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Nottingham Trent University

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How to set up your home study area

When you come home from a busy day at work to resume your online degree course, you want to feel comfortable and motivated.

Organising the right study environment is vital. Factors like how you’re sitting, where you’re sitting and what you have around you will all impact the quality of your learning.

Here are some key things to think about.

Are you sitting comfortably?

A desk or table is the best place to study. Ideally, this should be a dedicated space - if you’re studying at the dining table, arrange it just as you would a proper work space. Create a sense of permanence.

Ergonomics matter. The wrong combination of size, shape and height can tire you out, physically. The height of the table should rest between your waist and ribcage when you sit at it. This way, you can rest your elbows without having to hunch.

Adjust your chair height so that you can rest your elbows easily, as well as having your feet flat on the ground. With the chair, supporting your lower back – the lumbar region – is important. You should be able to sit without slouching, and without feeling like it’s an effort to sit up straight.

The top of your computer screen should be at eye level, or a little below. As you scan down the screen, your eyelids will naturally close a bit and moisten, which reduces eye fatigue.

Move towards the light

Natural lighting is the best way to illuminate your work. Many people put a desk up against a wall away from a window – replicating the cubicle atmosphere of an office. It is important to ensure your study area is well lit.

If you’ve got the benefit of a window with a good view - whether its’ fields, rooftops, or even just your garden – then sit next to it. Natural light is the best kind, and it’s important you’ve got something other than a laptop of textbook to look at.

When you do need a lamp, think about the reach of the light. Because many of us now read on screens, standard lamps don’t replicate enough of the natural light that we need to prevent tiredness. Look for a lamp that creates a natural lighting effect. If you work a lot in the evenings, this will help to prevent tiredness.

The sound of music

Some people cannot study in silence. If you like some background music, think about the beats per minute (bpm). Studies from the 70s into the benefits of baroque classical music are well-cited in many places.

The theory is so popular that there are even YouTube channels and music labels dedicated to the production of study music.

Mozart is a popular choice because it’s played at 60 bpm, which - scientists say - stimulates both your left and right brain, and enhances your ability to learn. This ‘Mozart effect’ has been shown to positively impact your learning capacity, your communication skills, and your stress levels.

Control your tech

How many times a day does your smartphone ping to tell you that a new message has arrived, or that someone has responded to you on Twitter or Facebook?

If you want to study well, switch all of that off.

The same goes for emails. If you study using a computer, you may be used to leaving your email programme open in the background. Perhaps you’re logged into Skype, or Facebook. Whatever’s happening in the background, it’s a distraction, and a risk of interruption.

Consciously close down all of these applications. Your desktop should only include study materials.

Beware the rabbit holes

When you’re on the internet, and legitimately browsing for information related to your online degree course, you can easily come across things that grab your attention.

One interesting article can easily lead to two others - before you know it, you’re reading something that has absolutely nothing to do with your studies.

A great way to deal with this is to use a bookmarking system from the list below. With these, if you see something interesting, you can save it for later and tag it by subject.

Some good bookmarking tools to try

Key takeaways

In short, the key takeaways from our advice are:

  • Find a comfortable seating position that won’t make you feel tired.
  • Work in as much natural light as possible, or find lighting that helps you to simulate it.
  • If you need the accompaniment of music, choose something that stimulates your brain activity.
  • Switch off all electronic distractions.
  • Stick to the plan – don’t let the internet lead you off course.