What is your ideal study environment?

Have you ever noticed how a simple change in your surroundings can often have a powerful effect on your focus, motivation, and productivity? 

Through my conversations with students and parents, I often find that students are trying to force themselves to study in environments that aren’t a good fit for them…which makes completing their work much more of a struggle.

homework with headphonesModifying their environment can be a quick & simple way to make the process of studying and completing homework easier and more enjoyable.

For example, one college student I worked with recently switched from studying in his dorm room to studying in a library, and all of a sudden it was much easier for him to complete his assignments & do the studying he had planned to complete.

Everyone is different

It’s tempting for parents to assume that the same study environment that worked well for them will also work for their kids.  Or that the approach their older daughter used “should” work for the younger daughter, too.  However, this is often not the case.

There are distinct differences in the types of environments that tend to work best for different people, and finding out what tends to work best for you can make life a lot easier!

Which study environments work best for you?

Here are some questions for you to consider regarding the study environments that tend to work best for you:

How much activity & movement do you need when you are studying? Do you prefer to study while…

___ Sitting at a desk or table

___ Using a lap desk

___ Standing up

___ Walking around

Which of the following visual aspects of your study environment are important for you to have in order to study effectively? 

___ Well-lit

___ Clean & uncluttered, with few distractions

___ Away from doors & windows

___ Facing a wall

What types of sounds are ideal for you, when you are studying?

___ Nothing; I study best when it is quiet

___ White noise / sound machine / fan

___ Background voices & sounds, like at a coffee shop

___ Instrumental music

___ A playlist of my favorite songs

In what types of social environment do you study most efficiently?

____ On my own

____ With strangers nearby (for example, at a library or coffee shop)

____ With friends or family nearby, but not interacting with me

____ Interacting with friends or family

How comfortable & familiar do you need to feel while you are studying?  Do you do your best work in locations that are…

___ Very comfortable and familiar environment (e.g. my bedroom)

___ In a slightly less comfortable or familiar environment (e.g. my school library)

___ Completely new or unfamiliar (e.g. a new coffee shop I’ve never visited before)

How much variety do you like to have in your study environment?  Do you prefer to change your study environment…

___ Rarely, if ever. I like to study in the same place every day

___ Sometimes. I like to have 2-3 places I can choose between depending on how I’m feeling

___ Every time I study. I focus best when I’m studying in a new place

___ Continually.  I focus best when I change locations every 15-45 min, or whenever I change subjects

What did you notice about your answers? 

education concept - smiling redhead female student in eyeglassesOften, students find that there is not one “right answer” when it comes to their study environment.  Instead, there is a range of environments that can work well for them.

The type of environment that works best for can also depend on the subject you’re working on, and the difficulty level of the work.  For example, students who can do math problems sitting still at a desk might need to be more active when they are reading or writing…or vice versa.

The “right” environment can also change over time.  Just because a study environment worked well for a student last year, last semester, or even last week doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a good fit for them today.

So, whenever you are having difficulty focusing or being productive, it can be valuable to review these questions again, consider whether you might benefit from changing your study environment.

Test your assumptions!

Once you have come up with some ideas about the type of study environment you think will work well, try it out and track the results. 

It can be very valuable both for parents and students to test their assumptions about what really works best, and gathering data can be a great way to do this. 

For example, if a student has an idea that they study better with music on, they could try alternating periods of time where they have 15 minutes of music on, then 15 minutes of music off, and then go back and count the number of math questions they completed — and the % they got correct — during each time period.  This can be a great way of testing your assumptions to see if they are really accurate.

Your turn!

Action Steps for students:

Take the quiz, and identify the types of study environments that are likely to work best for you.  Then, try out your new study environment, and track your progress to see how it works!

Action Steps for parents:

Let your child know that you’re interested in learning more about the type of study environments that will work best for them, and share this article with them or give them a copy of the study environment quiz to take (click here for a link to the PDF version).

Then, do your best to listen to their answers with as much curiosity, and as little commentary, as possible.  If they think they study best with background noise, even if that doesn’t work well for you, try to have an open mind and actually test it out by encouraging your child to collect data on what works.  For younger kids, you can facilitate this data-gathering process timing their work and asking them how many questions they completed in that time period.

I hope you enjoyed this article!

I look forward to hearing what you learn from the quiz and the experiments with  your study environment, so please feel free to post a comment on the blog, or email me at Maggie@CreatingPositiveFutures.com and let me know how it goes!


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By |February 19th, 2015|Categories: Motivation, Study skills|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Maggie Wray is an Atlanta-based academic coach who helps high school & college students achieve their academic potential by improving their organization, time management, study skills, and mindset about school. To set up a time to speak with Maggie about how to help YOUR teen develop the skills he or she needs to thrive academically, visit http://creatingpositivefutures.com/contact or email support@creatingpositivefutures.com

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