How Your Study Environment Affects Productivity

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Have you ever been studying for hours and all you could remember was one sentence? Did those hours ever turn into days and days into weeks? There are probably numerous factors affecting your productivity while studying, including stress, time of day, and motivation, but one that you might have overlooked is your physical environment. In fact, a study done with primary school pupils proved that physical surroundings can impact children’s performance and well-being in general by as much as 16 percent. College students are not immune to this influence either. When studying at home, in a rented apartment or in a dorm, you are the only one in charge of your focus, and one thing that can help you (or sabotage you) is the environment. Here is everything you need to know about your physical surroundings and productivity.

Background Noise
Do you have trouble keeping your attention focused or get easily distracted? Can even a quiet sound pull you out of the book to your surroundings? Sometimes it isn’t just about the volume. Many students get distracted by the most ordinary and inconspicuous “noise”, like a leaking faucet. Others can’t seem to focus when it’s too quiet. The trick is getting to know yourself. Do you perform better in silence or perhaps you need background music to be able to focus? Try to study at the library, park, and coffee shop and see which level of noise keeps your brain sharp.

Reading in dim lighting strains your eyes, while harsh artificial lighting can give you a headache, but this factor goes way beyond eye problems. Lighting affects alertness, concentration and cognitive performance in general. Too much artificial light can make you stressed and sleepy. The temperature and direction of lighting are significant factors that can hurt or enhance your studying results. Cool white sources with a temperature of 6,500 Kelvin or higher and warm white light sources like halogen lamps are the most suitable. Planar light sources are the best when it comes to direction, since they mimic natural light.

You may be able to stay focused in a too hot or too cold room, but only for a little while. These circumstances are bound to become unbearable. The temperature will quickly become everything you can think about, which will distract you from studying. Find the most comfortable temperature for you, set the thermostat (if you don’t have one – get one) and make sure it is constant, because changes in temperature can also mess with your concentration.

Air Quality
Poor air quality, which is most frequently caused by problems with heating, air-conditioning, ventilation systems, and insufficient cleaning, can play a major role in studying performance. Polluted air makes learning uncomfortable by causing problems like coughing, watery eyes, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Some of the steps that are useful for improving air quality in a studying space are opening the windows several times a day, switching to organic cleaning products, cleaning your air-conditioner filters, introducing indoor plants, and using HEPA air purifiers which don’t make a lot of noise, but still purify the air efficiently.

“Oh look, my smartphone. I should probably check Facebook for important updates.” Sound familiar? Of course, studying can be interesting if you are learning about a subject you like, but most of the time it is boring or difficult, so everything around you seems like a better way to spend your time. Try to turn off your phone (and computer if you are not using it for studying) or leave it in some other room. Reward yourself with breaks when you will be allowed to check your e-mail, complain about the hardships of studying on Facebook, etc. Also, too much comfort can be a distraction – a cozy blanket and soft pillows simply call for an afternoon nap.

You should take all these factors into account and try to create the perfect environment that will boost your productivity.

This article was contributed by guest author Chloe Taylor.