Having a dedicated study space is important, or so they used to say. Now we're told that if we change up our study environments, to create richer associations with the information we're processing and therefore decrease 'forgetting', then we'll perform better on exams. That's all fine, but most of us need the discipline and structure of a specific space that will prompt us to drop everything else that's going on and focus on getting that data embedded into our brains. Studies suggest that if your study space shares similar features with your exam room this will help your recall, and this doesn't mean it has to be an exact replica. In fact, if there is just one noticeable feature from your exam room present in your study space, such as the type of wall clock, or even wearing the same shoes, this can significantly increase your recall during test time. Once you've sorted those cues for yourself, you can use the following tips to make your study space one that you will want to commit to.
Choose an area where you feel comfortable
The best place to study is one that you will want to go to. It may already exist, such as a spot near a window with a lovely view and natural light, or you can create a tempting spot out of a simple nook or empty corner. If you can fit a chair and a study surface, it can work. And then there's the reality of the sitting for long periods of time. You may want to invest in an ergonomic chair if your current option is hard wood that makes you numb after half an hour! Comfort is essential so you can settle into work quickly, but be careful not to make it too cozy or you risk falling asleep! Anything you add to the space should enable the task at hand.
For daytime study, natural light creates a warm and inviting atmosphere and can be uplifting and motivating, while the flourescent lights in libraries are harsh for some and can cause eye strain and headaches. If the sun makes the room hot, study at a different time of day when it's indirect. Keep air flowing as a stuffy environment will make you drowsy, so open a window or have a fan close and be sure to turn it on before you become overheated, you want to keep your mind sharp. When it's dark outside and you're dependent upon interior lighting, you may need a desk lamp to illuminate your books or papers to prevent eye strain. If it's a screen you're reading from, set the brightness so that it's adequate but not super bright as too much illumination can be as tiring for your eyes as low light. Look for apps that create a warm glow as opposed to a cool one as most find its soothing to the eyes.
Create Study Rules
If you have enrolled in an online MEAD program, chances are that you are working or busy with other activities and you need to maximise your concentration time. Tell any roommates or family that you are studying and can't be disturbed and follow your own rules to show them you're serious. Leave your phone outside of this space and if you're using a computer, social media is off-limits! Be sure to disable any alerts that may distract you. Take breaks at regular intervals to stretch and give your eyes and brain a rest, but avoid distractions.
Houseplants improve air quality which helps the brain stay alert, and their presence increases feelings of wellbeing, especially if they're green, lush and healthy, Choose low-maintenance plants that thrive indoors and don't need a lot of water.
The main thing to remember about your study space is that it's a special spot just for you, and if you commit to making the most out of it, it will pay it all back to you!