It is no secret that one of the main benefits of online study is the flexibility it offers. Online courses mean you aren’t tied to a specific schedule and you can take classes and study wherever you want as long as you have an internet connection. But all this flexibility comes with a cost. Many online students find themselves juggling school with other commitments at home and distractions can be a problem.  One way to stay focused is to create a study space that is optimized for learning. The ideal study space minimizes distractions, puts you in to the mindset to concentrate, and is ready when you are. Consider these tips when creating a study space for your online learning success.

 

Select a Dedicated Space

The first step in creating your workspace is to lay claim to a specific area. With laptops and other mobile devices, it’s easy to just flop down on the couch and work from there. That casual approach to working or studying, however, makes it easy to get distracted. If you have a dedicated work area, you’ll be more inclined to focus on the task at hand.

If you can, dedicate a whole room to your studies—and preferably not your bedroom! Your body subconsciously creates different “zones” for activities you do throughout the day. The kitchen is associated with cooking and eating, the living room with family and relaxation, and the bedroom with sleeping. Studying in your bed or even your bedroom can make you lethargic and unproductive.

Determining that a room is solely for your studies will help your body “zone it off” that way as well, and you will consequently be more focused on the tasks the room is meant for.

 

Avoid Interruptions and Remove Distractions

It is helpful to locate a study space that is as private as possible. Often a dedicated workspace serves as a good clue to other people living in your home. They will begin to respect your work zone and refrain from interrupting you. Similar to interruptions you should try and minimize distractions. Try studying in a minimalist environment that is free from noise, loud talking, television, snacks, or anything else that can be distracting. If outside distractions and interruptions are difficult to maintain, try alternative methods. For example, you might try leaving your cell phone in another room, wearing noise-cancelling headphones, or hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Things you should probably avoid in your study space:

  • Video games

  • Your phone

  • Extra open tabs on your browser

  • Food/Drinks

  • Other people

  • TV

 

Stay Focused Online

While working online is a necessity when taking online courses, the internet can also be a distraction. If you find yourself checking Facebook every few minutes, taking a Netflix break that never seems to end, or otherwise wasting time online when you’re supposed to be working, there are apps that can help. Try online tools like KeepMeOut or StayFocusd, which help you restrict the amount of time you spend on online distractions.

Stock up on the Things you Need

It is a huge pain to stop what you are doing so you can dig through a drawer in search for a working pen. Prepare your space with the supplies you know you will use often and make sure you have easy access to other supplies you might need. The items you need will depend on the subject(s) you are studying, but the following list contains some of the supplies you might want to keep handy:

  • Pens & pencils

  • Textbooks

  • Notebooks

  • Index cards

  • Paper

  • Highlighters

  • Calculator

  • Whiteboard & dry erase markers

  • Folders

If your space is limited or you can’t create a dedicated study space, store your school materials in a rolling cart, backpack, or something else easily transportable. Whenever it’s time to study, you will have everything you need already organized and close by.

 

Keep it Clean and Organized

Once you’ve claimed your study area, take some time to set it up. Make sure there’s plenty of room for your computer, textbooks, all the paperwork that will accumulate, as well as additional work space. Make sure everything in and around your work area has a designated home. Too often, areas become cluttered simply because you put things down with the expectation that you’ll find a place to store it later. Once you assign a home for everything, commit to putting everything away at the end of each study session. This tactic will prevent the build-up of clutter.

Your course materials should be easily accessible whenever you need them. If you prefer working with hard copies, invest in a physical filing system. For digital files, be sure to use consistent organization and use descriptive file/folder names to help you easily locate and identify them. Bookmark websites that you use often so you do not need to hunt them down every time you need them.

 

Pick the Right Lighting

If possible situate your study space near a source of natural light. Sitting in a traditional classroom or working in an office oftentimes brings the unfortunate reality of having to sit under fluorescent lighting. When creating your space, you have the option to choose your own lighting. Your body loves natural light, and it can bring warmth and life to a room.

Lighting in your work space can also have a huge effect on your drowsiness. Not only can low lighting strain your eyes, similar to the room “zones,” it is associated with going to sleep. On the other end of the spectrum, when lighting is too bright it can cause headaches or create uncomfortable heat in the room. If you are able to set up a small desk or table near a window, that would allow for natural light to filter in to you during your studying time. Natural light is healthy for you physically and emotionally.

 

Make it Comfortable and Efficient

Of course, you want to be comfortable while you’re working, right? But how comfortable is too comfortable? It can be a fine line, as the main goal of your study area is to study, not lounge around. This is why it can be helpful to dress the part when studying. Change out of your lounge clothes or pajamas before you start studying. This will help give your mind the signal that you are physically ready to get to work.

Comfort does not mean being slouched back on the couch either. When ensuring your study space is comfortable, one of the most important things to keep in mind is ergonomics. You want to set up your learning area in a place that has a chair that offers good back support without being overly hard or uncomfortable.

When discussing comfort, it is also worth noting that temperature plays an important role in how efficient your study session will be. Not only can an environment that’s too hot or cold cause you to be consciously distracted, but it can also cause you to make more mistakes in your work unconsciously.

 

While certain items are key to creating a study space, don’t lose sight of the real goal. Because when it comes down to it, creating a study space is all about the way it makes you feel. It’s about what puts you (and no one else) in a studious mood.