From middle school to university and graduate programs, studying is a skill we carry with us throughout life. Even if your days of sitting in a classroom are long past, you probably use learned study skills professionally, whether you’re looking over a budget report or preparing for a presentation on your company’s latest marketing strategy. At any age, the skills we use to focus in on a single task, think critically, and memorize important information are the same. Over the course of your life, you’ve probably developed multiple strategies for helping you concentrate when it’s time to hit the books. But have you considered the ways in which your surroundings may be getting in your way?
Is Your Mind as Cluttered as Your Desk?
Studying is more difficult in a disordered environment than in a clean one for two main reasons. The first is that a cluttered environment provides plenty of distractions for you to focus on rather than the work at hand. This is particularly true if the subject is one that you find boring or tedious, almost anything in the room can become a distraction – even a stapler can seem interesting if you are struggling to concentrate. The more clutter in the area where you study, the harder it will be stay focused.
The second reason that a messy environment can be in the way of your studying is that clutter literally stresses us out. When you’re in a cluttered and chaotic room or a disordered desk, your body releases more cortisol, a stress hormone. As anyone who’s tried to cram last-minute before a deadline can attest, anxiety and stress out doesn’t do your brain any favors when you’re trying to study.
Tips for Tidier Study Habits
So, you know that a messy environment makes it harder to concentrate, but how can you clear some of the clutter and set yourself up for more effective studying? Try following these simple tips to keep your space – and your mind – clear and focused.
- Prioritize. Starting to clean your room when you need to study can be its own trap: you start clearing a space to make it easier to focus, and three hours later you’re doing a deep clean with a scrub brush. If your office or desk is messy, everything doesn’t need to be done at once. Pick out a few things that are most contribute to the disorder, and deal with those first. If you know you’re likely to get carried away and it’s time to study, set a time limit of 15 minutes. Use that time to tidy up, and then get to studying when the timer goes off.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Tidy doesn’t have to mean perfectly organized. Designate a “junk drawer” or bin for all the unsorted clutter on your desk, and go back and organize it later.
- Prepare your space beforehand. If you know that you’re going to need certain supplies (calculator, ruler, dictionary, etc.), try to gather them all before you start studying, and clear everything else off so that they’re the only things in your workspace. Any time you leave your study space to search for something, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get distracted and lose your focus.
- Deep clean when you have the time. The night before a big presentation, project, or exam isn’t the best time to start thoroughly cleaning your workspace, but don’t put it off forever. When you have the time, every few months, do an intense clean of your area so that it won’t be so hard to keep it tidy on an ongoing basis. If you run into any hard-to-clean spots on the upholstery or carpets, give our professional team at COIT a call to get your entire home – and office – looking fresh, clean, and new.