The Ideal Study Environment

Your coördinates in space and time; are you at the right place at the right time; maximise your grasp of all that you learn in the best possible way.

“Nothing is impossible for men who are endowed with devotion and enthusiasm. All deeds performed in the right way are bound to be crowned with success.”
(a translated Sanskrit shloka from our scriptures)

Aneesa gets home from work at 5.30pm. She makes straightaway for the dining table, gets her books and sits down to read. After a few anxious moments of trying to concentrate; she realizes her mind is compulsively wandering. Hunger pangs. She fixes up a sandwich, brings it to the table and chomping, carries on reading. It is past 6.30 and she hasn’t reached the end of the first line. The dirty dishes on the table catch her attention. Since she concludes that they are responsible for diverting her attention from studies, she gets up, clears the table and the dishes. The doorbell goes. It’s her mother. Mother and daughter exchange notes for the day, talks about the dress she plans to wear for the next day’s dance, then decide on a quick shopping spree. It has to be very quick insists Aneesa; she just has to finish this assignment today. The ‘quick’ shopping spree stretches till about 9.00pm. It’s dinnertime. The table is cleared off books and readied for dinner. She vows to finish the assignment even if she has to stay up the night.

It’s evident that despite Aneesa’s resolve to study, she is unable to concentrate. Every time she wills herself to study, something or the other stops her from doing so. It is clear that Aneesa is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Your work environment plays a very vital role in your studies. It is important that you choose a fixed spot in your home, which is exclusively for studies. Psychologists say, that we are conditioned to behave in a specific way, in a particular environment. You will see a marked difference in your levels of concentration, when you are reading in that area. Demarcate it clearly from the rest of the household.

  • Sticking little snippets of important points and formulas on the study table, or displaying them somewhere around, helps a lot.
  • You could make flow charts or diagrams from long winding prose and paste them on a wall facing you. Just glancing at it, in between breaks, helps a great deal.
  • It is desirable to keep your work area well-lit, to avoid strain on the eyes.
  • Keep all your material and books nearby to avoid needless trips around the house.

Rahul has heard a lot about the wonders of early morning studying. He has been told by his elders to believe in the truth of the rhyme ‘early to bed and early to rise, makes man healthy, wealthy and wise’. Up till now, he was a nocturnal bird. He was comfortable staying up till late into the night, reading, partying with his friends or watching the telly, or surfing the net. But reluctantly he gives up his ‘philandering ways’ as his grandma puts it, and tries to sleep early. Poor Rahul; the more persistently he woos sleep at about 10.30p.m, the more it eludes him. He tries to count backwards from 1000; he tries to concentrate on his breathing to no avail. Finally he drifts off, into disturbed, fitful, sleep after a couple of hours of rigorous trials. A disgruntled Rahul wakes up at 4.00a.m. and sits down to study. He valiantly tries to keep up the schedule for a week, but to his dismay it just doesn’t work.

There is no fixed time for all. If you are a night-bird, you would rather stay up late and study. Let the early birds wake up in the morning while you give your mind time to process all the data you fed it the previous night.

We’ve talked about the place to study; when to study is as important. Work time is equally if not more crucial. As far as possible follow a stringent routine. Study when you’re at your best. Find out your peak performance period. When is it that you perform best? When are your energy levels are at the zenith. Some people just find it impossible to burn the midnight oil. They are exhausted, disgruntled and can’t think of a single reason, why they should stay up till the wee hours of the morning. There are people who study for more than seven to eight hours a day but by 10.00 at night they have to call it a day. They just can’t carry on for even an hour longer.

If you are accustomed to sleeping at 11 every night and suddenly you force yourself to sit up till 2 am, you will do hardly anything in those extra three hours you chose to punish yourself. This is perfectly natural. In the same way, there are people who prefer to study at night. It is the best time of the day for them. Find out the time of the day that suits you. Don’t fight your body clock. You will end up feeling miserable every time you force yourself into an unfamiliar routine. What is more, you just might end up taking your math book for your pillow!

Take these factors into consideration when fixing the time and place to study:-

  • Where do I study best? At home, in the library, or somewhere else?
  • Does my work place reinforce my need to study? Do I need some inspirational quotes in my study area… perhaps something like ‘hard work feels good when the applause begins’? Maybe I could paste a picture of my future dream, a premier institute, where I am aiming for study or work?
  • Is the location of my study area desirable? Or is it in a high traffic zone, where family members or roommates are likely to move about often?
  • What about lights, ventilation and temperature? Make sure your work area is not too stuffy or hot.
  • Is your chair comfortable? Though it would not do to have a recliner, you might doze off before you reach page 3!
  • Have you chosen your peak performance time to study? Do you understand you body clock?
  • Are you strict enough about your study schedule? Do your friends, relatives know they would rather not call you or distract you at that particular time?
  • How often do you need a break? Don’t push yourself to impossible limits. Set realistic timetables and short-term goals.

Once you deal with all these questions you will have a clear idea about how you need to study, when, where and how long at one go. Just go right ahead with your schedules and avoid too much retribution and guilt for an untimely break. Have some buffer time. And don’t forget time for review, revision and discussion.

“We must do more than simply do things right – we must also do the right things.”