By Sarah Wright
Making Your Study Sanctuary
Regardless of where you end up studying, there are a few elements that should be in place to maximize your comfort and your ability to focus. No matter where you are, you should be free from too much visual or auditory distraction. Just how free you need to be from these distractions will probably depend on your personal habits. If you find you tend to get distracted by movement in your peripheral vision, for example, it's probably not a great idea for you to try to study in a crowded coffee shop, where people will be moving around you constantly.
Step 1: Pick a Good Location
Before you settle in to your usual study spot, think about how well it's working for you. Does working at your desk in your dorm provide too much opportunity for friends and neighbors to stop in and distract you? Is that table you sit in at the library fitted with the world's most uncomfortable chairs? Does the printer in the student lounge run constantly, making it difficult to zero in on your work? If so, you should try to scout out a new place.
Look for a relatively isolated spot where you can work in privacy. Ideally, you should separate your living space from your workspace, so you can clearly delineate the time you spend relaxing and socializing from the time you spend working. That can make it easier to get into 'focus mode' when you need to.
Step 2: Fill in The Gaps
Let's say you have a spare room in your house, but there's nothing in there and it doesn't really make sense to try to set up a study space in there. Invest $50 in some used furniture and set up good work furniture like a table, desk, chair, bookshelf - anything that you'd use in the course of doing your schoolwork. Alternately, if you've found a quiet, low-traffic spot to study in, say, the library on campus, but the nearest electrical outlet is out of reach of your laptop's power cord, find out if you can bring an extension cord into the library. Sometimes, you have to put a little effort into making a space more hospitable for studying.
Step 3: Block Out Distraction
Earplugs, white noise machines or headphones connected to an ambient or orchestral music Pandora station are all great solutions if you're easily distracted by noise. Even a library that's fairly free of conversation is going to have some ambient noise - people walking, opening doors, dropping books, shuffling papers and typing on computers. If you get easily distracted by noise, just block it out. A pair of earplugs will probably run you less than a dollar, and can make a huge difference in your ability to focus.
Step 4: Don't Get Too Comfy!
Sometimes, it can be tempting to curl up in a cozy chair or even in bed with your reading assignments. This isn't always a great idea. For some students, 'studying' becomes code for 'dozing off in that squashy chair by the fireplace in the student union.' Avoid this trap by understanding that comfort isn't the most important thing when you're studying. You shouldn't be so uncomfortable that it's distracting, but there's a middle ground between sitting on a rickety two-legged stool and sinking in to a cushy, feather-tufted armchair.
If you don't get good quality study time in, you might need to use one of these grade saving techniques.