your supplies.

The list of necessities is short: a desk, a chair, a lamp, a clock or timer, and whatever you need for working on the task at hand — whether it is a computer (with Facebook closed and notifications turned off), or a notebook and study material strewn out on the surface of the desk.

Other items for optimal productivity may include calculators, highlighters, sticky notes, pens and pencils, staplers, tape, a whiteboard to help with organization, plenty of paper and a clock or timer.

Leighton said keeping tasks organized is important, and suggested using planners and organizational charts to help maintain a routine.

“If you organize your evening, students are more likely to get their homework done,” Leighton said. “Keeping a routine is key.”

Create an environment

So where do you set up a study/work space? Leighton suggests a quiet room, and possibly even in a student’s bedroom.

“There is a chance for distraction, but with distractions removed, when they’re in there, they are comfortable in their space,” Leighton said.

If you make the space yours, you are more likely to be comfortable working there. Decorate the area to make it welcoming, and, if needed, have stress balls or anything else to fidget with at the ready. Include a music player if you favor adding soft sound to your environment.

However you choose to set up your space, make sure to keep distractions to a minimum and have enough light to see clearly so you do not strain your eyes.

While studying or working at home, or even in front of a computer in general, it is important to take a break and step back. During the school day, students move around every 45 minutes, according to Leighton, so there should be no difference at home.

“Even setting up a timer for 30 minutes so that the student knows that after the timer goes off, they will have a break to get up and move around,” Leighton said. “And for students with ADD or ADHD, sometimes setting the timer for shorter times will help with concentration.”

Remember: Work smarter, not harder.

What does your space look like? Share your photos of your home work/study spaces on our Facebook page, in the comments, or on Twitter.

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