• Brian Ricks

Selecting a Study Space

Updated: Apr 17


One of my favorite sayings is “set yourself up for success.” Knowing how to study effectively begins first by finding the right study space. Studying is hard enough, so anything you can do to make it easier for yourself will pay off in the long run.

However, you should know that there isn’t one ideal way to set up a study space. Each student will have their own set of requirements for what makes a study space work for them. Rather than writing out some examples of ideal study spaces, let’s look at some common questions about study spaces.


Should I Study in an Environment That Isn't Easy for Me?


Challenging yourself is usually a good idea but in this case, it is definitely not. Unless you are exceptionally good at “getting in the zone” at will, any persistent distractions in your environment will just cause you to lose time. A distracted mind does not absorb and retain information as well as a focused one. So if you plan on studying for an hour, you’ll really only get 30 to 40 minutes worth of real study time. Even if you are able to work through some course material, in a busy environment you won’t be able to retain the information.


As a Good Student, Shouldn’t I Be Able to Study Anywhere?


Being a good student doesn’t have much to do with how well you can block out distractions. It’s definitely an advantage to have, but even the best of students struggle if they’re not in the right environment for studying. In fact, the best students are usually the ones who have figured out their favorite ways to study and regularly do so.


How Can I Stop Noise Distractions?


The worst kinds of noises are the ones you don’t expect. They interrupt at inopportune times and cause you to lose your train of thought. If you like silence, but find it hard to find a quiet place, try using some earplugs or headphones without music playing. Another idea is to play white noise to help mask other sounds. There are a huge variety of apps and websites you can use for white noise and even ones that allow you to customize to your liking.


Music is a popular study aid, but it can also be a pitfall if you use distracting music. Many students prefer to use either instrumental-only music or music with vocals in a language you don’t understand.


Do I Need to Have Special Lighting?


There are many different types of lights and some affect people more significantly than others. Most public spaces today use fluorescent lighting, which can feel harsh and glaring causing some people to lose focus or develop headaches. Alternatively, fluorescent lighting can also keep the mind awake better than gentler incandescent lights. If you have a personal study space like a desk or table in your home, I’d recommend having both types of lighting available to you depending on your needs.


Does Studying Only Count When I'm Sitting at a Desk?


Nope. You should study wherever and whenever you feel you are most effective. Everybody is different and nobody really knows what works best for you except you. As with most things in life, conventional wisdom exists because a lot of people agree about something. However, just because a lot agree doesn’t mean it works for everyone. So, there’s little reason to study at a desk if you find that other options work better for you.


The most important point I have tried to make is that every student should experiment with different setups. Figure out what type of study space works best for you and where the least distractions lie. Nobody can tell you how well you’re focusing and what things are causing you to lose focus except for you. Finding the right study space is a problem worth solving because it makes all your academic work a little easier and more manageable.


My tutoring services are available throughout NYC, Brooklyn and Queens. I can meet in a coffee shop, at your home, on campus, or wherever you like. Call (619) 880-0133 to learn more or schedule your first session.

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