Whether you are taking college classes online or heading out to a local traditional college to attend class, the one thing you definitely need is a “study sanctuary.”
Now, some of you might think that phrase an oxymoron, but just wait until your classes really get rolling, and you too will see your study area as a sanctuary. This is especially true if you have roommates or a family with whom you share the house.
You may think you will just study at the kitchen table or on your bed. But consider this: if you live with others, isn’t someone constantly in and out of the kitchen for a drink or a snack?
And if they know you are in there, trust me, they will think of a hundred little things that they have forgotten to tell you that you need to know right now!
Okay, so the kitchen table is a bad idea. Let’s consider your bed. First off, it is typically too comfy…that is a great thing for a bed, but not so much for a study space. Also, where are you going to put all of the little items you will invariably need while studying?
Highlighters, stapler, paper clips, folders, textbooks…your night stand will be overflowing with office supplies, but you will still realize that you need something that is way in the other room. You will spend more time shifting around trying to find the pen you lost under the blankets and going to retrieve the right notebook than getting any studying done. If it sounds like I have first-hand experience, it’s because I do.
When I went back to grad school as an adult, I went through all of the typical locations for a study space. Like most students, I didn’t have an extra room in my house just waiting to be assigned as the “study room.” Based on my experiences, here are my top recommendations for creating something every student needs-a study sanctuary.
Get A Room
Don’t have much space to devote to a study sanctuary? How about a closet? Seriously! What do you need more?
Tons of clothes and shoes or a quiet space to work? You have probably been planning to clean it out anyway, so now is a great time to limit your stuff and treat yourself to a space of your own. It’s not that you need a great deal of space; you just need enough for a small desk, a chair and a shelf.
If you have only a tiny area, think vertical instead of horizontal. Try using a bookshelf that isn’t very wide, but has a lot of deep shelves where you can house your papers. Those file holders that doctors’ offices use can be put up almost anywhere to hold files that you need to access often.
Even those closet hanging canvas shelves that you Velcro around the rods in your closet are excellent storage space for office supplies. Think vertical, especially if you have a small space. Of course, corkboards and white boards are a must. Stacking bins and magnetic wall calendars are wonderful space savers, and over-the-door shoe holders are great for smaller items (as well as keeping your shoes organized) like a calculator, pens, highlighters, index cards, etc.
And every student should have a good supply of Command hooks in various sizes to get vertical with.
Take A Seat
While you don’t want to get too comfortable, it is important to have a desk chair that fits you well. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have to sit there for several more hours when you already have tight shoulders, a stiff neck and a sore butt from sitting on an uncomfortable chair.
Even if you need to scrimp on other items for your study sanctuary, this is an item that you get what you pay for, so look for a great sale and pay a bit more than maybe you want to…your back will thank you!
Set Office Hours
Once you get your class schedule, get a calendar, planner or software that allows you to create a schedule for the semester.
Include your classes, work, family time, etc. and then add your study time! Hang a copy of your schedule on the fridge so the people you live with will know when you are available and when you aren’t…even though you are on the house.
You are much more likely to study when you have it scheduled than if you don’t. Routines might be boring, but they work! Set your office hours and then when you are home and your studying is done, you can more fully relax, knowing that the office is closed for the day.
Be serious about keeping your office hours. For example, if you don’t take personal calls when you are at work (and if you do, you shouldn’t) then you shouldn’t take calls during your office hours. The goal is to totally focus on the work at hand. Can you call it “studying” if 80% of your time is checking your phone for tweets, texting with friends and messing with your i-pod to find just the right music? I didn’t think so.
It’s All In Your Head
You will notice when those hours set aside to study approach, your body and mind will begin to gear up for studying because you have conditioned yourself for it. That is, by the way, why having a specific study space is important too. You will be more alert and focused when you have a dedicated area and times that you study.
The psychology of studying also comes into play if you are forced to use your bedroom as your study sanctuary. Do all that you can to make the sleeping area separate from the study one. You will sleep better when you are in bed and study better when you are at your desk if you do this. A fun way to separate the space is by putting up a beaded curtain. It won’t keep out the noise from the TV in the other room, but it will psych you into believing you are in your study zone, and since attitude is so much a part of any success, it will work.
Plug Your Ears
Since you most likely share your dwelling with others, headphones are a great purchase. If you can swing it, get a nice pair of noise-canceling headphones. You don’t have to actually listen to music, but you can block out noise with them.
And, if you need to listen to a podcast from your professor, your headphones will be handy so that you can clearly hear what is being said and not have to fight to hear the lesson over the football game in the next room.”
Did you know they make headphones that plug into video game players, Roku’s and TV’s? Yipe, and some are even wireless, so they work with whatever noise-making technology your roomie or family uses.
My husband and I are still married because I bought him a great pair of comfortable headphones so that I can work at home from my office in the loft, and he can watch TV or listen to talk radio. They are much cheaper than a divorce, too!
I know that is easier said than done, but it is important! Taking the time to organize your stuff and your time will save time in the end.
This is especially important if you have a lot of stuff in a small space. We are back to the psychology of studying with this one…if your surroundings are cluttered, your mind will be too.
If you think you don’t have time to organize your stuff and your time, ask yourself how much time you will have if you can’t find your thumb drive to print off that essay that is due in an hour?
Include Some Cozy
Now I know this may sound like I am contradicting myself, but you are going to be spending a lot of time in this study sanctuary, right? (Right? I can’t hear you!) And you do need some comfort, especially during those stressful times of the semester.
Think about adding a couple of your favorite snacks, a candle, some hard candy, a sweater or sweatshirt, whatever it is that you believe you might want often enough that it would save time to keep it handy. Use your “vertical thinking” to find a spot for all of it.
Finding the balance between cozy and distracting can be a challenge, so you may have to modify your cozy items every now and then. But after a long day of classes and work, knowing you have to enter the study sanctuary and do more work can be eased a bit by knowing you have some peanut M and M’s and your favorite slippers in there. It is, after all a sanctuary, right?
Jacqueline Myers is a long-time college English instructor who also provides expert tips, tricks & techniques for successful college writing and research at Nitty-Gritty English. Her life’s work has been dedicated to guiding students through the messy world of writing, grammar, literature and research. She is a proud contributing writer for American Educational Guidance Center.